What is SEO and how does it work?

what is search engine optimisation

New to the land of SEO?

If you’ve managed to land on this article, you’ve most likely got a few question marks. Introducing your brain to the ins and outs of SEO can be overwhelming for website owners, even the most experienced online marketeers are still trying to find better ways to understand (and stay ahead of) the unpredictable nature of Googles search engine.

Let’s get one thing straight, online marketing is a battle field that many businesses fail to survive long term. To those “newbies” out there, this article has been created to help you battle the complexities of the SEO kingdom; with knowledge for armour! Yes, you are soon to become a worthy SEO warrior my friend.

SEO isn’t as complicated as people make it out to be, once you understand the basic fundamentals it’s simply a matter of time and energy. This is why so many businesses have SEO agencies take over their marketing campaigns (it really is a lot of effort!). SEO is a long term commitment and a continuous work in progress.

Your commitment to SEO is like being in a relationship.

If you work on growing the relationship with things such as quality time, investment and trust building, you will reap the benefits from the partnership (eg. becoming a millionaire, long walks on the beach together).

Neglect the relationship and you’ll end up alone (no business). Abuse the relationship you’ll end up in a bad way trying to recover (such as businesses trying to recover from an online Google penalty-often a result from cheap and nasty SEO services).

The secret for a successful relationship with Googles search engine, lies in patience and longevity. There are no “quick fixes” when trying to dominate website rankings. Slow and steady wins the race… well at least in Googles arena.

I want to bring your focus to the two main areas of search engine optimisation being, On Page SEO and Off Page SEO. You will need to understand the basics of both methods if you truly desire SEO success for your website.

What do these terms mean?

What is the difference between the two?

How do these SEO techniques improve a websites ranking on Google?

By the end of this article you will have a sound understanding of both On Page and Off Page SEO. Plus you can take away some really valuable tips to integrate into your future SEO strategies. So lets get all “

Julie Andrews” and start at the very beginning with

On Page SEO. A very good place to start…

What is On Page SEO?

user experience definition

The overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use. “if a website degrades the user experience too much, people will simply stay away”

The On Page SEO process is about discovering every nook and cranny on your website, and optimising it to be the most useful and relevant for a particular search result (the search words you are targeting). On Page SEO in a nut shell is basically just about creating an outstanding “user experience”.

Google is very ambitious about finding any methods to optimise the user experience, therefor any search results they deliver to their users must be of high quality. High quality websites have content that is considered the most valuable, useful and relevant to the viewers search.

Google has also become very intelligent at tracking online user behaviour, this is how they measure a website visitors satisfaction. Yes, Google is watching and stalking your websites every move. Google knows how many, how often and how long your visitors are staying on your web pages. This means they can also track the behaviour from any “underwhelmed” visitors who are leaving your site to search something better. This is one of the many ways in which Google determines a websites “worth” for search results (the level of ranking). Websites that have positive user behaviour appear to be the most useful for the users search results, so Google will naturally want to rank them higher. If your visitors are not staying or engaging on your website, your website will be considered irrelevant in Googles search results and rank low. The obvious goal here is to create and deliver content that your audience wants to receive.

Here are some On Page SEO areas you will want to give some attention to:

The user experience

On Page SEO begins and ends with the user experience. It’s all about optimising the entire structure of a website to deliver the most useful and satisfying experience possible to visitors. Enhancing the user experience is about answering the searchers questions and providing effective solutions as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that when it comes to On Page SEO, the use of keywords is not the most important factor here. The most important action is to provide the visitor with high value from their search enquiry.

All aspects of your website should be created for your customers satisfaction (not Google). This also means you need to let go of any “personal preferences” or attachments you may have in relation to your websites concept and design. After all, you’re not in business to buy from yourself. So stop being all self absorbed and put yourself in the mind of your customers. Ask yourself the following questions.

What kind of problems do my customers have?

What can my business or services do to solve these problems?

The answers to these questions will help you build the stairway to On Page SEO heaven.

Here are some ways you can enhance the user experience on your website:
(Which won’t go unrecognised by Google)

Responsive and Mobile Friendly Web Design

What does having a responsive website mean?
Having a responsive website means that your website will automatically adjust to fit the device you’re reading it on (and attractively if done correctly).

The usual screen sizes that responsive web design is developed for include:

  • The widescreen desktop monitor
  • The smaller desktop monitor (or laptop)
  • Tablet screens
  • Mobile phone screens

In April 2015, Google changed its search results standards to favour mobile friendly websites. This SEO update forced every serious website owner to optimise their websites to provide for mobile users. With the number of online mobile phone users continually growing, it’s no wonder Google now favours mobile friendly websites in it’s rankings. By optimising your website to a responsive design, you’re not only staying in Googles favour but also expanding your audience reach to a rapidly increasing market.

