More articles

The SEO diaries: part 1 – mastering the dark art of SEO

12 February, 2024 Reading: 6:56 mins

Over two-thirds (68%) of online journeys begin on a search engine, and of all the clicks generated through search engines on desktop devices, 45.1% are organic, underscoring the preference users have for organic search results over alternative sources like paid advertisements.

The SEO diaries: part 1 – mastering the dark art of SEO

The significance of search engine optimisation (SEO) in today's business landscape means that it must play a crucial role in many marketing strategies. By enhancing your website's search engine optimisation, you can boost its visibility and draw more visitors to your site.

While many of us are familiar with the terms associated with SEO, it can sometimes feel like it’s a dark art shrouded in secrets. If you know your crawling from your indexing, then this blog probably isn’t for you – but look out for future entries in our ‘SEO Diaries’ series, where we’ll be sharing strategic insights and some of the work we’ve undertaken to enhance our clients’ search engine marketing efforts.

SEO has its own set of acronyms and peculiar jargon that could easily be mistaken for a collection of terms from a zoologist (yes, "crawling" is genuinely a real thing!). If the world of SEO has you perplexed but you’d like to understand more about how it can help in terms of web traffic, leads and customer acquisition – then read on!

Looking to discuss SEO with ease?

What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

SEO is a catch-all term to describe the various ways you can craft and update your website and content to make it more discoverable by search engines.

Successful search engine optimisation isn’t just about boosting your online presence, it’s about ensuring your target audience can find you easily online. Ultimately increased organic website traffic translates to more business opportunities and brand recognition for your organisation or brand. Search engines assess the best way to provide people with lists of relevant websites by crawling and indexing websites to analyse their structure and content.

Effectively, search engines are huge repositories of information and whenever we conduct a search, we're querying these vast databases. The owners of these (e.g. Google and Bing) are always refining their algorithms to ensure searchers are being served with the most relevant and useful information, as fast as possible.

What is organic traffic?

It’s nothing to do with pesticides! It simply refers to the audience discovering your content through search engines, submitting a query then clicking on a link – rather than clicking on the sponsored or paid placements that also appear. Search engines like Google rank websites and content based on two factors: the relevance of the content to the searcher's query and the website's overall performance – the aim is to serve the best answer to the question a user has posed based on the authority of a website and richness of content available.

What is paid traffic?

You can also pay to promote your website listing against certain keywords and phrases. The cost for this will vary depending on how competitive the keywords are, and how frequently those particular keywords are searched for.

If you choose to do this, your website will be listed in particular areas at the top and bottom of each search results page and will be clearly labelled as 'sponsored'. You are only charged when your website listing is clicked by the end user, and the overall advertising cost is calculated by how many times your ad has been clicked, and for which keywords. Some of the most expensive search engine keywords belong to the finance industry and can cost over $40 for a single click! Understanding these dynamics is crucial in devising an effective paid traffic strategy that maximises visibility while managing costs. Whilst low cost can be appealing, as with all paid advertising, it is important to weigh up the potential value of a lead or acquisition before spending on paid search. This will guide decision making in the long term.

What is crawling and indexing?

They say you need to walk before you can run; with SEO it all starts with crawling. For search engines to offer up your website as a result to a query they first need it stored ready for the moment of requirement. If you imagine the warehouse scene from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but in all the crates are the potential answers to a search enquiry, that is the result of the crawling stage of SEO. A search engine ‘crawls’ all the content on your website that is publicly avalible and downloads it into the warehouse. At this point there is no order or signposting, just data. Now imagine the warehouse has a stocktaking function that enables categorisation of that content through analysing text, images, videos, links and technical elements of a site, this is ‘indexing’.

‘Indexing’ is how search engines store and organise the information they’ve found to inform whether or not it is right to be served for the query at hand, the more obvious the cues are, the easier it is for search engines and subsequently users to discover it. Sites are crawled repeatedly over time, which is why continually improving and updating your content is key.

Once sites are crawled and indexed, search engines use this information to score sites on the usefulness of their content and how well they perform in terms of speed and ease of use. This includes looking at which websites your site links out to, and which sites have linked to yours – a process called 'backlinking'.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are word of mouth for the digital age. These are links present on external websites that direct users to your site. When they originate from reputable and reliable websites, recognised by search engines, they enhance your site's ranking by association. Similar to the academic world where research papers rely on peer reviews and references for validation, backlinks signify a vote of confidence in your website's quality and content. These links can originate from various sources like PR coverage, guest blogs, or articles referencing your content or research.

Implementing an effective backlink strategy often takes substantial time and effort, involving the cultivation of relationships with media outlets or other web hosts to establish mutually beneficial and pertinent backlinks. However, if these links stem from spam, misinformation or irrelevant websites, they can actively harm your online reputation and ranking.

People often ask, ‘how long does SEO take to work?’

The answer is it’s a continual process that’s never complete, and in fact is best when it’s regularly updated and reviewed. Knowing your current rankings and opportunities within your competitive marketplace is the best place to start and can quickly indicate what the priority actions should be for your website. For some it will be the basics of getting pages indexed that are key to your audience, for others it will be working on building and optimising your backlinks. It can often take several months to start seeing results from changes to your website – which is understandable given that search engines must navigate through innumerable pages, and having volatile, rapidly evolving results would render tracking them unfeasible and would quickly lead to unreliable information being displayed.

Like anything worth having, good SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Understanding the terminology is one thing, applying it well and consistently is another. SEO is a long-term strategy worth pursuing and it looks very different for every website, company and brand. Your SEO approach should always align to your wider marketing goals and be used as a tool to enhance all digital activity both on a tactical and strategic level.

If your website is well-built and regularly updated with well-written, informative content including imagery, videos and keywords, then it will perform well – so keep writing, keep updating and keep building relationships for backlinks. And then repeat! And if you need any help then give us a shout – we can help deliver your SEO strategy to success!

Read part two in The SEO Diaries - content is king, but strategy is kingmaker.

You may be interested in

The multiplier agency