A Client’s Guide to Digital Marketing Part 1: What does SEO involve?

Search engines determine rankings based on a range of factors

Here at Mahon Digital, we work with a range of clients, with various backgrounds. We see different levels of knowledge in terms of understanding Marketing. Some clients approach us with a very strong knowledge of SEO, with well-informed ideas to help guide us in the work we carry out. Others come to us with little or no knowledge of search marketing, and simply want us to get to work in the best way necessary to bring extra revenue for their business. Find out about our SEO services.

 

We like to keep our clients informed about the work we’ve completed. We outline exactly what we’ve worked on, and why this will be beneficial for their site. Unavoidably, this means we’ll mention the odd technical term or two, which for those less clued up, may be meaningless!

‘What on earth is a Meta Description?’

 ‘I thought I already had links on my website?’

 ‘Why do I need extra text on my page?

lightbulb in a thought cloud

Hopefully, the following article will shed some light on these issues, and help improve understanding between us, the Marketing Agency, and you, the Client!

How would you explain a search engine to your Great Grandparent who’d never seen one?

I’ll have a go…Imagine a library (it might be a long time since you’ve been to one… they do still exist!), with thousands of books. To find the book you need, you’ll need some kind of guidance. This is often an index telling you which shelf to go to for a particular topic. Now imagine a library so big that it contained a printed copy of every single website on the internet…. It would take an eternity to find the single piece of information you wanted.

Like an index in a library, search engines index web pages

 

Search engines are the ‘indexes’ of the internet, and you almost certainly use them every day. Google is by far the most popular, with over 80% of the market share in the UK. Bing is also used quite a lot, while Yahoo and MSN still get some traffic.

 You know the box you always have to tick… ‘I’m not a Robot’? Well, a search engine would be lying if it ticked that box!

Search engine companies such as Google have developed ‘robots’ (software equivalents of Wall-e, here 🙂 ) which ‘crawl’ the web, going from page to page and gaining information from the pages it sees. Each page it encounters is added to the search engine ‘index’.

Picture of Wall-e, robot representing search engine crawlers

The search engine then uses complicated maths to decide the position or ‘rank’ in which it should appear for a certain search. When a user searches for a particular word or phrase, e.g. ‘Running Shoes’, Google will check its index for any pages it feels are relevant. It will then put them in order, from the first page of search results to the last.

The order in which sites appear in the list is influenced by a number of factors. These include the quality of the written text on the page, number of other sites linking to your business, and the way in which users interact with the website. We’ll now have a look at some of these in more depth!

 

Page Content… should make people feel… content! (See what I did there 😉 )

Search engines such as Google have become increasingly clever over time. In the early days, a web page could repeatedly list a certain word or phrase in order to rank for that term. Now, search engines carefully read through the written content of a page. The highest ranking pages will be informative, and useful to the user, whilst having a good volume of text and good grammar.

search engines want to see good page content

For these reasons, we’ll often write suggested copy for web pages with no text, or provide suggestions to increase the volume of text on a page. It’s also important to include target keywords on the page, in a natural, meaningful way. Google now penalises sites for ‘cramming’ lots of keywords onto a page.

 

Number of Links  =  How popular you are 🙂

Search engines want to get an idea about the opinion other websites have on your website. To do this, it will assess the number of, and quality of links coming to your site. If lots of relevant, good quality websites are linking to your website, that’s great- Google will favour your site for this.

metal chain to represent link building

Search engines also look at the linking within your website. Again, the more relevant links from your own site pointing to a page, the better that page is likely to rank.

For these reasons, we’ll work with you to try and gain links from other relevant websites to your own, and also within your own site.

 

What is Meta Data?

If you’ve had any SEO work completed on your website, you’ll almost definitely have heard us talking about Meta data. By definition, Meta data means ‘data that summarises other data’. In the case of your website, Meta data provides a summary of what your webpage is about. This isn’t something you’ll see on your website pages but is hidden in the code.

Title tag and meta description appear in search results

 

The place these do appear is in Search engine results! In the above image, the title tag is the headline which is clicked on, this needs to be attention-grabbing. The meta description is the part underneath the web address. This gives search users a short description of the website, so it’s the place to sell and describe your business!

One of the most important aspects of our SEO work is optimising these elements, so that, when users see your website appear in search results, they actually decide to click on the result!

 

Loading… Buffering… Please wait… We all hate it! So do search engines!

Page load speed influences search rankings

Remember the early days of the internet? When you had to make sure no-one was on the phone, and dial-up to connect? Clicking on a page, going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and getting back to find it still hasn’t loaded?

Luckily things have improved hugely since then. We can now stream HD videos, music, and websites full of images, in a fraction of a second. As internet users, we now expect to be able to get the information we need, without having to wait.

Studies show that the average user will expect a website to load within less than 2 seconds. 40% of users have been shown to leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

Mobile has now taken the lead as the platform of choice for internet browsing. As we move in and out of signal areas, loading speeds change. This means that websites need to be optimised to load as quickly as possible.

Google looks at page load speed when determining rankings. If it detects users are leaving your site before the page loads, then your rankings are sure to suffer!

In our SEO reports or proposals, you might see us mention things like ‘Javascript’ ‘CSS’ ‘Minified HTML’ ‘Compression’ and ‘Caching’… all of these mean that we’re working away, trying to get your website to load as quickly as it can!

 

Like any good parent… Google rewards good behaviour!

As we’ve just touched on with loading speed, the way in which users are behaving on your websites has a great influence on search rankings.

If you own an online shop- Google wants to see that users are actively making purchases, and aren’t adding items to the cart and then leaving!

make a purchase in online shop

For other more general sites, Google will look at other information, such as the number of pages viewed. If they see that users quickly leave the website before taking any further action, this will trigger rankings to drop.

In general, search engines assess user behaviour. They want to see evidence that they are finding what they are looking for on your website and spending a reasonable amount of time on there.

As part of our SEO work, we have powerful software that can track exactly what customers are doing on your website. If we see users are often leaving a certain page- then we’ll add that to our priority list of pages to work on! If customers are regularly abandoning items in your shopping cart, then we’d be suspicious that there could be an error, or perhaps some security issues on that page.

We’re always here to help!

I hope this guide has given you a brief overview of exactly what our SEO work involves, and how this can have a positive impact on your business. As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that, combined, play a role in how your website ranks in search.

We haven’t covered everything here, so if there’s something you’re not sure about, do get in touch with us, and our experienced team will be on hand to answer any questions you have!

Stay tuned for next month, where we’ll provide our Client’s Guide to Digital Marketing, Part 2! Focusing on Google Ads, PPC and how the platform works.

 

About the Author

MattPicture of Matt, our online marketing executive is our Online Marketing Executive in the Mahon Digital UK office, working across a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Matt.

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