Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the method of structuring and phrasing written online content for maximum visibility on search engines like Google and Bing. SEO is more than just about search results though. If done right, it can bring in more sales, build brand awareness and increase your website’s conversion rate. An effective SEO strategy not only helps your site rank well in search results but also improves your business prominence online. Our SEO guide will serve as a brief history of search engines with the state of search today and help you do better with your search engine optimisation.
What is SEO? is the most common question people ask us as soon as we tell them what we do. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is essentially the art and science of making sure that your business or personal websites are being “read correctly.” In fact, without the right SEO on your web pages, you can easily find yourself becoming invisible online.
SEO is impacting the unpaid or not sponsored listings on search engine result pages (SERPs). SEO is also often referred to as organic SEO or natural results. SEO works on the basis of relevancy of your web pages. If your pages are more relevant to a user’s query the search engines like Google or Bing are more likely going to classify your website higher in the SERPs.
Google or Bing crawlers also known as bots crawl the web for web pages and then process, store and index them. The indexing usually is followed by ranking the pages based on a user query. The ranking is based on a complex algorithm devised by the search engine to detect the most quality page for a particular search query.
While SEO is critical to your online business websites and personal blogs, it’s important to understand the evolution of Search Engine Optimization and why it is so successful today (as opposed to back in the day). Remember to read this as a light history and a light overview of current techniques, not some massively detailed manual you must get through. This journey is pretty exciting and you’ll find yourself wanting to explore our SEO web services even further.
When the internet started and become widespread and public as little as 18 years ago, everyone was learning about how to do things and how to configure it so that we can all get the information we need and want. Webmasters began improving the findability of their site as early as the 1990’s. The dot-com boom brought along a lot of web companies that had the capabilities to “crawl” and “index” the web as a catalogue. At the earliest stages, you had to “submit” your URL to search engines for them to crawl and index your pages.
The process involved having companies like Google or Bing crawling and downloading the web page of your site and storing it in their database. The stored pages then undergo processing by an indexer to extract useful information like outbound links, document outline, words it contains and their related densities, images and any other media files.
The earliest crawlers and indexers were very inefficient and were easy to game. The following outlines an evolution of search engines and their methodology in general.
Earlier search engines focused on treating search engines as a QA system with knowledgebase architecture. Earlier, Search engines treated each query as a question, retrieved a set of relevant document, extracted the relevant portion or applicable answer and served the results.
Search engines of the type QA systems date back to 1960’s. Baseball is a good example of such a system.
What they did: At first, search engines were optimised for general terms, like “black notebooks for sale” and “how to mow your lawn.” Such crawling and indexing was the most straightforward way of doing things back then.
Why it didn’t work: New users using search and web became far more sophisticated far faster than anyone thought they would. Soon, they wanted “bulk office supplies” and “multi-coloured 3×5 inch notebooks.” However, they were still getting the search results for “black notebooks for sale” and the more general terms which were not a good user experience.
In the late 1990s, the search engines or more specifically companies building such systems shifted their attention to a more general purpose information retrieval system which was akin to open domain QA system. The search engines tried an approach which moved them away from being simple QA banks (knowledgebases) towards an information retrieval system which was less domain dependent.
Search engines (back then, it was AskJeeves and Infoseek) tried to provide better and more simple search results for users, but the highly sophisticated algorithms used today were just not built and would have required better personal computers. For example, individual computers 18 years ago were slow (taking a full 20 minutes to load each internet page on a dial-up connection) and were quickly slowed down by large web pages and media-rich content.
Therefore, the text had to become really interesting and well written. Writing smaller pages with better information representation was just not possible and only users who enjoyed long pages of text were the early adopters.
- Crawling and indexing – Google a Case study
- Crawling web2.0 Applications
- Crawling Hidden Web
- Crawling a quarter billion web pages
- AskMSR Q-A System
What they did: The next great idea that the search engines had was to start identifying “keywords” so that they could target the web content to people’s searches. If any article or block of text had a non-prepositional word (such as a noun or a verb) in it repeated at least five times, it was considered to be about that particular word.
Why it didn’t work: Unfortunately, this nice, simple way of reading web pages immediately got overused by content writers and web page owners who knew about keywords. They started using a lot of “keyword stuffing” which colours meant that each article was unreadable by people who had half a brain and any readable articles were under-represented in search results.
Such practices led to people having to scroll down through pages and pages of search result links to finally find the right search results. Such an experience for a user was almost as inefficient as the “general terms” problem listed above. The search engines needed something that was more natural and organised to people’s tastes and preferences when searching for content online.
This was quickly followed by URL stuffing. Search engines ability to understand and read URL’s has improved dramatically over the years. A URL structure is now a solved problem for search engines because of the amount of engineering that has gone in understanding the problem. A URL structure is now easy to deduce including the GTLD and CCTLD for Google and others.
