The Dark Art of SEO

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. In a nutshell, this means working to ensure that your website, content and profile are highly ranked on search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and most importantly, our dark overlord, Google. 

Some social media sites such as YouTube and Instagram have similar algorithms and might well be considered search engines in their own right. The purpose of SEO is to ensure potential clients and readers can quickly locate and consume your content.

One goal you might set for SEO is to be ranked #1 for a specific term, for example, sticking with our theme: “Harry Potter”.

This is what appears at the top of the “Harry Potter” google search page. As you can see, Wizarding World is highly ranked, and if you look right at the top, you can see the number of websites that rank for the term “Harry Potter”: 609,000,000. Tough competition, right?

How does ranking work?

Crawlers (AKA: Nifflers) – The internet is full of websites, companies, content and images, all vying for our attention, and our business. Search engines use ‘crawlers’ to search the internet locating links, much like Nifflers with shiny objects. These Nifflers dig through the code and content on your website, identifying links, which they feedback to their equivalent of Madam Pince, the search engine. 

The Search Engine (AKA: Madam Pince) – Our search engine database: All of the information has been received, but not yet organised, so she looks through them and categorises each piece of content.

Assuming your content is all on topic and relevant, you’ll have your SEO foundations right: 100 house points to Gryffindor! Once the indexing is complete, the search engine will then rank your content/ website/ image against others within its database. 

Each search engine has different, frequently changing algorithms to establish the ranking of each piece of content, but the measurement is far from arbitrary. It reviews and concludes how relevant the subject matter is to the searcher. The goal, of course, is high relevancy, leading to a high ranking for a given search.

What’s in it for the search engines?

You might be forgiven for wondering what a business such as Google gets from doing this?

If so, you need only consider that to “Google” has been an official verb in the English language since 2006, so synonymous have the search and the platform become.

Smart Insights​ cites that 1.2 trillion searches took place on Google in 2018, and this continues to increase. As of October 23rd, we are closer to 2 trillion searches a year with over 3.6 billion taking place each day. And this gives us our first clue to how the search engines make their money.

So, how are the search engines capitalising on this abundance of traffic?

Above you can see, when one searches for “Universal Studios”, the home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the first two searches return advertisements. 

Google is paid to place adverts just like this at the top of search results, achieving maximum visibility for the companies who can afford to pay for it and earning Google money every time someone clicks. 

It’s a win-win, for Google and the company that is!

When you consider how many times you’ve clicked on the top link in a search, and how many millions of those other 3.6 billion searchers per day likely have too, the mind boggles. Google is no mug-gle!

Can you beat the algorithm?

The algorithms that Google uses to index and rank the content on web pages is continually being refreshed, updated to reflect changing patterns in language, slang and trends.

People may see this as a challenge, and the algorithm as an enemy to be beaten. A more prudent approach would be to ensure you’re keeping up with the latest best practices. 

If you want to catch the Golden Snitch, you’ve got the play the game, right?

The following common tactics do not work and might well result in a blue or yellow card from your Quidditch referee:

● Keyword stuffing – Overusing keywords that relate to the content on a website or blog post, to the detriment of the content and the clouding of its meaning.

● Copying Content – It might have saved Harry and Ron a few times in the books but plagiarising others work on your site will cause problems, and Google will easily be able to recognise it. It’s smarter than you think!

● Buying from “Link Farms” – Having links to your website from authoritative sources is a great opportunity and helps with Google rankings, but having lots of links from sites that sell links is going to have the opposite effect. Be careful about what company you keep!

How to be a search engine optimisation wizard

Knowing your audience will give you a leg up in terms of SEO. You’ll be able to build all your content around keywords that match with your audiences’ searches. Showing you have experience in a sector and value to add to a topic is a positive signal to Google and to the readers of your websites.

You’ll receive extra house points for having a website with good flow and a positive user experience. It needs to be easy for readers to find what they’re looking for, so make sure you have a clear understanding of your customer journey through the site.

The back end of your website must be in good working order. Make sure your loading times are speedy, there are no broken links and that you’ve provided all the metadata that Google needs to work effectively.

If you would like us to work our magic and help your website fly to the next level, please get in touch to arrange a discovery call.

Kathleen Walker

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