by Amanda Ranville
Search engine optimisation might sound like an elusive practice filled with jargon, robots and secret algorithms. You may feel like it’s hiding out of sight, but it’s actually right under your nose, staring boldly at you. By refocusing and recognising it for what it is, you may find it’s the secret weapon you didn’t know you needed.
Both humans and Google want the best out of website copy . Brands want to inform users and Google wants to serve the best information to its users. They’re on the same team. But what if Google doesn’t understand the purpose of your webpage? What if there is no context behind the content? SEO can help Google recognise information; it shouts to spiders and bots (Google’s mates who crawl the content of a page), “Hey, search engines! This is the best article to answer the user’s question!” It does this by placing the most relevant search query (primary keyword) where it counts: meta title, meta description, H1 headings, URL structure and images. And then it sprinkles semantic terms within the copy for even more context.
The technical infrastructure of a website is responsible for getting its pages crawled and added to Google’s database (i.e. indexed) in search engine result pages. Building a website with a solid SEO foundation means spiders will be able to connect the pillars efficiently and swiftly. An SEO specialist is not expected to be a web developer – and vice versa – but by working in synergy throughout the build they will help search engines understand the signals you’re sending their way. This is where words like canonicalisation, hreflang, robots.txt and numbers like 301and 404 can scare people off. Google’s search spiders, however, eat these up. And given a simple backslash in the wrong place can stop Google from indexing your entire site, you really do want to give the spiders what they want.
Writing for humans and writing for search engines is not so different. SEO is not about tricking Google into ranking your web page in the top position. It’s far more innocent than that: it merely tries to understand what a potential customer is searching for and provide them with an answer. That’s where keyword research steps in; without this data, we’re essentially stabbing in the dark. By understanding what keyword humans are searching for, an average of how many humans (search volume) are searching for it, and how relevant (long tail vs short tail) it is to your brand, we can tailor content to make it work harder for our clients. And with voice search on the rise, we can now tap into more conversational queries and connect with customers better than ever.
So, Google loves your landing page and decides it will rank you in its top spot: page 1, position 1. But what’s the point if humans don’t enjoy their experience? They will bounce straight off the page. Search engines catch on to high bounce rates and won’t bother ranking a page highly if it’s not engaging. While SEO brings people to your webpage (acquisition), UX is what keeps them there (retention). UX will help SEO and vice versa. What’s frustrating for a human is also frustrating for a search engine: slow load speed, low quality content, broken links, no clear call to action and so on. This is especially important as mobile experience becomes ever more crucial and attention spans become ever smaller. A search engine will consider over 200 different factors in a split second before it decides where it will rank a webpage. And these factors are constantly changing as Google updates its algorithm. So it’s not surprising that so many different elements come into play. Your client can have the most beautiful website in the world, but search engines can’t “see” pretty colours and vibrant pictures. They can see fresh, relevant content. They can see the architecture and hierarchy of its pages. They can see what people actually want to know. They can see how people engage with a landing page. And SEO can shine a spotlight on all of that.