If you’re unsure about your websites current responsiveness, you can use Googles Mobile Friendly Test Tool to check. It’s free and easy to use, just paste your websites URL into the search box and click the analyse button. Check it out, click here.

Website Speed

An online marketing study revealed that around 47% of online users expect your website to load in under 2 seconds! On top of that, more than half of these users won’t even buy from a website that is loading too slowly. It’s a well known fact for business owners that online customers don’t want to wait. And with the thousands of online competitors happy to deliver fast efficient service, can you really blame them for going else where if your website is taking forever to load? Google has also taken into account the importance of a websites speed in relation to ranking.

There are many free website speed tests you can use online to discover the current speed of your website, but it usually helps more when comparing the results with something (if you’re unsure about what is considered a “decent” speed).

Here is a useful tool where you can discover your websites current loading speed and compare it with your competitors website speed. Click here to begin. It’ll give you some insight on where you should be operating at.

If your current website speed is average or below, fear not! There are many ways you can boost your websites speed! You can discover the ways to do this by following the steps inside our “How to increase website speed” article. To read this article now, click here.

High Quality Web Content

What is Web Content?
Many people don’t really understand what web content is, or what it refers to. Simply put, web content refers to all of the visual and aural content that is displayed on a website.

A websites contents may include items such as:

  • Copywriting (text)
  • Photos
  • Graphics
  • Audios
  • Videos
  • Animations

What is high quality content?

Think of it this way, the content on your website should:

  • Drive Traffic To Your Website
  • Turn Strangers In Customers

There are many ways to optimise your websites content quality and you will need to accept that it is an ongoing process. Times change, people change, trends come and go. Your content needs to constantly adapt and optimise to these changes to keep your viewers attention. Your objective is basically just finding the best ways you can communication and interact with your online users. Research your biggest competitors and check up on them regularly (or any large successful companies) to see how they are delivering online content. Keeping up to date with the latest online marketing techniques will help to keep your business in the game, but brainstorming new and innovative ways to grab your audiences attention will help you to stand out from the rest.

High quality content will have the following attributes:

  • Contains high value and usefulness to the viewer
  • Keeps your audience engaged 
  • Effectively designed and easy to navigate
  • Easy and simple to share online 
  • Optimised for keyword ranking
  • Content is size optimised 

Here is a break down of these areas, to help you better understand:

Value and usefulness

High quality content- particularly in the eyes of a search engine, will always provide high value and usefulness to the user. To do this, your website will provide and deliver the right information and solution to the viewers particular problem (the search made). Google will be able to tell if it’s users are finding your website useful by tracking online user behaviour. 

Engaging and interesting

Irrelevant and boring content will cause your visitors to leave your website and seek out other options. Along with the obvious fact that you are losing potential prospects, this also makes your website look bad to Googles user behaviour tracking and will result in your website ranking low in search results.  

Effective web design and easy navigation

Again, its all about the user experience, from the very moment they discover your website. Is your website layout and design easy to navigate? Complicated designs are distracting and disorientating for online users. Your websites layout/design should make online service as quick and as simple as possible. Websites that are simple and easy to navigate have higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

Easy to share

Build your websites online presence by making sure your websites content is easy and simple to share via online link sharing. Don’t forget to link your businesses social media accounts on your website, social networking is huge for link sharing.

Optimised for keyword ranking

Keyword optimisation refers to the research and analysis of choosing the correct keywords to target to drive qualified traffic from a search engine. Also known as keyword research, it is a critical component for SEO because when used correctly it creates a valuable road map for content creation and marketing strategies. By optimising your content for keyword ranking, you will be placing your business in front of the right people.

Content “size” optimisation

You may have come across the term “thin content” along your SEO researching- and it’s something to avoid. Thin content refers to the length (or size) of your websites content. Delivering high quality content on your website isn’t enough to dominate search engine rankings, your content size is as equally as important as the quality. In relation to articles, detailed articles of around 2000 words is considered good, but the longer the better. A websites content “size” paired with high quality will greatly impact Googles search engine ranking decision.

Here are some other important questions you will want to check off on your websites optimisation list:

  • Have you made it clear how your customers can contact you?
  • Is your font type and size easy to read?
  • Is it easy for users to see and access the most important areas on your website?
  • Have you used appropriate call to action on your web pages?

What are Meta Tags?

Meta Tags play a very important role for On Page SEO. The word “Meta” is short for “Metadata” which refers to the type of “data” the tag provides. Your websites data is defined by the information you are providing on your web pages.

Meta tags is basically just text that describes the contents of a web page. The tags do not appear on the page itself, they are embedded in the coding of the page. If you are familiar with the social media tagging concept, meta tags work pretty much the same way. They are content descriptions which tell search engines what a web page is providing to the viewer, Meta tags live in HTML typically at the “head” of a page, they are only visible to search engines and people who know where to look.

