Search engine optimisation (SEO) is about creating content for use online so that it is found by a search engine and delivered to the person searching for it.
The results of a search are known as a search engine results page (SERP). From the information that the person enters in the search engine, webpages are found and presented (ranked) according to how relevant they are to the search request.
Why is SEO important?
Online content is search engine optimised, meaning it is written in a way that enables a search engine to find it. Human nature being what it is, people tend to want information quickly and will usually notice pages near the top of the search results page.
Over time, this has led to intense competition between those with websites in any given sector or area of interest, who strive to achieve and hold onto the highest ranking for all searches in which their website is likely to be shown.
To maintain control of this effort – which has become a business in itself – search engine companies continually fine-tune the mechanisms through which websites are found and ranked. As a result, website functionality, design and content can become outdated quickly.
Likewise, an effective and legitimate SEO technique from five years ago is unlikely to deliver the same results today. This is due, in part, to the evolution of the technology that drives the online industry, but also to the deliberate intervention of search engines to prevent websites ranking highly based on SEO technique alone and at the expense of relevant content.
These days, a website that does not meet accepted SEO practice can be penalised by having its SERP ranking reduced, or even removed from search results altogether.
Google is not the only search engine but, as it is most commonly used, we will touch on it here.
Hummingbird, Google’s most recent complete overhaul of its search algorithm, was launched in 2013. There are over 200 specific on page and off-page factors that Hummingbird examines to rank each webpage during a search. These factors include the content itself, the technology behind the page and off-page factors such as inbound links.
Google has confirmed that the three most important factors are:
- Inbound links
Many millions of search queries submitted every second (three billion per day!) are handled by Google RankBrain, an artificial intelligence (AI) system capable of understanding language to return highly relevant and localised results, even from searches that have never been entered into Google before.
Google’s ‘robots’ are scanning the internet and returning information constantly. To ensure your online content is noticed by them for the right reasons, you must play by their rules. This sounds scary, but please read on.
SEO – what does an online writer need to know?
The content writer must predict the questions and terms the target audience is likely to include in a search and include these within the content so that it can be found by the search engine. This skilled process has changed over time.
The first search engines worked by looking for ‘keywords’. These were the search terms that website owners thought most likely to be used by people looking for what their site had to offer. Writers inserted the keywords into the ‘met copy’, which is the part of the webpage that is not seen on screen.
Webpages ranked more highly if these keywords were searched for and writing for SEO became a matter of using those keywords in the screen content as often as possible. But ‘keyword stuffing’, as it became known, affected the written quality of the content and was irritating for the reader.
Creativity still has a place
If you are a fledging online writer, you might be forgiven for feeling daunted by the technological and mathematical processes that underpin internet searches. Even terms like ‘relevant’ and ‘quality’ are open to interpretation.
But take heart; we create new content daily and achieve the results our clients want. Yes, there is SEO best practice and current trends to be aware of, but writing is still a creative process and the style of a piece of content is as unique as the person who writes it.
Google: predictably unpredictable
We could go on and on about longtail keywords, link backs, Voice Search, and scores of other terms that will have you running away from your keyboard. But we won’t because there is no need to go into more detail here. All you need to know is that no one (other than some of its employees we hope!) knows exactly what Google does to rank webpages.
In all likelihood, this changes daily and is an unpredictable combination of interpreting reader behaviour on webpages, prioritising those that are lingered on and demoting those that are not. Maybe RankBrain AI has reached the stage of making value judgements of its own!
Good content still relies on human beings to create it and on that reassuring note, we will end this blog other than to say: If you need help with your online content and would like to contact us about it, we will be happy to discuss it.
What can we do for you?
For a no obligation discussion about how we can help you meet your marketing and communication objectives, call or email us.