SEO in Plain English
SEO – what is it? It’s Search Engine Optimisation. SEO in plain English!!
Um, OK, so what is it? Many people will tell you that it is some stunningly complicated voodoo that you best leave to them to sort out for you, at some black magic prices. Well, here is our plain English guide where we hope to show you that it comes down to just two things. We’ll show you how to do them well – and how to avoid some all too common traps.
If people want to find something, they type into Google’s (or Bing or Yandex – we’ll just say ‘Google’ from now on, but this applies to all search engines) search box. If, for example they are looking for green Wellington Boots, then at the time of writing, this is what Google shows:
There are many retailers selling green Wellington boots, but we can see that Amazon.co.uk is top of the list. So why is Amazon higher in the list than the other companies? Is it because they have paid Google to place them there? No, in this case Amazon hasn’t paid Google a penny for the privilege of being top of the list. Amazon is there because Google considers them to be the result that you most want to see.
So how does Google come to that conclusion? It uses a set of algorithms, or formulae, that it keeps top secret – because if they were known then everybody could do what was necessary to get to number one in the list…..and if everyone is number one, then nobody is (if you see what I mean) and we end up with a random list. Google doesn’t want that, and neither do we actually. We use Google because it is really, really clever at what it does.
Note that last paragraph. There are lots of companies that offer to improve your search engine rating, and some of them charge thousands of pounds – but if Google is keeping its secrets tight to its chest, how can these companies possibly know how to get you to number one?
The truth is, they don’t. They simply can’t guarantee that. However, there are a wide range of practices that it is widely accepted will improve your chances of ranking higher in the search lists.
All of these practices fall under two large umbrellas. Optimisation and Authority.
Search Engine Optimisation in Plain English
This is about making it as easy as possible for Google (or any other search engine) to find what a potential customer is looking for on your website. Let’s take a look at the entry for Amazon above:
Amazon has a page on its website which has the title “Ladies and Men’s Green Dunlop Wellington Boots”.
This page has a URL (or address) which includes www.amazon.co.uk/wellington-wellies
and underneath is a description of the page, starting “Ladies and Men’s Green Dunlop Wellington Boots”
These three things make Google very happy. Amazon have optimised their page for Google (i.e. made it easy for Google to understand what the page is about). Now, you might be thinking ‘well that all looks pretty straightforward, there must be a bit more to it than this’ and you’d be right. There are many more things that can be done to help Google (and again, paying them isn’t one of those things) but getting those three things right will make more difference to the O of your SEO than anything else.
OK, but if by chance you don’t happen to be a company selling green Wellington boots, then which words should you use in your own pages? This is actually a much harder question than it might, at first, appear to be. Our article on keyword research in plain English explains why, and is a recommended companion read to this SEO guide.
But wait! You actually are a green Wellington boot sales company (what were the chances?) , and you do those three things above, will you rank alongside Amazon? No! The reason why not is the second element of SEO, which is of course ‘A’ (!!).
Search Engine Authority in Plain English
When Google was in its younger years, people cottoned on to the above and crammed their descriptions full of the words that they wanted to rank for. If we look at the descriptions from the sites above, they read like “normal English” but a few years ago you might have seen descriptions such as “boots, green, boots, Wellington, boots, boots” and so on, you get the idea. Google wasn’t happy about this and so it changed its algorithm to do two things. First to move such sites down their list instead of up it, and two to factor in Authority. Which sites were ones it could trust? The ones it trusted the most, it placed at the top of the search lists.
So how does a site earn Authority in Google’s eyes? For an organisation like Amazon it was easy. It’s a well-known company, it has extremely high volume activity and it has a good reputation in the world (tax issues aside). On top of which, thousands of other companies put links on their own sites that lead to Amazon’s sites, so each of those companies value a relationship with Amazon too. Google can see all those links and it likes that. So, getting other sites to link to your site will help your Authority. A word of warning though – those same companies that were stuffing their descriptions with “boots, boots, boots” also offer to sell links. They offer to link to your site from hundreds of their own – for a price. This is one of many tactics that fall under the label of Black Hat SEO. Google wised up to this in 2015 and it doesn’t like it one little bit, and so it not only looks at the volume of links to your site, but it assesses the quality of the sites that are linked to yours. If you are linked to by a high authority site such as Amazon, that confers authority onto your site and is a very good thing (note – we are talking about a link on Amazon leading to your site, not the other way round); however, if you are linked to from a site that Google doesn’t like then it won’t like you either. In SEO terms this is very bad news. Choose your friends wisely!
Of course, getting high authority sites to link to your site is not easy – what’s in it for them? Well, there are ways to increase your chances. If you would like to know more please enter your details to get instant access to our guide on building authority.
Search Engine Authority
This guide explains how to grow the authority of your site
You probably got here after reading our SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) article. In that you learned the importance of on page SEO and how it is possible to make your on page SEO as professional as Amazon’s. You also learned that if you matched Amazon’s SEO, you would still rank below them in the search results – if your site and Amazon are both using the same set of keywords, then Amazon will always appear higher in the search results than you will.
