What exactly is search engine optimisation?

In this article, I give a brief explanation of what search engine optimisation is, how the algorithm works and what the 4 building blocks of SEO are.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the science of optimising your website so it gets found in the free or organic space of search engines. The objective of SEO is to increase the amount of traffic delivered to your website, which in turn will generate leads and improve brand awareness.

How search engines work

To understand SEO, you first need to understand how the search engines work.

Search engines use computer programs called web crawlers (sometimes called spiders or bots) to crawl the web. When they find a new web page, they add it to an index based on various factors connected with that web page. Think of the index as being a filing system of all web pages.

When someone types something into a search bar (known as a ‘query’), the search engine will use an algorithm to determine which web pages get retrieved from the index and displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The goal of the search engines is to provide the best possible web page for each search. Note that search engines don’t rank entire websites; Instead, they rank individual web pages.

The algorithm explained

An algorithm is a process or set of rules that are followed when a search engine is determining the value of a web page in order to place into its index.

The algorithms that calculate the ranking of a web page in SERPs are complex, ever-changing programs. This can give the impression that SEO practices are steeped in mystery and can lead to feelings of overwhelm. Don’t let it.

Google’s mission stays the same “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” By taking a holistic view of SEO and implementing strategies accordingly, you ensure that the pages on your website help Google fulfill its mission today and tomorrow.

The four building blocks of SEO

There are four key SEO building blocks that combine to form a holistic basis for optimising your website to perform well in search engines.

  1. Technical SEO – For a web page to appear in the search results, the search engines must be able to crawl it and index it. Solid technical SEO makes this a seamless process.
  2. Content SEO – Content has been the backbone of SEO since its inception. It’s how your share your expertise, which the search engines value because content provides insight into your product(s) or service(s).
  3. On-Site SEO – On-site SEO is how we add context to content. For example, breaking a page into sections with keyword- optimized headers makes it easier for the search engines to understand your expertise.
  4. Off-Site SEO – Off-site SEO is everything that happens outside of your website. The search engines look for external signals (backlinks, Google Maps, social media) as a gauge of your online authority and trustworthiness.

Whilst each of these building blocks can help you improve SEO performance, attending to all of them will ensure your website is well positioned to perform well in searches.

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