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The Basics of SEO.
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The Basics of SEO


24-11-2015
I had a recent conversation about Search Engine Optimisation that didn’t quite go according to plan. It was the word 'gobbledygook' that made me realise I had slipped into a world of acronyms and phrases that, when you jumble them together and blurt them out, don’t mean a lot to the uninitiated.     
 
So, in an attempt to explain what is not always the clearest of subjects, here is a glossary (of sorts) to get you up to speed on the basic terms, acronyms and phrases used for SEO. It is by no means exhaustive. Promise to stay with me?  Here we go:

For me, SEO is a bit like a game of hide and seek. Search engines are there to help people seek out relevant information online, but if you don’t get the mechanics right, your business could remain hidden away.

To succeed, you need to give search engines the directions they need so your business can be seen in big neon lights when someone searches online. Then you have to persuade them to click through to your website.

SEO-Openhouse-Call-out-Amazon

Beyond that, it's about converting these visits into something meaningful - whether that's a sale, an appointment or even a download. Which is why the relevance of your content and reaching the right audience is so important, otherwise you'll get lots of website visitors that don't actually do a whole lot. 

Now, on to the glossary part:

1) SERPs.
That's a  Search Engine Results Page (and it is your website’s position on this results page that is so hotly contested).

2) Organic Search and Paid for Adverts. 
Organic search results are decided by a search engine - showing the results it deems most appropriate and relevant to your search query. Because of this, traditionally, organic results are seen as the more 'trustworthy' of the two methods.

A paid for advert is pay per click advertising and, in its simplest form, businesses bid on the price they are willing to pay (per click) for a certain keyword, in order to gain a better position on a search results page. 

In terms of differing positions on a search results page, it's easiest to show you what I mean. I searched for Christmas Cards on Google (thought I'd stay topical and, well, it is nearly December) and got the following results. By the way, can you spot the typo with the Amazon ad? 

SEO-Openhouse-Call-out-Amazon

The merits of organic search vs. pay per click advertising, and which is right for your business, is not a quick answer, so I'll be delving into more detail in a future post. 

3) Keywords. 
People type words into Google to find relevant search results they can use. You need to decide which words people will type to find your business in particular. A large e-commerce site will have hundreds of keywords; smaller, niche websites can be much more focused. There are a lot of tools out there to help. More about that next month. 

Some keywords will be much more competitive than others, while keyword phrases may have less people searching for them, but can be much more targeted. For example: website design vs. website design in Surrey or website design for small businesses. 

Whatever the keywords, they need to be relevant to your business as you'll be using them throughout your website content. Gone are the days of writing a page of keywords over and over again though. The keywords need to sit naturally within the text you write.

4) Page Title.
This is a short sentence, up to 55 characters in length, that succinctly summarises what each page of your website is about. This is added by you within your website. Keywords should be used in this section and each page title should be unique. Search engines will use the page title to decide on the relevance of your content and will also display it on the search results page.

SEO-Openhouse-Call-out-Amazon

5) Meta Description.
This is a sentence, up to 155 characters in length, that supports the page title with additional wording about each page of your website. It is added by you within your website. It no longer helps with page ranking per se, but it is still commonly displayed by search engines on the search results page. It needs to be well written, unique for each page and include keywords to encourage people to click on your link.
    
6) URLs and Images.
Keep your URLs simple and easy to remember, but also try to use core keywords where possible. Avoid using dynamic urls with ? symbols in the title. Our page for this post is nice and simple: openhousecreative.co.uk/journal/the-basics-of-seo

Alternative text for any images on your website should also include keywords, where possible.
  
7) External Links. 
This is all about people linking to pages on your website because they like what they see or read. Search engines love links as it shows them you know what you're talking about because other people think you do too. This is why there is a lot of talk about content marketing as it's all about producing great content that people want to link to or share on social media. 

8) Link Equity. 
The more external links you have directed to your website, the higher the link equity of your website is and the better your domain authority will be. All of these factors helped search engines decide the quality and relevance of your website. 

 9) Sitemap.
The sitemap is a map for robots and spiders. Well, search engine spiders that explore and navigate your site (rather than human visitors). You can also use other technical methods to show search engines which pages you want them to see, and which you don't. 

Congratulations. You've made it to the end. I hope this post has given you some food for thought about the importance of SEO for your business; whether you want to tackle it on your own or with some extra help along the way.

Whatever you decide, look out for more posts in this SEO series. 

Tell us what you think - tweet @Openhouse using #OHSEO
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