Over the past two decades, the way in which companies of all sizes reach their customers has changed beyond recognition.

Over the past two decades, the way in which companies of all sizes reach their customers has changed beyond recognition.

Newspapers and magazines have disappeared from shelves. The High Street has become quieter as people buy online and libraries are no longer the first place students go to in order to research topics.

The Internet is vast and it includes all of the information we used to read about in physical media, plus many thousands of times more.

Now, the quickest way to find information is to go to Google and search for it.

But what determines what is found?

Making sense of the noise

For many years during the initial stages of Internet growth, many search engines popped up in an attempt to make it easy for people to find things, all with varying degrees of success.

Early search engines would often be very frustrating to use, and in many cases easy to fool.

Google was one such search engine.

During it’s first few years, people found it was easy to “game” the system and get their web pages found when in reality, they had nothing to do with whatever the user was searching for.

Over the years, however, Google has become dominant with many search engines simply disappearing because they couldn’t keep up the technological advances and the far more complex methods needed in order to understand what a user wanted, and what the answer should be.

So what is SEO?

In a nutshell, SEO describes a method of getting your website found when someone searches for a product or service you provide.

When searching for “cricket bats”, a number of websites will appear in the search results, and if you’ve done your job right, yours should be up there at the top.

The higher you are to the top, the more chance you have of being found, clicked on, and selling a bat.

Simple as that.

Or is it?

Well, let’s take a look at the search results for “cricket bat” and we can show why it’s not quite so simple.

Let’s go through these items one at a time.

  1. This shows a selection of products related to your search. They’re all sponsored – meaning people have paid to have them appear here. The more you pay, generally, the more chance you have of getting your products listed here. We cover paid-for advertising in another section of the course.
  2. This is another paid-for advert using “AdWords”. In this case there is only one advert, but there can be up to four.
  3. Finally, these are the organic results. Notice how far down the results they are? You probably have to scroll to see more than one with most searches, however, these get the most clicks, and this is where we will be aiming to get our website to appear.

What affects a website’s position?

There are many rumours circulating on the web that point to there being over 200 factors effecting the positions of websites in the search results, but as nobody at Google has ever confirmed this, we can at best assume that this is just people clutching at straws and, in many cases, making it up.

It makes sense to push SEO as a complex, involved process that takes up an awful lot of time and known only to a few secret ninjas, it means people can charge a fortune for their services, but really, it’s mostly about time.

Now, there are a lot of elements that affect a site’s position, but we only have to concentrate on the main ones to begin with, so let’s look at those now.

On-site factors

Your website obviously has a lot to do with whether it will appear in the search results or not. There are a number of issues that can affect it, but they’re mostly common sense.

For example, is the content of your pages relevant to what you want to be found for?

If you have a site selling cricket bats, then you need to be found for all of those related searches, and you’re not going to be found for products that are not related to cricket bats.

With that in mind, the more information you have about cricket bats, the more likely your site will be useful, and therefore the more chance you have of having a good ranking. All things being equal, if you have a better site, with more information than your competitors, then you’ll rank higher than them.

Off-site factors

There are also a lot of factors that are classed as “off-site”. These are all to do with how your site is perceived by others, how many links you have, what sort of reviews etc.

Links are a big issue in SEO, and we’ll be covering them in a lot of detail, but it’s something you’ll need to be careful with.

You may have heard a lot of bad news about how links can ruin your ranking, how Google has banned sites from search, and how you need to be careful about the kind of links you get.

Don’t worry, we’ll give you the tools you need to help you navigate these issues and ensure your site isn’t affected in any adverse way.

In a nutshell, though, if you have more links than your competitors, and they’re quality links from high-value sites, you’ll rank well.

For example, if the BBC features you on one of their news articles and provides a link back to your website – you can expect that to bring you a lot of traffic. Traffic means popularity, and popularity means higher ranking.

Keep this in mind:
“Google doesn’t rank your website high in order to make it popular, rather, it ranks popular website high.”

That’s a very important distinction, because it means we have to get our website popular, and then Google will take notice to help you make it even more popular.

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