Strategic Marketing Insights:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Fundamentals Of SEO Marketing

Welcome to the fundamentals of search engine optimisation (SEO) with Wetpaint!

In the meaty chunk of content to follow, the best marketing and full service advertising agency in Johannesburg, South Africa (that’s us!) is going to give you a summarised run-down of what SEO is, how it works and why you need it. Remember, these are just the fundamentals; a truly in-depth list of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into search marketing would take more time and space to explain than exists, even on the internet.

What Are SEO Services?

SEO is a highly specialised practice, comprised of a number of web design, web development and content production/promotion techniques, whose intent is to increase the industry or topical relevance with which your website is viewed by the search engines.

Because a search engine like Google or Bing’s bread and butter is delivering the most relevant results possible to their users’ search requests, it is in their best interests to ensure that webpages which will not satisfy their searchers are pushed further down the results pages in favour of those its algorithms perceive as being relevant and authoritative.

The purpose of SEO services is to ensure that your website meets the criteria set by the ever-changing algorithms of the search engines, thus ensuring the exposure of your business as well as its online credibility in the eyes of the market.

How Does It Work?

SEO works by making your website easier for the search engines to find, index and rank.

In order to catalogue your website and add it to their results pages, search engines utilise automated scripts – alternately known as crawlers, automated indexers or web spiders – which navigate the internet and prioritise and index the immense number of pages according to the engine’s algorithms.

As you can imagine, the scope, fast pace and dynamic nature of information on the web means that these programs have a tough time keeping up with it all.

A part of SEO’s job is to make a crawler’s work of indexing your site easier by following the best practice guidelines of the search engines. The other part of the job is to ensure that the search engine sees a website as being relevant to searchers seeking specific information, services or products.

An optimised website therefore, is one that is visible to the search engines and that can convince their algorithms that it is what users are hoping to find in their search results.

Why Should A Professional Optimise Your Website?

While the internet has a great many resources to help you understand SEO techniques, for great results, a website is better left in the hands of a seasoned professional.

Search engines take a countless number of criteria into consideration when ranking your website, these include, but are not limited to:

• Relevance and authority of inbound and outbound links
• Broken links
• Relevance of on-page copy
• Relevance of H1 and H2 title tags
• Simplicity of URLs
• Functionality of meta titles
• Responsiveness of website
• Clarity of internal navigation
• Page load speeds

These are just some of the criteria that we know about. Understandably, in order to maintain an edge over their competitors, search engines are tight-lipped about some of the intricate refinements of their algorithms.

This secrecy means that it is often an SEO professional’s experience and familiarity with industry trends and the expectations of the search engines that makes the difference between good and great results.

Added to this is the pace of change in the industry.

The Google search algorithm, for instance, goes through around 500-600 changes, tweaks and refinements a year. Most of these are minor, and will barely affect your website’s ranking at all. Others have caused widespread disruption to search rankings. The Panda update of 2011, for example, affected 12% of all search queries, shooting some sites to the top of the search results pages, while dropping others into virtual digital obscurity.

It is a part of an SEO professional’s job is to stay abreast of these changes and to adjust SEO strategies to better suit the most current requirements of the engines. While you could try to DIY your SEO, the odds are that a specialised and dedicated professional is always going to have more current information and will develop more effective, results-based strategies.

When Should You Optimise Your Website?

The best time to optimise your website is before it’s gone live.

Ideally, an SEO specialist should be advising from the conceptual stage of website development, ensuring that best practise is adhered to from the beginning.

About a decade ago, SEO was a mysterious and esoteric industry that hardly anyone had even heard of. Nowadays, most people are aware of SEO, but education about the industry is still lacking and it is not an uncommon assumption that all one needs is to write web copy and blogs based around some shallow keywords research.

The fact is that SEO is about more than just optimising the written content of your website. There are technical, structural consideration to take into account – your website’s navigability, its speed and the on-page positioning of content are all important. In this age of cyber-attacks, security is also becoming more of a weighting factor for the search engines.

As search engines become more sophisticated, so too do the techniques required to satisfy them. SEO is not something that can simply be layered over the top of an existing website. For best results, it has to be built into a site from the foundations upward.

How To Choose A Top SEO Agency or Firm?

An SEO company that is confident in the legitimacy of its methods and the results it can achieve, will not be fearful of transparency.

While the search engines are not entirely forthcoming with the details of their algorithms, the consultant or agency you employ should not feel the need to engage in the same level of secrecy. The first sign of a good SEO provider is the willingness to answer questions and to be open about how they are going to help you.

The following are some good questions to start with:

• How will SEO be used to achieve your goals?
• What metrics will be used to measure success? Why those metrics?
• What techniques and tactics will be employed? Why?
• How regularly will you be receiving performance reports and updates?

There are no magical or secret SEO techniques – there is hard work, dedication and best practice.

Bad SEO can be as damaging to your online presence as a good SEO can be beneficial. So, if an SEO company deflects and gives only evasive answers to your queries, consider it a red flag and think about taking your business elsewhere.

Optimising Websites For Search Engines Or Humans?

So, with all this focus on the importance of appeasing the search engines, the obvious question is, who do you build your website for, Google or your intended human audience?

This is not a simple question to answer.

If you ignore Google, you run the risk of accidentally acting in contradiction to its guidelines and being dropped so far from the first page of search results that your audience will never see you.

On the other hand, if you ignore the human experience, you risk alienating the searchers who do find themselves on your website. You’ll fail to keep them on-page and will appear to be uninteresting or irrelevant to the search engines.

Always keep in mind that the crux of the search engines’ existence is the satisfaction of the searcher.

From its inception, the ongoing refinement of Google’s search algorithm has been geared toward aligning itself with the best interests of Goolgle’s users – the humans at the other end of any search.

Search engines’ guidelines do not run counter to the interests of searchers. So, if you develop and design your website with user experience in mind, and populate it with relevant content that people actually want to engage with, then you’ve won half the battle.

Here at Wetpaint, creativity is the hallmark of our work as much as a focus on achieving results.

Our approach is to never sacrifice the human experience for the sake of the search engines. We have noticed over the years that the biggest changes to Google’s algorithms have consistently eliminated the SEO habit of pandering to the search engines. So, we take Google’s lead and we focus on user experience, tweaking and refining our approach to ensure that we are simultaneously satisfying the search engines.

At Wetpaint, SEO forms an important part of our comprehensive, integrated offering. Our focus is on getting measurable results, fast. Our data-powered approach, backed by detailed online analytics, informs every aspect of our strategies – from conceptualisation, to targeting and media planning and buying.

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