Here are some Meta Tags you should definitely give some optimisation attention to:

What are Title Tags?

Title Tags are used to define the title of your web page and are used to display “previews” of your web page in search results.

Keep your Title Tags short (around 50-60 characters) as your results preview will only show the first 60. Don’t duplicate your text from your website, create new content.

Your Title Tag will look something like this:

What are Meta Descriptions?

The Meta Description is the text information below the Title Tag. It is the description a search engine will use to discover what information you are actually providing, and to determine the what specific traffic to send to your page. Online marketing studies have shown that around 43.2% of viewers will click on a website based purely on the Meta Description alone.

Keep your Meta Description short and informative, around 160 characters. Trying to use all of your keywords into your meta description can have a negative result, so it is best to use synonyms or latent semantic indexing (LSI) of your keywords to stay friendly with search engines.

Your Meta Description will look something like this:

What are Robots (Bots) Meta Tags?

These tags are created and used to tell search engine “bots” what to do with a particular web page.

The index / noindex tag:
Tells a search engine whether or not to show your web page in search results.

The follow / nofollow tag:
Tells a search engine how to approach the links on your web page.
This is in relation to the crawlability process which you will learn more about below.

What is Crawlability?

A websites Crawlability refers to the ability of a search engine to “crawl” and navigate its way through the entire text of a website easily, without encountering any errors causing it to stop. If your website contains any link errors that cause a dead end in the crawl process, your website will be labeled as performing poorly which will in turn affect your websites ranking.

Internal blogging

Understanding how crawl spiders work can really helps to improve your websites SEO. The way that search spiders crawl a web page is by following links, therefore it is beneficial for a website to utilise interlinking via internal blogging. Fresh content delivered in a blog makes the picking up of links a lot easier for the crawl spiders to find rather than searching high and low for links in old content.

Avoid duplicating content on your websites blog to dodge a Google penalty. If you absolutely must duplicate content (eg. disclaimers on every single page) you need to let the crawl spiders know not to index the content by using the noindex tag as discussed above in Meta Tags.

URL structure

A URL (Universal Resource Locator) is the address of a World Wide Web page. You can find it at the top of your website in the search bar. Although URL structuring is an important part of On Page SEO, there are no set rules or guidelines and every SEO specialist will have their own opinion on the topic. Some like to keep it simple and short, others longer and more descriptive (even including dates). Considering there are no rules here it makes sense to simply research your competitors and high authority websites to see what application is being used.

Regardless of how you decide to structure your websites URLs, as long as your URL is useful and informative it will remain friendly with search engines. Avoid changing URLs on older posts as it will cause “broken links” and the attached web page will no longer be accessible via the initial specified link.

Crawl errors and broken links

How do you discover any crawl errors existing on your website? Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) has a handy tool you can use to check the current health of your website:

By clicking on the health tab in the top left toolbar you will be able to discover any crawl errors currently existing on your website. These errors are recorded and left by bots that have visited your website. Crawl errors prevent other sites from accessing your web pages so the faster you resolve them the better off your website will be for SEO.

On Page SEO summary

So far we have covered some important On Page SEO basics as well as some useful tips. It’s a lot of information to process all at once, so just remember the main objective for On Page SEO is simply to provide the best user experience possible. Utilise Google Search Console to review your websites SEO analytics and don’t you even think about beginning Off Page SEO until you’ve established a strong foundation with a fool proof website. Having your On Page SEO set up correctly will deliver the best SEO results in the long run, it’s not a step worth skipping.

Once you have developed and delivered some kick ass On Page SEO, you will be ready to move onto your Off Page SEO.

Keep reading to learn about the fundamentals of Off Page SEO.

What is Off Page SEO?

Off Page SEO refers to all the actions and methods used outside or “off” of the website itself, to help improve it’s ranking on a search engine. Many people refer to Off Page SEO as “link building” and the main objective is to promote and drive traffic to a website, as well as boost it’s ranking.

Search Engines have been consistently optimising the ways in which they can deliver the most accurate results to the user. To determine the most relevant results a search engine takes into account a websites On Page and Off Page SEO. Websites that are considered high quality and most relevant in search results, usually have links and mentions from other websites as well as bookmarks and shares among other online communities. This is how Off Page SEO shows a search engine how online users receive a website.

Some of the methods used in Off Page SEO are:

Link Building

Link building is and always has been the most popular and effective Off Page SEO application. Websites with links coming from high quality and high relevancy websites will rank higher in search engine results.
When users like and share your website or content with links, it shows search engines that your page has good information that online users want to see.