The “A” in “SEO” !!
Amazon has more authority than you do (assuming you are one of the 99% of companies that are smaller and less well-known than Amazon). That’s not a huge problem because the chances of anyone reading this guide actually aiming to go head to head with Amazon are super slim. However, you do want to give yourself the best possible chance against your genuine competitors. You want your website pages to appear higher than theirs. If your website is new, or you haven’t been paying much attention to SEO, then you need to build your authority. Here are some ways to do that.
GET LINKS TO YOUR SITES FROM THE RIGHT PEOPLE (BACKLINKS)
Get a high authority site to link to yours. I call this the conker effect. When I was a boy we played conkers, and each battle you won increased the “value” of your conker. A quick route to the top was to beat a high value conker. If you beat a “25” conker, your conker immediately became a “26” even if it had only actually battled one time. The problem of course was persuading someone with a “25” conker to battle you in the first place – you had to provide a compelling reason, or else what was in it for them? It is the same with links – why would a high authority site want to put a link on their site to your site?
The key reason is because you bring traffic (people) to their site. You do this be by being newsworthy or by giving them a piece of content that adds value to their site. This could be a written article, or a picture, a video, a podcast, an infographic and so on. Whichever it is, it should include a link back to your site (hence the term “backlink”).
Unless you do something particularly newsworthy they are unlikely to know about you, so the onus is on you to make the first contact. Make it brief and make it clear what the benefit to them is.
LINK TO AUTHORITY SITES
When you are creating great articles, don’t forget to add at least two links to authority sites. It adds weight to what you are saying. Google values this – not nearly as much as links from authority sites to yours, but it all helps. You should use internal links too – links on one page of your website to another page on your website. This way, if one particular post becomes popular it may lead people to others. As with everything else, balance is key. If you have too many internal links you risk looking spammy and annoying your readers. If your article still reads naturally after you have added in links, then you are good to go.
CONTRIBUTE TO AUTHORITY SITES
is a high authority site. It is a place where anyone can ask any question about anything and anybody else can answer it. The more popular the answer, the greater the standing the person who gave that answer. Every person has a profile with links to their social media sites. So, get yourself on Quora and start answering questions. If people value your answers they will start following you and if they end up needing a service that you provide, you will have built a solid reason why they should turn to you first.
In addition, because it is a high authority site, it can easily get onto page one of the search results. You will not be able to get a high ranking for “green Wellington boots” directly for your own site, but if Quora has an an article entitled “Top 5 considerations when buying Wellington Boots” and it is on page one of Google’s results, then people will click on it. Once there they see that you have written that article and may well follow your profile links back to your social media pages and ultimately to your website.
Remember two things –
It is likely that you know a lot about the area that your small business operates in; more than most people.
We often don’t realise how valuable knowledge we take for granted is to other people. Some of those “useless facts” and “that’s just obvious things” floating around inside your head are actually far from useless. If someone is asking a question about something you know, it’s because they don’t know and they want to learn. So don’t be afraid to share what you know.
is similar to Quora, but instead of a platform for asking and answering questions, it is a platform for publishing presentations. So, put together a powerpoint (or any other similar software) presentation that covers an area relevant to your business and publish it to SlideShare.
Which site on Google has the highest authority of all?
You Tube is both the second biggest search engine on the Web (after Google) and it is also owned by Google. So no surprise that it has an Authority of 100/100.
So, make a video and publish it on YouTube. Make sure to include the keywords that you are trying to rank for are included in the relevant fields that YouTube asks for when you are publishing your video.
How do I know if a site is a high authority site?
There are software tools that you can pay for that will assess this information for you, but there is a straightforward rule of thumb too.
Let’s assume you have done a great job with your on-page SEO. (If you are not sure about this, check out our SEO package. Building the “A” in “SEO” takes time and effort, so make sure you have the SEO parts nailed down before you start trying to build authority or you risk losing the impact of all your hard work. ) Now do a search on Google for the keywords you are trying to rank for. Are any sites listed above you? That will be because they have more authority.
What services should I consider investing in if I don’t want to do this myself?
Building authority is based on providing great content on your website. You should think about using a copywriting service to get that content written for you. There are plenty available on the web, and we also offer both a proof reading service and a copywriting service.
- SEO in Plain English, is Search Engine Optimisation. and is about improving the chances of your website ranking higher in Google or other search lists than if you did nothing.
- Choosing your page title, page address and page description wisely will help your SEO.
- Using spammy unnatural English in any of them will harm your SEO.
- Having links to your site from high Authority sites will help your SEO.
- Having links from low quality sites will harm your SEO.
If you would like help with your SEO, or your SEA, or indeed both, then take a look at the Roman Britons SEO package. As ever, it’s in plain English.