Search engine optimisation (SEO), or natural search optimisation, is the practice of making websites or web pages easy for people to find through public search engines – Google and others. It’s the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the natural or unpaid (organic or algorithmic) search results.
Search engine algorithms are very good at understanding how people search and what they do and do not want to find. They are also very good at defending themselves against sites that try to fool them. It’s better to focus on how people search rather than try to game the search engine work. It is nearly always the case that what works well for the human user will work well for search engines.
Main benefits of SEO
The obvious main benefit of SEO is that it gets more people to visit your website and other digital channels.
Not all website owners need to concern themselves with SEO for the sake of SEO. Many websites only aim to serve site visitors who are looking for their specific organisation and who thus type in the URL or simply search by organisation name. You may not want to be found by people searching for any particular industry keywords, and for many website owners this is a perfectly reasonable view to take.
Nevertheless, SEO is practically inseparable from a whole host of best-practice initiatives that merit consideration in their own right: all things related to producing top-quality content and presenting it in the best possible way.
Secondary benefits of SEO
- Optimising for search engines forces us to write good quality content, which improves the user experience.
- SEO imposes a discipline on website owners to put out a consistent message across different business units, departments, teams, and functions.
- SEO writing encourages us to think in the words our site visitors use, which is a good discipline in understanding the mindset of the people who use our websites.
- Doing SEO groundwork will often reveal inconsistencies and gaps in what we understand of what our content is for and who it’s for. The realisation that we’re not sure of these things can be a painful but useful discovery. If you find these questions difficult to answer, it may be because your organisation lacks a content strategy. If you’re not clear who your target users are or what you want them to use your web content for, you probably need to go back a few steps before embarking on an SEO project. We help you with content strategy.
Limitations of SEO
Quantity vs quality
SEO is about the quality of good, matching search results rather than the number of visitors who stumble upon your website. SEO is a good thing if it drives the right people to your web content for the right reasons at the right time and helps them do what they came for while at the same time profitably serving your business objectives.
Unless your SEO contributes to these aims, you’ve got a problem. There is no point in fixing things so that you get masses of traffic if you’re only attracting people who don’t want or need your web content. Or getting large numbers of page views from users who have to trawl through a lot of useless pages in search of what they need. Numbers of visitors and page views are at best a rough measure of SEO success and can be positively misleading.
What we can’t guarantee
Our experience and understanding enable us to give you advice which we believe will be helpful in achieving your desired results. But we can’t guarantee that if you follow all our advice, search term X will definitely and consistently bring up a specified page in the first Y results returned. However, we would generally expect to be able to make some measurable improvements.
Beware of SEO snake oil
A word of caution: beware of what has been called “SEO snake oil”. It’s a myth, for example, that good SEO involves posting lots of gibberish articles crammed with keywords to trick search engines into awarding a good ranking to a targeted page. The only thing we know about search engine algorithms is that they will always change ahead of anyone’s attempt to second-guess them. And it is possible to get your site penalised or even blacklisted if search engines detect an attempt at trickery.