One of the most important skills an SEO expert, like myself, can employ is strong communication. The way you communicate about SEO to a colleague, a developer and a client should be completely different. We know there’s no shortage of so-called SEO experts who try to dazzle clients with long-winded SEO explanations just to impress them, but in reality, this rarely helps. If you’re a small or medium-sized business owner looking for a plain English guide to SEO, you’ve come to the right place.
How does Google work?
It’s fair to say that most people have used Google at some point in their life. When you type in a search term, you are then greeted with a page of results. At the top, you might see a few adverts followed by the “organic” search results. The adverts are paid for by bidding on the position and the organic search results are chosen by Google as they are deemed to be most relevant to your search.
In many ways, Google is very mysterious in how it chooses what to rank and where. And in many ways, it isn’t. SEO experts know that Google prioritises strong and relevant content above anything else. Therefore, if you have a good website that is full of helpful information, you stand a good chance of ranking well with Google.
Google isn’t concerned with helping out certain websites or rewarding those who spend a lot on PPC.
Their share price indicates that these things are important to them, after all, PPC is a huge source of revenue.
However, when it comes to organic search, they are only concerned with making sure the user experience is as good as possible. If Google let its standards slip and allowed any old cowboy to manipulate the rankings and push spammy sites to the top, users would quickly go elsewhere. This would be catastrophic for Google which relies on their searches to sell advertising space.
SEO experts have a pretty good idea how Google works, we just can’t offer any guarantees or timescales, because these aren’t readily available with Google. Instead, we apply our best-practice knowledge and experience to helping website climb the rankings.
How are websites discovered?
Have you ever hit publish on a blog post and started getting organic traffic directed to it the very next day?
Congratulations, your website is being crawled regularly! Google and other search engines use something known as spiders to crawl websites to find out what they are about. These spiders look at things like the URLs, metadata and content to decide what your website is about and where it should appear in the rankings.
Imagine if Google were a giant library.
The spider is the librarian, who gathers information about each book and stores it in the card catalogue. When you visit the card catalogue, you can find out which book would be most relevant to answer your question.
If a book is updated, the card catalogue also needs to be updated. Google is no different.
This is why the spiders work around the clock to continually crawl websites for new content and updates. You can find out how often your website is crawled by setting up and using the Search Console.
How does Google choose the websites to display at the top?
This is where it gets a bit complicated, so we’ll try to keep it simple. As we’ve outlined above, Google wants to make sure they are delivering the most relevant results for each individual search.
There is no secret sauce to put a site at the top of Google, instead, you just have to focus on creating the best possible content and answering the user’s questions.
It might be easier to rank for some terms if there is less competition, meaning there are fewer websites about that term. But high competition terms will always be harder to rank for. However, it’s important to remember that Google levels the playing field for everyone.
For example, if you sell garden furniture and you focus on creating content that helps potential customers to find the right furniture for their garden, then there’s no reason you can’t rank close to or above the big retailers.
If you can provide a better service than B&Q, there’s no reason you shouldn't appear above them.
Large companies might have large marketing budgets, but with a bit of strategy, you should be able to carve out a little niche for yourself in the market.
How to increase your position in search
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to search, but there are some steps that all businesses can take to improve their standing.
Improving your position in the SERP for high-intent keywords will help to drive more traffic and leads to your site.
- Take the time to understand your customers. The words you would use to describe what you do might not be the same as the words your customer would use. Take some time to understand your customer’s when carrying out keyword research.
- Publish useful content. There’s no use posting a blog just for the sake of it. If it isn’t genuinely useful to your audience then you may as well not bother.
- Create helpful and optimised web pages. Look at your site from a customer’s perspective and ask yourself if YOU would find what you are looking for. Make sure it is well presented and easy to navigate for success.
- Share your content on social media. If you are producing fantastic content, the world needs to see it! Don’t be shy about sharing your own posts on social media as this is a strong ranking signal to Google and other search engines.
The internet isn’t like a digital high street, you don’t need to compete with your next door neighbour for attention.
Instead of rushing in with the hard sell and telling people why you’re the best, cheapest or longest established, focus on showing how you can help solve their problems.
Modern-day decision making starts with research.
You want to make sure you are part of this comparison. By providing helpful content that answer’s your customer’s questions, you’ll make sure your company is an integral part of the research, and therefore the buying decision.
Focus on being helpful
As we’ve said countless times before, a good SEO strategy is all about helping people to get the information they need before making a purchase. If you’re not sure how this is relevant, think about this exact blog post.
This was written with the intention of helping SMEs to understand SEO. Why on earth would I want companies to understand SEO when we are trying to sell them these exact services?
Well, because everyone who is helped by this article is more likely to trust us with their SEO strategy. Every visitor is a potential lead because we know they are a small to a medium-sized business owner who wants to know more about SEO.
Attract more links
Another key benefit of writing great content is that it attracts more links naturally.
If someone is researching an article for their own site and finds this article helpful, they might link to it naturally. Links are another way that Google decides which content is most valuable.
By seeing the relationship between what a web page links to and how other sites link to a page, it becomes easier for Google to see how relevant it is. Building high-quality links are hugely beneficial for SEO.
Earn your place
No amount of trickery can help you, so be wary of anyone trying to sell you the magic potion for instant Google rankings.
Ultimately, you have to build a website that deserves its spot in the rankings.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.