Introduction to SEO - what is it and why should you care?


Search Engine Optimisation is a massively overcomplicated and overhyped aspect of building and managing your website. If you’ve ever been bludgeoned with meaningless jargon by an SEO ‘expert’ either online or in person, you’re reading the right blog. This introduction to SEO offers a brief introduction to the topic, explaining why it is important to your website, and some basic improvements you can make. Minus the jargon. 

Why is SEO important to my website?

Why is SEO important to my website?

Fortunately, SEO can be described in relatively simple terms. SEO is used to describe how ‘friendly’ and useful a website is. In other words, a website that scores well in SEO tests is deemed to be a user-friendly source of relevant and accurate information. 

Search engines measure SEO to ‘rank’ a website. This ranking determines where a website appears when people search for things on the internet. For example, if you type “local plumber” into Google, you are presented with a list of businesses. A business appearing at the top of this list is more 'Optimised' than the websites which follow.

Before going into more detail, it’s important that the purpose of SEO is understood. To do this, let’s think of SEO in human terms.

Making the right impression
Imagine you arrive at a networking event. It’s your first time so you’re slightly apprehensive. Two people are already there. The first person immediately makes eye contact, smiles, and walks towards you offering their outstretched hand. She introduces herself as Kelly and asks your name. Her appearance and body language are highly professional and her demeanour is friendly and engaging. She takes an interest in you, shows you where to get coffee and offers to introduce you to other members of the group. Her final acts are trading business cards and an invitation to continue the conversation after the meeting. 

The second person you meet is called Lee. He is the antithesis of Kelly. He makes no attempt to speak to you. When you instigate a conversation, you note his slovenly appearance. He fails to make eye contact or smile. Without even bothering to ask who you are, he launches into a half-hearted sales pitch and thrusts a card into your hand before walking off. 

After the meeting, you make a note to contact Kelly to learn more about her business, while you have no interest in speaking to Lee ever again.

SEO filters and ranks websites based on the same factors highlighted in this example: appearance, clarity, usefulness.

To make the connection clearer, let’s introduce some real examples of SEO.

SEO factor 1: Appearance
Search engines are not clever enough to subjectively judge the attractiveness of a website. So SEO takes a more scientific approach. The most important factor is how well the website displays its content on a range of devices. In the early days of the internet, websites only had to work on a desktop or laptop computer. Today, more website visits take place on mobile devices, such as a smart phone or tablet computer, than a traditional computer. Because the screen sizes of these devices vary dramatically, websites can no longer be "one-size-fits all." 

A mobile-optimised website redraws its appearance depending on the device it is viewed on. It does this by rearranging its elements in a logical way. Rather than try to explain this further, take a look at this images below of our mobile-optimised website to see how it appears on various devices.

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PC View

This is how the website appears on a laptop or PC computer

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Tablet view

The website 'redraws' itself for tablet computers

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Mobile view

A different look for smart phones

Mobile optimisation is one of the key measures of SEO and so is the first element you should test. If you’re unsure about your own website, use this online tool from Google which tells you whether it is mobile friendly.

A website that looks good, irrespective of the device it is viewed on, makes a great first impression. Just like Kelly. But a website that looks messy on your smart phone is the digital equivalent of Lee. 

SEO factor 2: Clarity
Kelly made a great first impression with her appearance and smile, but her verbal introduction was also crucial for how you remember her. She stated clearly who she was and asked your name. She told you what she did and showed an interest.

Replicating this on your website is crucial to SEO. You must clearly state what the website/business is about. In SEO terms, this is measured by the words that are used. This basically means using the right combination of words to describe what the website is about.

Again, here's an example, using a fictitious example of a company you've found online. 
The search engine description reads like this:

Smith and Sons
Helping you in a moment of crisis. We work anywhere and everywhere.

This listing tells you nothing about the business. A search engine will fare no better: this listing is so ambiguous that it is essentially useless.

So let's change the listing:

Smith and Sons Emergency Plumbers
Plumbing crisis? 24-hour call outs within 50km radius of Winchester.

You can immediately see the difference. You've learnt Smith and Sons is a plumbing firm, it specialises in emergencies, is available around the clock and you know the distance it covers.

Similarly, your website title, description and opening text will tell customers and prospects exactly what they are dealing with. Search engines use the same information to decide what your website is about. Without this information, your website is essentially invisible, making it a crucial part of SEO.

SEO factor 3: Usefulness
Referring once more to our example, Kelly was very helpful. She showed you where the coffee was. She then offered to introduce you to other networkers.  And she left you with an invitation to reconnect. This was the perfect introduction, packed with value.

Your website must also deliver value. Many websites are digital brochures which exist for the sole purpose of advertising products and services. This hard sell approach is off-putting: it's one of the main reasons you'll avoid Lee in the future. However, Kelly freely offered us value and we responded accordingly.

How do you replicate this on your website? There are various ways. You can offer a free consultancy session. Or a discount code. Or a free coffee for those signing up to your newsletter.

However, the most popular and effective way to prove your usefulness is to write useful content on your website. A useful blog (such as this one. Well, we HOPE it's useful!) is a great way to introduce yourself and your expertise without a hard sell. 

This is why blogging is so important to SEO. Search engines love websites that include useful blogs. It ascertains whether the content is useful by noting how many times it is read, how long people spend reading it, and whether they share it with others, perhaps via social media.

Think of SEO as a digital guardian, checking the etiquette and grammar of websites. SEO is designed to make you do the right things on your website, such as offer a great first impression, clearly explain what it is about and offering website visitors genuine value.

There are myriad other factors and techniques involved in SEO. However, if you follow the advice of this introduction to SEO, we promise you two results. Firstly, it will help your website get discovered and improve your search engine ranking. Secondly and most importantly, visitors to your website will have a good first impression, clear understanding of what is being offered and will consider visiting again.

More questions about SEO? Speak to Perfect Motion Media.