In the past link building was an easy way to manipulate the search engine results and spammers took advantage of this by creating link building networks which gradually led to the beginning of what is generally known as black hat SEO. Google has become very intelligent in recognising this type of online behaviour with the introduction of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird (Google Algorithm release updates). And Google has now found many ways to control this type of activity to protect the search engine from spammers. Of course there are always loops holes in the system, but with Googles relentless optimisation skills it wont be long before black hat SEO will be impossible to bypass a search engine. This is why it’s far more beneficial to a website to build high quality links over cheap and nasty bulk link building services.

High Quality Links

Due to Googles constant optimisation and changing algorithm, the amount of links pointing to a website does not necessarily mean that website will have increased rankings. The most important factor is the quality and the relevancy of the links pointing to a website. For example, a link coming from a high authority website such as Wikipedia holds a higher points with a search engine than a link coming from a small blogging website. In relation to relevancy, websites that share similar aspects such as the same industry or website content such as a sportswear company linked to a health and wellness company compliments each other well in a search engines eyes. An irrelevant example would be pet store linking to a shoe shop, Google won’t see the relevancy between the two websites (and rightly so) and consider it to be unnatural link building.

Natural Links

Any links directing to a website in order to help boost that websites rankings need to appear natural to a search engine in order for it to work. Natural links are links that are added by a website or blog owner naturally and not embedded in comments sections such as spam attempts.

This is why a websites content quality is so important in SEO. If your website is providing helpful and highly informative content to online users, it is more likely to be shared and linked “naturally” because it is considered to be of high value.

Some SEO companies will offer link building services at very cheap prices, using negative SEO methods and spam to point links to a website. Although this strategy may have worked well in the past it is no longer as effective or worthwhile. Links that do not appear natural to a search engine have a high risk of getting a manual or algorithmic penalty from Google.

Here are some of the methods you can utilise in your Off Page SEO strategies:

Social Media

Another form of Off Page SEO is by utilising social media. It can also be considered a form of link building and is a very effective way of directing traffic to your website when used correctly. The more places your business is present online, the easier it will be for online users to discover you. Having said that keep in mind that every social media platform has its own “search engine” based off the content you provide in your profile. Therefor you should optimise your social networking profiles the same way you would for googles search engine.

Some of the social networking sites your business can use for Off Page SEO include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

Social Bookmarking

Social Bookmarking websites provide promotion for websites. By bookmarking a web page on a popular social bookmarking site you can direct high amounts of traffic via that link.

Some popular Social bookmarking websites you can include in your Off Page SEO are:

  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • Google Plus +

Forum Submission

An online forum is a message board where people can hold online discussions in the form of posting messages. They are different from online chat rooms because the messages are usually longer in text and are archived temporarily.

Engaging with online users in search forums related to your business and industry is popular form of Off Page SEO. You can build your connections by replying to message threads, answering questions or leaving helpful advice for other forum users. Be sure to make good use of any “dofollow” forums to boost your websites links.

There are literally thousands of online forums your business can utilise to direct traffic to your website. To make the most of this type of Off Page SEO, search for the most popular or biggest forums for your particular business or industry.

Blog Directory Submission

The concept is exactly like a typical business directory, but online. Blog directory is a listing of information which defines businesses within particular categories. Businesses can choose to be categorised by things such as niche, location, services, size, activity or industry. By choosing an effective directory and listing your business correctly, you will in time obtain high quality back links.

Here are some popular local directory blogs often used in Off Page SEO:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Yelp

Article Submission

Another way of building quality links is by via article submission to article submission directories. Make sure your article submissions are categorised correctly and considered high value and helpful to readers.

Some examples of free article submission websites:

  • The free library
  • Hub pages
  • Bright hub
  • Ezine articles

Question and answer websites

Question and answer websites are a great way to deliver high traffic to your website by providing helpful and useful answers to online user questions related to your business (don’t forget to leave your websites link with that outstanding answer).

Some high PR question and answer websites are:

  • WikiAnswers
  • Askville
  • Yahoo! Answers
  • Google Questions and Answers

Media sharing (Share your content)

If you’ve got great content, share it!
There are many different websites you can share your businesses images, videos, documents with online users. Don’t forget to optimise all of your submissions with the correct URL and title tags and descriptions.

Some popular image sharing website examples:

  • Flickr
  • Picasa
  • Imgur

Some popular video sharing websites examples:

  • Youtube
  • Vimeo
  • Vine

Off page SEO Summary

Don’t risk the cheap and nasty link building options with your Off Page SEO. Instead focus on developing an outstanding website with high value content and with the correct promotion, this will ensure great ROI to follow. Off Page SEO and On Page SEO are equally as important as each other. If you want to achieve successful online SEO campaigns, both must be used together to optimise results.

Not sure where to start with your websites SEO?
Get in touch with our SEO team and we can help you to discover the best place to start. Call 1300 386 161 to discuss your SEO goals with one of our experts.

We offer a wide range of Online Marketing and SEO services customised to every businesses individual goals. If you’re looking for a one off service, check out our available SEO Gigs: