SEO – What is it and why is it so important?

 

When writing articles, whether for news, marketing or entertainment, there are essentially two main components to posting it online. One is producing the content, the other is ensuring that it reaches as wide an audience as possible. It’s the latter step where SEO comes in.

Let’s explore this further.

What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the primary way to improve traffic on a website. It usually targets unpaid traffic, that is web views and clicks gained by organic searches on search engines, social media and other websites. 

Let’s take an example scenario. Imagine we decide to set up an online shoe business. We have a sleek new website, we just need to promote it. In the old days, this would have been on the high street and advertising would have meant having a shiny shop facade, dishing out leaflets to passing traffic, making phone calls, and maybe getting a space in the local newspaper.

But in the almost infinite space of the internet, we don’t have the luxury of shop windows or pasting our name wherever we want – we’ve got to earn our place. By improving and investing in our website’s SEO we increase our chances of Google and co signposting customers to our virtual store.

A brief history

The concept of SEO first sprung about in the mid 90s during the infancy of the World Wide Web. It worked on the simple principle that search engines would “crawl” sites and index them. This would produce a ranking for each website, based on information such as meta tags and keyword density.

The problem with this was that it was easy for misrepresenting sites to rank highly while providing low quality information or services. Since then a series of algorithm updates on Google have sought to improve search results and filter out websites that duplicate content or produce spam. 

How do you improve a site’s SEO?

Getting your SEO ranking up is contingent on several factors, mainly the quality, length and relevance of content. Essentially you want your site to rank for the right keywords. In the case of the online shoe shop, you would want it to rank for searches such as “shoes” or “trainers” etc. Here some things you can try to give your SEO a boost: 

  • Use keywords at the start of sentences. While keyword density alone won’t shoot you up to page 1, they help tell search engines what your website offers.
  • Write high quality content. While this seems obvious, this isn’t just about producing things that people want to read, but about ensuring content is long term, relevant and up to date. Quality is also detected from text length: the ideal article should be above 300 words.
  • Make use of a SEO tool. While these won’t automatically improve your SEO, they will alert you to areas where you may be falling short and provide a “checklist” for each article. On WordPress there are two main plugins, All in one SEO and Yoast SEO. Both are effective but use slightly different models.
  • Textualise your audio and video content. By that we mean offer text alternatives to any videos, audio and images. This is because Google and co don’t crawl these things by themselves, but rely on accompanying text to make them detectable. This isn’t just in the form of descriptions or titles, but also transcripts and even closed captions. In the end, the more of your content you can get down in words, the more likely your website will show up in searches.

Final thoughts

It’s worth saying that while SEO is a highly effective method for pulling in traffic, it’s one that takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. It’s also not the only way to promote content (paid content is less reliant on SEO). It also has an air of unpredictability, given that as search engine algorithms change and adapt, so will the number of referrals to your site. That said, simple SEO steps can mean big strides for your website. If there’s one thing to take away, just be persistent!

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