What they did: The internet evolved, and support for all media arrived with it. Next, web designers tried to use more organic formats for people to engage with the internet. They started posting pictures and videos which are hard to disguise as anything but a good quality or bad quality piece of media. Within five seconds of looking at media, users almost always knew whether it was something they wanted to see or not. For a while, this worked on the internet because people were getting back to the kind of correct formatting and nicely polished media that they were already used to in television.
Why it didn’t work: Videos and pictures were painful to “read” by the tools available to search engines and their sophisticated search algorithms. In fact, this was a time when the number of views on a website did not yet affect actual search engine results. Even if your page had 10,000 views per day (which would have been almost unrealistic back then, anyway), it did not mean that old search engines would necessarily pick up on this fact very well. Popular media items, the videos, and pictures that everyone loved were not tagged by keywords very well, were not correctly formatted, Such practices lead to them not necessarily being ranked according to popularity, as search engine results are ranked today.
What they did: Soon, both hackers and legitimate web page owners wanted something which made the process of putting out web content much easier. Hence, the invention of the article spinner. An article spinner is a simple program which takes an article and replaces nouns and verbs with dictionary synonyms. Even today, article spinners are used by spammers to copy and change already published web content.
Why it didn’t work: Article spinners have never, ever worked because they turn simply phrases like “the dog walked to the park” into unreadable formats like “the canine ambulated to the village square.” Non-English speakers don’t always understand that this is complete gibberish in the English-speaking world and that nobody wants to read that dribble, so they continue attempting to use article spinners to this day.
In recent years, more advanced and sophisticated article spinners have arisen which have almost reduced this inherently flawed process to a readable format. However, it is still quite evident to people who speak the native language, and it still grates on the nerves. Non-native speakers should remember that there is a proper way to do things and an improper shortcut and that the inappropriate alternative always takes longer than the legitimate process.
Today, search engines like Google and Bing are brilliant and impressive and sophisticated and people-friendly. They take our simple searches and produce a mountain of possibility and we hardly ever have to go to the next page in the search results. Almost always our needs are immediately satisfied right away, thus producing a sweet, chemical high, and keeping us going back for searches.
As the internet became something that everyone used, not just techy computer scientists and research assistants, the user-friendliness of the internet became ultra-important. Now, people of all ages wanted to get on the internet, shop around, search for new and exciting things, and download pictures that they could print off for birthday cards.
Such indexing/processing and ranking were quite tricky in the beginning because there were no social media available to tell us how much everyone loves cute pictures of puppies and kittens. Instead, big companies were hiring techy computer geniuses AND publicist publishing consultants and then crossing their fingers that these two groups would get along well enough to create an online dream experience for their customers.
From very early on information digitization was very scarce. Search engines were primitive in that they were unable to satisfy users query by providing direct, relevant answers leading to lower engagement and high user time to information retrieval.
Search queries that have broad intent often return intractably large result sets. Faceted search evolved as a way to narrow or refine search results and the early Google iterations showed the faceted search in action. Google soon refined this and search results these days are clustered for better information segmentation.
The Internet was impressive, but it was poorly designed
While fantastic software developers were combining user-friendly programs and high-tech data (the first successful combination of the two), the internet remained something that only perpetual readers of the news and kids who spent all of their time investigating things knew well.
The internet itself had to go through massive transformations and companies which led the way were often bypassed by companies which learned from them and then took it further. There was an enormous movement to jump forward and search engines themselves evolved into useful objects of inquiry.
Remember: Search engine results are about clarity and fact, not about perception or vague, amorphous concepts linked to your site. The more precise you can be with your SEO, the better. Having real, authentic human voices in your site is what will turn it from better to a shining star.
Tagged Pictures are now trendy. Pictures with proper tags have the colours, the items, and the point of the article you are using the image in all within 6 to 8 good quality, descriptive tags.
In fact, tagged pictures are well-defined in keywords, and search algorithms love the media of well-placed photos and digital images. It is well-known that search engines rank both photographs and videos highly today. Always take advantage of this fact by using picture tags and using several in each article or web pages on your site.
Well-Watched and Shared Videos are the perfect way to get high user engagement, lots of comments which produce high natural filler content, and to tell the search engines that this video is a great find, here’s where to suggest it to future viewers.
Video tags, correct titles, full transcript (really important), lots of colour, and lots of human and awesome personality are what makes good videos great. In fact, the more you produce transcribed, colourful and informative videos, the more shares and comments you will get, and the better overall user engagement you will have. At that point, you will be so popular with search engines; they will list you high up on a lot of related lists.
As more and more people join the internet revolution and as the age of said revolution is continuously expanding in both directions (older and younger), the need to make search results more “human” and more “personal” has suddenly skyrocketed. People want to see content related to themselves and the rest of humanity, not just tech-related jargon and the push for modern technology.
They want to see moments in humanity, clear-sided arguments, brilliant topics of conversation, and stimulating discussions and pictures of all of their favourite topics to watch.
This push for “more humanity” has made the user-friendliness of the internet even more relevant today than it was only five years ago. People want things which make them feel good, which educate them clearly and simply, and which don’t have a lot of over-the-top hype attached to them.
For example, if you’re looking for mailboxes or pictures of cats, then the best answer — if there is one — is highly subjective. For searches that are subjective to a user experience, the ideal search experience is a set of results that you can scan, compare, and ultimately narrow down to a small subset.
Businesses are now considering this when they start marketing to their ideal customers. They show that their line of products or services has a deeper meaning and a more precise vision than just “buying off the rack.” They want their new clientele to see WHY they are in business, not just HOW they are in business. Query refining and query understanding now form a part of every enterprise’s SEO plan.
YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and other top media sites now have a new rule: Personal Over Perfection. In their user research, all of the top major media sites have found that people prefer imperfect, the flawed, and the homespun far above their preference for perfection, robotic calmness, and monotoned and scripted video presentations.
Even big companies which advertise over these sites have found that the “most perfect” they are allowed to get with their users is “homey” or through “authentic conversation.” The idea that they are perfect and flawless is no longer appealing to users of the internet. We now all want to see the REAL STORY, the magic behind the curtain, and the personal histories behind the brand.
The text-filled spaces of yesterday are now being filled with silent videos (you can turn on the sound, but they are no longer the annoying pop-ups that drive everyone crazy) and imaginative pictures and short, clear sentences describing the whole point of the article in 400 words or less.
When you advertise your business, remember that the text and photos and videos should all complement one another, not overwhelm each other or ignore each other. The user experience today is “whole-sensory” based, not based on cram-this-into-this-space mentalities.
Finally, all major search engines have highly developed Artificial Intelligence software which can detect the difference between crappy, machine-based writing or poor language skills and fresh, bold, original content.
This means that, no matter what you do or how you communicate your website to other people, you’re going to have to do it creatively and authentically. You will not be wise just to sit down and type out a few words and hope that will do it for your business. You will need fresh content updated monthly; you will need real pictures of real people, useful analogies, active context, and personal stories… always have the personal stories in your business.
Does that mean the internet is becoming more holistic? Yes, it does. In fact, we are proficient in understanding how much your Search Engine Optimization needs to show this vast array of real-world context, deep and meaningful history, and uplifting stories. We know that the technical side of things, which we are about to describe to you, is just one side of the story and we know how to make your business shine, both in the real world and online.
Speaking of the technical side of things, what are some of the tools we use to help your business?
Keyword research is perhaps the most important and one of the most underrated processes in Search Engine Optimisation. Keywords are generally broken down into two categories. High volume generic searches with low user intent and long tail keywords with high user intent.
Generally speaking, keyword research should focus on identifying terms with high user intent and buying actions. The early papers on Google design relied heavily on crawling the web and classifying documents based on their density of words.
User intent or query understanding is a very broad topic and quite a few different technologies have been built to improve our ability to understand and process a user query. Some of the most common concepts with improving a search query/keyword relevant search results are
- Query understanding and query rewriting.
- Head queries match and query intention.
- Power law distribution
- Language identification
- Query filtering
- Breaking down a query or tokenization
- Query expansion
- Query rewriting
- Search improvements for head queries
- Improving results for small search results
- Human intervention to provide an optimal user experience
- Executing changes incrementally
Keyword research involves not only using the keywords which accurately describe your products and/or services, but also finding the keywords users most often type in to find those services. Not everyone thinks alike, and some keywords are simply used more often than others. Using every possible keyword relevant to your business is what defines how your company is seen to search engines.
When we think or look at search architecture, we traditionally think of search result pages as documents that provide relevant information. However, searchers usually look at search engines as engines that answer their questions. This information should be leveraged to improve one’s organic SEO or visibility in any search engine.
Content is what a search engine seeks. Technical SEO focuses on improving your existing website crawlability but one of the largest contributors to high traffic is a very volume of content on your website. Search engines crawl content and that is exactly what they want you to produce if you wish to rank. In the SEO world, content is regarded as king.
SEO Copywriting is the act of writing and designing entire articles, web page content, video descriptions, and photo descriptions centred around the central theme of your business, using keywords relevant to your product and services, and adjusting for your particular ideal client.
Copywriting should be unique, creative, original (never copied or spun), and explicitly describing the exact emotional benefits which your preferred clientele will get from you. The facts will back up and “justify” their emotional decision-making, but their emotions are what makes the decision to buy from you, in the end.
