Search engine optimisation, otherwise known as SEO is a term that is often thrown around in the world of content marketing.
Whether you are planning on using SEO for your own website or whether it is for a piece of freelance writing for someone else, then this article will talk you through the basics of what is involved.
- What is content marketing and SEO?
- How do search engines operate?
- How do you write for SEO?
- What is a keyword?
- What else affects search engine rankings?
If you are interested in more advanced SEO techniques then skip down to the end of the article to see some links to other articles on SEO.
What is Content Marketing and SEO?
Content marketing is similar to other forms of marketing in that it is a process of introducing people to a product and then encouraging them to purchase it.
The difference in content marketing though is that people become thoroughly informed about the product before actually buying it, and this is done through them reading a series of detailed articles.
It is the ‘content‘ in these articles that is the basis of ‘content marketing‘.
So how do websites attract visitors to read about all the content?
Well they rely on people to want to know this information and are prepared to seek it out. People and therefore potential customers, arrive at the website from various sources including social media, referrals from friends and paid adverts.
Many people though are simply searching for information online and enter key search terms directly into the search engines such as Google or Yahoo. This process then leads potential customers to visit the website and purchase the product or read more information about it.
The whole process is relatively simple, the challenge though is when you realise that there are just over 3 billion people with access to the internet, which is approximately 40% of the population.
So how do people find the right site and how do websites and blogs attract the relevant customers? This is where search engine optimisation or SEO tactics come into play.
How Do Search Engines Operate?
Search engines find things on the internet using a number of different tools. In the beginning it was a fairly simple process,all posts and articles had words, known as meta tags, in the header of their material and google simply read through them to see where they should be placed.
However as people began to use this system for their own purpose (namely to get ranked higher by trying to fool the search engine), then Google and other search engines became more complex.
A complicated mathematical formula known as a search algorithm is now used that considers a variety of different factors before deciding where to place the article.
According to some sources the google algorithm can change up to 600 times in a year, and not all the time are these changes announced.
How do you Write for SEO?
Writing good quality content for SEO is the challenge that all content writers are faced with. The formula may be complex for computer search engines, with lots of factors involved. However for writers it is less complicated, you need to write content for real people not search engines.
There are four key points to consider when writing content these are;
- The quality of the work
- The correct use of keywords
- Having comments and engagement with readers
- Original content that is offering something new and unique
Search engines are trying harder and harder to be able to think and analyse web site content as humans would.
They are looking for good quality, useful and relevant content that will provide searchers with want they want.
So as a writer that’s all you have to provide. In order to help you try and achieve this why not use some of the following ideas in each post you write.
- use a variety of means of communicating – video, audio, images and writing
- ensure grammar and spelling is correct
- alter the length of blog posts and articles so that readers have the option to access information easily and quickly, or read about it in more depth if required.
- link to other good quality and reputable sources so that your readers will see you as an expert in your area and google will too.
- ensure the content is original and not merely copied from other sources
Traditional SEO advice has always been to use keywords in your content, that still applies even with the changes that Google has made. The difference is that the search is about more than just keywords.
What is a Keyword?
I have looked at the topic of keywords in previous posts.
Keywords are the main word or phrase that explains what your article is about, a bit like a library cataloguing system. So the keywords for this article are ‘search engine optimisation‘, because that is the key topic I am writing about.
However as far as google is concerned keywords are just a means to an end.
According to Neil Patel’s article on google algorithms, the Hummingbird update (actually it was more of a major overhaul) was introduced in mid 2013 and was specifically developed to try and make more sense of keyword use and link it to what searchers are actually looking for.
In other words a keyword has to have a purpose other than to try and get noticed by google.
So this post title is called ‘what is SEO?’ and it tells google that it is not just about a keyword of SEO, but it is also going to explain and answer that particular question. It has a purpose for people looking to have that question answered, and my aim is to appear in rankings for those search results where this question is asked.
What Else Affects Search Engine Rankings?
The way in which search engines, such as google operate has changed a lot over the last few years. However some factors have remained fairly consistent over this time.
The following diagram taken from an SEO infographic highlights four main areas of influence that affect how blogposts and websites are ranked in the search engine, in addition to the content.
These four areas are;
- Social Media influence
- Website Reputation and trust
- Searcher prior history and interests
- Links between the website and other reputable sites in the same niche area
In other words there are a number of variables that google uses to determine where exactly it should place your page in an individual search result.
Social Media Influence
The increased use of social media has meant that it has now become an integral part of the internet, and now search engines can include this activity when they look through search results. However it is unknown how exactly Google is planning to include these figures since social media can be an unreliable indicator of quality which is always the search engines main priority.
Although individual blog posts on social media sites might not be displayed in search results on google, they are however known to the search engine.
So if your website has lots of likes and shares on Facebook or Twitter, the search engines are aware of this. Ultimately Google and Yahoo or Bing all want to try and bring you the most relevant results in any search, so they will still assess each article for its likely relevance to other people.
Website Reputation and Trust
Most search engines prefer that your website has been in operation for a period of time. This tells the search engine that you are serious especially if they can see a pattern of regular posts and activity.
Other ways of developing trust is by having a fair amount of quality content on the site, including a good number of different posts and pages in your specialised field of expertise.
As word spreads of your work other bloggers and writers may link to your site from their own, which also increases your reputation as an expert.
Searcher Prior History and Interests
Obviously some of the factors affecting searches will be linked to the person who is searching.
For example if they are based in another country then other more local results might rank higher than your website.
Another factor is that previous visits to other sites will be shown to the searcher and search prompts will be given often based on their previous search patterns.
However this doesn’t mean that they won’t visit a new site and google will then be on the look out for the most useful site that it considers will help this searcher.
Building Authority on Your Site Through Links
This heading often tends to focus only on ‘quality content’ in some other articles that I’ve read, but I chose this particular diagram because I think sometimes we forget what quality content actually involves.
It is about reassuring the search engines that you know what you are talking about. The posts or articles need to reflect this ‘authority‘ that you have for the subject matter. This can be shown through a number of ways.
- links to other experts and recognised blogs that the search engine recognises as reputable sites.
- using a variety of methods to explain your point such as diagrams, images, videos, graphs etc.- this will be more useful to a wider audience then simply presenting text only content.
- length of the article – it needs to be long enough to be useful without becoming over long and off-putting.
- engagement through comments – comments on websites illustrate that other people engaged with your content and wanted to expand a point or add to the piece
The topic of search engine optimisation is a vast and well discussed topic on the internet. It is an issue that is taken seriously by businesses all over the world because of the implications that it can have on getting customers to your site and purchasing products.
However, at this stage of introducing SEO the most important point to remember is that SEO is about improving customer experience (mainly google’s) and that needs to be the point of your writing.
In other words how can you enable a google searcher to find your site and product, and then convince them to stay on your site long enough to read the information and want to become a customer?
Further Reading on SEO
There are a number of other articles on this site that offer different insights and information on the various aspects of SEO. Some of them are listed below.
- Frequently Asked SEO Questions
- Content Based Search Solutions – The Future of SEO?
- Why You Still Need to Work At SEO In WordPress
There is also a podcast available that covers much of the content in the post which can be found here
I would love to hear any comments or questions you might have on this topic, please feel free to add them to the comments section below, and thanks for reading.