Remember your first food tech class and how boring it was? You wanted to get straight into making those yummy coconut slices and yo-yos but instead your teacher talked about rules and safety in the kitchen. Yawn.
Well, I’m going to try not to be as boring as that in this “what is SEO?” blog post.
I won’t be covering the nitty gritty details of SEO but I’m going to give you an overview of what SEO is and how the heck it’s useful for you and your clients.
And even if you’ve been on the SEO train for a while, you might pick up a new thing or two you didn’t know before.
Oh and I promise if you keep reading, I’ve added some cute dog pics to keep you awake- that alone is worth the read!
What is SEO? A non-boring introduction
SEO stands for “search engine optimisation” and is basically all the things we do to and for our websites that help them end up on page 1 in Google and be found by our ideal clients and customers.
Imagine having a bricks and mortar shop at your local shopping centre or mall.
It’s not enough to fill your store with stock and open the doors, ready for business.
People actually need to know that your store exists.
Sure, some will happen to walk past your store while on their way to somewhere else and may go inside, but you don’t want to sit around waiting for that to happen.
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What are the main parts of SEO?
There are 3 main parts to SEO.
Technical SEO is the techy stuff. Some of it you can do yourself but other things you might need help with from an SEO consultant and web developer.
On-page SEO is what you do to the content on your website so that it has the best chance of ranking in Google (keywords fit into this part).
Off-page SEO is the stuff you do away from your website that helps its traffic and rankings grow. Usually this is marketing and PR for your business.
Why do we have SEO?
When Google decides which website pages to show someone when they’re searching for something, it has over 200 “ranking factors” which is similar to having a checklist of things that Google likes to see before it feels you’re worthy of a page 1 ranking.
Selling your car involves getting a roadworthy certificate from a mechanic which has a checklist of things that your car needs to pass before it is acceptable to be driven.
SEO is a lot like a roadworthy certificate, because you’re making sure that your website is good enough for users and good enough for Google to show on page 1.
Have you ever helped a friend get a job at your workplace? Most people don’t recommend friends unless they know they’re trustworthy, a good worker and won’t give them a bad reputation.
Google is the same.
Google is a business, and its customers are people who use Google to search for something.
So it’s in Google’s best interests to provide the best search engine on the planet and help people find what they need.
It isn’t going to recommend dodgy-looking website pages that don’t work properly and don’t help the user, just like you wouldn’t recommend someone shady for a job opportunity.
If Google didn’t give the best search experience, then users would stop using Google and go elsewhere and the company would lose its advertising revenue.
Still reading this? Woo hoo! Thank you. For your efforts, here’s a cute dog photo:
What is technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the tasks we do to our websites to make them technically sound for users.
Technical SEO covers things such as the content management system you’re using (WordPress, Squarespace etc…), your website’s theme, how fast your website pages load, whether your website works properly, whether all the images and other elements are loading and working properly.
It’s important to make sure that everything is working properly so that when Google sends visitors to your site, it knows that the user will get a good experience.
What is on-page SEO?
Ok I’m a bit biased but on-page SEO is my favourite part of SEO and what I believe is the most important part of SEO.
Content is THE foundation of SEO.
After all, people are searching for content to help them with whatever problem they need solved.
Without content on your website, there’s no point in anyone visiting. It’s like an empty retail store with nothing for anyone to look at or buy.
Content covers everything on your website- from what you write on your home page, to the products you’ve got listed in your shop, and the blog posts you write.
The aim with on-page SEO is to help Google understand what your website page is about and why it is worthy of visitors. I’ve blogged about writing for SEO.
On-page SEO also helps you create the perfect content for your readers, so that their problem is solved (or on its way to being solved) and your business is rewarded for its efforts- more leads, more action, more sales and revenue.
Keyword research fits into on-page SEO because keywords are the clues you give to Google so that its bots understand what your content is about, which helps Google know which type of user to send to your website page.
Think back to the last time you were in a bookstore.
You walked into the store and either knew what you needed and where to find it, or you asked the sales assistant for help.
The books in a bookstore are organised into genres or topics- travel, humour, crime, kids, new releases. This helps customers find what they need. The books are also then sorted into alphabetical order by the author’s surname.
This makes life easier for customers and the sales assistant.
You wouldn’t want the books randomly on shelves so that you’d need to search through hundreds of books until you found the one you needed.
Google has an index that organises content so that when someone searches something, Google checks its index to find the exact pages that match what the user searches for and then shows those pages in Google.
On-page SEO covers not just keywords but your overall topic, how your content is structured into paragraphs and headings and also the images you have on your page.
I cover all of this in a lot more detail in my awesome course “SEO for copywriters and content creators”.
What is Off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO is what you do away from your website to help grow your website’s success.
It’s like the old rubbish saying, “build it and they will come”. Yeah, like standing in a shop that no one knows exists and hoping your ideal customer happens to find you by accident and comes inside.
Off-page SEO is important because it helps more people find your content but it also helps prove your worthiness to Google.
To rank in Google, your website page needs to be trustworthy and also contain great information that is helpful.
But Google won’t just take your word for it.
When looking for a dentist, you might Google one in your area but I bet what will help you decide to call them is lots of positive reviews from past patients and also if your own network of connections recommends the dentist.
The same happens in the world of websites.
When a website links to your website, it’s like sending a tick of approval to Google. The more ticks of approval you get from other websites, the better your chances of ranking in Google.
(BTW, if you’ve enjoyed this blog post, I’d love you to link to it from one of your blog posts and send a “tick of approval” to Google).
Not all ticks of approval are worth the same.
Ideally, you want to attract a “thumbs up” from websites that have a high authority and are respected in your industry.
A bit like books that are chosen for Reece Witherspoon’s book club- she has a reputation for choosing certain types of books that usually become best sellers. If your novel is chosen by Reece, that’s a huge tick of approval! This is worth a lot more than a random person sharing a post on social media that they loved reading your book.
Most of off-page SEO involves marketing your business and also lots of PR- putting yourself out there, promoting your business and the person behind it.
Putting it all together
When a client asks you to explain SEO and you’re looking for an easy way to give them an overview, you can share the following:
SEO is the things we do to your website and away from your website that help increase its chances of being shown to your ideal customers in Google.
These “things” cover how your website is set up and operating, what you share on your website, and what you do to promote your website and your business.
The ultimate goal is to be seen as a solution provider for your ideal customers and clients- a trustworthy, knowledgeable website that solves problems and keeps readers and Google happy!
Want to learn more about SEO and how to use it in your copywriting and content writing projects for clients? My self-paced, affordable and value-packed “SEO for copywriters course” is a must! Learn more about the course here or click here to find out how to buy it.