Each page of your website can be optimised for search results. Optimisation of particular pages for specific key terms is called “On-Page SEO” as it is done on your site and pages.
On-Page SEO occurs when you write text, embed images and tags, and put metadata on a specific page which makes it especially crawlable and easily read and categorised by Google. It’s a simple concept, but unfortunately, a large number of websites get it wrong. The basic list of things that must at least be done properly are as follows
- Title tags must be clear and relevant to the page content.
- The meta description should describe the page in detail and should be treated as an extension of the Title tag.
- Alt attributes should be used to accurately describe any image on the page.
- H1 tag helps users clearly know what the page content is about.
- Internal links help link related content on the website. It also helps with navigation to relevant subjects.
- External links indicate your trust for the external source. Be careful about who you link and how many times on the page.
- XML sitemaps signal search engines of any new content or existing content update.
- Clean and clear navigational structure helps to establish the hierarchy of the website.
- URL structure should be friendly and avoid dynamic parameters.
- Robots.txt should be present and have a clear guideline for robots.
- Manage anchor text and prevent or refrain from abusing it to rank for keywords.
There are a lot of other on-page factors that impact the visibility fo pages or websites. Great on-page is key to online success and should be given a lot of importance to improve your online visibility.
Local SEO is exactly what it sounds like. It is the specialisation of local, brick-and-mortar businesses getting local traffic and will sales by putting their specific location into the search engine result pages (SERPs).
This is often done just with City and State, but it can also be narrowed down to plazas, squares, streets, and so on. For example, both “Melbourne, VIC” and “Melbourne” would be appropriate tags for a specific location. “South Yarra” or “Paramatta” would also be appropriately detailed forms of Local SEO to narrow down the search results even further and let businesses in a collective group derive collective search engine optimisation from each other.
- Does SEO work in 2017?
Link Building is one of the most important and highly ignored forms of search engine optimisation. It involves other sites linking back to your website. The goal is to get other website owners to post a link to your site on their site, thus encouraging traffic from their site to yours.
Link building sounds simple enough, but the real goal is to get links from high-quality, high-traffic websites to link to yours. High-quality organic links tell Google and the other search engines that your site is worthy of citation and is reputable.
Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO for short, is the tactic of increasing the percentage of overall site visitors which become buying, paying customers.
If your site gets 10,000 views per day, and your conversation rate percentage is 20%, then you’re in pretty good business, and we congratulate you! If, however, your conversion of those 10,000 visitors into customers is less than 2%, then something is amiss. If you are an ecommerce store and trying to sell online your ecommerce SEO should have a CRO plan to improve your conversion rate,
Having a great website and paying for good ads isn’t enough. You need the follow-through, the intended action, to be taken by your site visitors. You need them to arrive on your website, browse a little, and then take the action you want. You can improve your CRO to make these things happen. A great SEO Package can dramatically change the way your business grows.
Sites like Mouseflow give you the ability to see where the majority of visitors mouse pointers go and revolve around on the screen. This gives you a very accurate idea if they are taking the intended action you mean and want for them to take.
There are three specific steps you should take when setting up your search engine optimisation plan. These steps will ensure that your website looks professional, backed by a trustworthy team, and ready to give service at a moment’s notice.
Identify your target audience. Identify the ideal customer or client your business is targeting. Your SEO can specifically reflect tags and metadata for these people, so make sure that everything is designed around your target audience.
Make sure your entire brand reflects your personal and business story. Don’t get “too creative” and start designing a webpage with mixed themes. Just like a clothing outfit can look jumbled and unattractive with too many different styles of elements added, so also can a website look distrustful and iffy when the themes, story, and context do not match each other. An example would be if your website markets to baby boomers but the colours and style are all in Modern Parisian Millenial style. Instead, the colours should be warm, homey, and indicative of the 1970’s.
Give your customers different layers of rewarding content, services, and products. Don’t make your site all text-based or all video-based. Instead, easily format it so that pictures and videos and text are all throughout the main pages. Keep in mind that your visitors should want to keep scrolling down the page, so try to format it so that your information is visible, but still accurately supported by your videos and pictures.
Another great way to engage your site’s visitors is to offer free e-books, the app version of your business, and other fun freebies so that they can get a taste of your style before they buy from you.
The SEO industry even produced a movie about SEO and how it works.
In conclusion, SEO is a widely varied and technically precise art form which uses the accuracy of technology and the humanity of creative expression to bring in millions of site visitors.
You may want to try and do everything alone, but we recommend consulting with our high-quality marketing services to bring in visitors, conversions, and plenty of consumer actions. We want to help you make a site of which you can be proud. Your business success is what our business is about and if you have any questions, we would love to answer them. We hope you have enjoyed our short SEO tutorial and that you were able to understand what our SEO agency does a little better.