SEO 101: what it is and how to use it

You have spoken! The results are in from our 2015 State of Marketing Technology Survey. Marketers told us that SEO is one area of the digital spectrum they'd like to understand more. However, only 55% said they were actively using SEO as part of their online marketing strategy.

To the other 45% who are yet to dip their toes in the SEO pool, we know that SEO might seem daunting, complicated and even downright scary! But never fear! We have sorted out the facts to help you understand the basics so you can start using SEO to your best advantage.

So, what exactly is SEO?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of enhancing the visibility of a website in a search engine's (e.g: Google's), search results. These results are shown in order of what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Typically the aim of this enhancement is to appear in the first page of results (ideally at the top). Because let's face it, unless you really can't find what you are looking for, who clicks through to the second page?

Sound expensive? It isn't. The good news for budget bound marketers is that SEO is free (SEO does not include paid ads and AdWords) and can be easily learned and utilised by people in your existing marketing and content production teams.

How it works

Simply put, search engines use "crawlers" or "spiders" that trawl the web to identify the most relevant content to a users search. These crawlers use algorithms to identify relevancy based on four key areas:

  1. Content - the topics, themes and keywords
  2. Authority - is the information on your site of quality and do others link to it
  3. Overall performance and speed of the site
  4. The quality of user experience including ease of navigation, bounce rate and security

When to use SEO

SEO should not be used as a stand-alone tactic; rather it should be the final consideration in your online marketing strategy. Before initiating SEO the following should be planned and/or created:

  • High quality webpages to engage and persuade visitors.
  • Value-added, shareable content designed to inform, entertain and educate.
  • The use of metrics and webmaster tools (such as Google Web Master Tools) to get an idea of what content is performing well.
  • And, possibly paid elements such as pay-per-click advertising or social media campaigns.

SEO may seem to generate all the traffic you need, but it's not a good idea to put your eggs in one basket. This is because the algorithms that search engines use to find and rank websites are evolving all the time, which can result in changes to a website' s placement. Depending on these changes, search engine directed traffic to a site could drop significantly. So to avoid being scrambled it is a much better idea to spread your marketing eggs around!

Read more in part two of our SEO series - White Hat vs Black Hat SEO.

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