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Search Engine Optimisation – What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about making your website and blog ‘search engine friendly’. It is about ensuring that the content (all the words!) aids the way a search engine works and helps to get your website and blog higher up the results page.

How does a search engine work?

I think the most important thing to understand is how a search engine works. In very basic terms, search engines send out little ‘crawlers’ or ‘spiders’ (technically speaking, not literally!) which ‘read’ websites. Primarily, they ‘read’ the html text (your main body of copy), the URLs (http://www.dsdsdd …etc) and alt text/metadata (the writing that appears if you hover over an image, for example). All this information is collected in a huge database. Then, when you type in a search term, a list of results are given, based on the data gathered by the crawlers.

As an example, when I search ‘copywriting’ on Google (other search engines are available!), it reliably informs me that ‘about 21,300,000 results were found in 0.65 second’. To find the results, and importantly, to rank them and decide which 15 or so websites make page one, the search engine looks for webpages in its database, which contains the search terms, and then identifies how popular a website is, based on a variety of things. One, in particular, is how often a link to a website is put on other websites.

So in short, a search engine looks for relevance and popularity to help return the results.

Ok so that’s the technical bit – now let me get back to words and writing! The bit I like most!

How can you ‘do’ SEO?

To optimize your website or blog, the easiest thing to start with is to list all of the things a client would type in to the search engine to find you. Firstly, think obvious, i.e. the name of your business, but then try to think outside of the box.

 —– EXAMPLE —–

If you are a hairdresser, start your keywords list with words such as ‘hairdresser’, ‘hairstylist’; then perhaps what you do, ‘haircuts’, ‘trim’, ‘colour’ and your location ‘in Overton’, ‘near Basingstoke,’ ‘in North Hampshire’.

More and more people now search with whole phrases, often called ‘long-tail keywords’, so next think about these. For example, ‘local mobile hairdresser in Overton’ or ‘can I have my haircut in the evening?’ or ‘qualified hairstylist near Basingstoke’.

———-

The next piece of advice is kind of obvious – include these keywords on your website. Include them in particular on the homepage, in URLs, subtitles, in blog titles and opening paragraphs! However, I will put an immediate rider on this advice – DO NOT DO THIS AT THE EXPENSE OF WELL-WRITTEN, CLEAR COPY!

It is no use getting your website higher up the search engine ranking, only for potential clients to find your website is completely incomprehensible because you have repeated the same keyword every second line! You’ll lose more clients this way than being on page 2 of the results!

As well as keywords and their placement, ideally you want to get links from other webpages to your page. In ‘search engine world’, this shows your website is a popular! So if you know a local business or community sites that you can advertise on or will link to your site by request, then do get in touch with them.

Don’t get bogged down by SEO

I have really struggled to condense a lot of information here, but I hope this helps as short introduction. If you have any questions, please do ask in the comments. No question is too small or too silly!

Importantly, remember that search engines generally work in weird and mysterious ways. They are updating and changing their algorithms all of the time and, however, wonderful your SEO is, you will never beat the company who has paid thousands of pounds to be at the top! Furthermore, a search engine isn’t the only way people will find your website. Your social media platforms and your engagement on them is probably more effective for a small business. And never forget word of mouth! Your website is there to back up the amazing work you do.

If you are keen to understand SEO a little more, take a little look at this cartoon. It explains SEO in a rather amusing way: https://www.redevolution.com/seo-explained – it really helped me and you’ve got to love a ‘SEO superhero’!

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