SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is not some complicated form of digital marketing witchcraft.
SEO just means making Google like your webpage the most for a search.
If someone searches for horses, then Google tries to show them a list of pages about horses that will please them most.
If you have a webpage about horses, then SEO is how you get your webpage to the top of the list that Google shows people.
How Google ranks pages
Google chooses which webpages to show people based on absolutely tons of criteria.
Firstly it uses lots of things it knows about the person searching. This includes things like their browser, the language their browser uses, other searches they’ve made, their location etc.
It also uses lots of things it knows about webpages. This includes things like how fast the page loads, how many other websites link to that page etc.
It then combines these things to give everyone somewhat personalised results. Results which are most likely to please the person searching the most, for whatever they have searched for.
How Google knows things about websites
Google sends out automated programs continuously which feed it data. These programs are a type of bot called spiders. They crawl the internet and tell Google EVERYTHING they find – how many words a page has, how many pictures, how long it takes to load, and all the content.
These spiders don’t do anything complex to find pages though, they just follow links. They’ll load up the your horse website homepage, then follow every link on it, then every link on that next page etc, each time reporting on everything they find. This is why Google isn’t always 100% up to date, but they have enough bots that they are always nearly up to date.
On top of this, it’s also why a page which has no links to it probably won’t show up on Google at all.
Fun fact: Bots like this make up about 50% of all internet traffic. This is known as non-human traffic.
This brings us to the first type of SEO – technical SEO. It simply means making a website in a way that Google’s spiders can read it properly.
The most simple part of this is making sure every page is linked to on a site. It also includes things like making sure your page loads at a reasonable speed and other technical things.
Another main type of SEO is called On-Page SEO. This means anything that you can do to a page to make it seem like a good page.
Google has come up with tons of benchmarks of what people like. For example, a page with less than 300 words is generally a no-no, so writing at least 300 words will improve your on-page SEO.
And sticking with the example, if your page is about horses, then you should include the word horses in the title, and as the alt-tag of images on that page. Your page should also be easily read by an 11-year-old. These are all things that Google has learned that people like about pages. If you do them, then Google will rank you higher in searches.
This is the other main type of SEO. It means anything you do off of a page to improve your page ranking. It mainly means inbound links.
An inbound link is simply a link from another website to yours. It now (kinda) includes social media, which is why social media is useful for SEO.
Google looks at this because if your people link to your page, then it must be a good page right?
It actually goes further than this. If a page about your subject (horses) links to your page, then Google will think yours is probably a good page about horses. Conversely, if a page that isn’t about horses links to your page, then Google won’t care (or might even get mad at you for trying to trick it).
Google is always working to try to show people the pages which will please them most.
This is a type of SEO people were obsessed with recently. It simply means using mapping sites like Google My Business.
Basically, most people are more interested in stuff near them. If you tell Google where your business is based (using Google My Business or Yelp listing etc), then Google will more likely show your page to other people in the area.
It can be very effective for businesses with physical locations (such as shops…or stables) for driving foot traffic.
Future SEO Trends
The next big thing in SEO is that Google is going to start judging websites mobile version as being the main version. That means that if a mobile site is missing content, then that’s going to be a problem. Also if a site doesn’t load very fast on mobile, then that will be a problem too.
Site speed is a trend too, although that is a current trend really. For every second it takes to load a page, 10% of people leave. This isn’t a direct thing Google is measuring however. Sites which load slower will have a much higher bounce rate.
And again – bounce rate isn’t actually what Google directly cares about – it’s just that they want to give people “Long Clicks”. A long click is when someone clicks on a search results (the top webpage about horses), and then doesn’t search for that thing again for a while. This tells Google that they were satisfied with the result what they clicked on. So a high bounce rate combined with searching for that thing again tells Google that your page is a bad search result.
At the centre of these two trends is AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages. It’s a thing that’s been happening for a while, but it’s still rubbish at the moment in terms of ease of implementation.
Basically, it means making very simple versions of webpages which load much much faster on mobile phones (and in general – but they’re intended for mobile phones). It’s not a Google project per se, but Google are super into it, and supportive of it so it will likely effect the internet pretty hard going forward – especially considering the above two.