Search engines have become integral to our daily lives. As their importance in business has grown the battle to reach the top of the rankings pages is becoming increasingly fierce. But how do search engines actually work and how can you work to get your business to the top of the pile.
- What are search engines and how do they work?
Search engines, though seemingly magical to the untrained eye, operate based on a number of criteria or formula. They work by depicting word patterns, as entered by a ‘searcher’, and providing relevant results from material on the internet. Of course, to discover this ‘relevant’ content, it must be made noticeable by the content creator (that’s where you come in). To beef out the process of search engine functionality, let’s literally separate the stages:
It’s a little freaky, but search engines utilise internet ‘spiders’ to discover content. These spiders, or computer codes, crawl around the web seeking content to read, and follow links to other pages on their quest for something tasty.
Picture these internet spiders with a concertina file, categorising content into a relevant ‘indexed’ database. Having crawled through streams of content, the spider stores it for the future benefit of a searcher.
This is when your stuff gets noticed. Ranking refers to the engine pushing out relevant content to what a searcher is seeking. Referring to that file of spiders’ tasty meals, if you’ve made your content appealing (through varying factors to be discussed soon), the engine will aid your cause and rank you higher up the page.
Side note: should a spider initially turn their… nose (we’re not sure either) at your content, do not fret. Spiders periodically return to previously visited pages to reassess content, so remember to update and freshen up the content you offer.
- How do I optimise my content?
You need to be efficient in content creation; with SEO constantly tapping on your shoulder to ensure your copy is attractive to search engines and their spiders (whether in blog posts, or marketing messages).
The most important aspect is to remember ‘write for a person, not a machine’. Yes, you are aiming to catch the attention of search engines amidst a hefty group of competitors, however, if the search engine suspects you to be over-stuffing content with the spiders’ favourite foods (key words, meta-descriptions and links), you will be rejected. Keep it natural, and informative, constantly considering ‘what’s in it for the reader?’
Let’s consider a few areas for smart on-page optimisation, to get you naturally noticed by those top-dog search engines:
Think of your title as a newspaper headline. Relevant, attention grabbing, and inviting the reader to know more. Choose appropriate keywords, which describe your content, and answer the relevant question to the reader’s search, aiming for fewer than 72 words.
- Targeted traffic
It’s inevitable that targeted search traffic will prove more valuable than random traffic, as these are a more motivated bunch. Whatever you’re selling, be it product or service, having reached your site with a question, you are now in a position to answer it – even if it’s ‘where can I get a dishwasher?’ This is your chance to convert drive-by traffic to long-term interest, and social media is your holy grail for doing so.
- Keyword phrases
As search engines work by keying in word patterns people are looking for and returning relevant content, it is no surprise that keyword frequency is vital to SEO. You can utilise keyword tools such as Google Adwords to discover statistics, usage and benefits, making sure enough people use that keyword phrase before you do.
Keywords should appear seemingly naturally throughout your content, making it inviting to share and link, and ideally your keyword density should be no greater than 5.5%
- Natural links
If your content is something worth reading, there is a chance it will be promoted on another site, linking back to your own. The beauty of this, of course, is visibility: expanding the awareness of your brand, and developing trust and authority, via another source (someone else doing the advertising for you!)
In order to create ‘’linkable” content, be sure it’s clever and concise – copy that can be read quickly and serves a purpose, in a compelling way. Content that is shareable on social media is an ideal way to get your voice, or brand, out there and gain exposure. The links will naturally start coming.
So what are you waiting for?
SEO requires a little bit of trickery, but is no magic act. Be sure to satisfy search engines with our handy tips, without forgetting the ultimate goal: pleasing the reader. Search engines need to know whom your content is suitable for, so do your research (specific audience, keywords and possible links), and let the spiders do the rest of the work for you.