We talk all the time about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how we “do it” in terms of the actions we take and the things we need to do. We also talk about why we do it, and we usually explain this in terms of getting our websites higher up the Google rankings so that we can be “seen” on the first page of results. The more insightful of you may realize that even more than this, we optimise our websites so that we can drive more visitors from the Google search results to our website of course.
I’d like to go even further. Or perhaps to be more accurate I’d like to not go so far. Let’s look at really why we optimise the way we do: the rationale and theory and the big picture, and this will help us to understand the whole SEO thing. And remember that this is to a large extent theory – Google itself doesn’t reveal why or how it works.
Google is in the business of providing results in response to people doing searches using keywords and phrases. It makes sense to assume that Google wants to provide the best possible set of results to the person doing the search. Or to put it another way, Google wants to present the most relevant results for that person’s search. That’s because of course the person wants to see relevant results produced for their search, not irrelevant ones.
Remember this: people use keywords and phrases and expect relevant search results.
What if I do a search and get irrelevant results? Then I (and we all do) modify the search repeatedly until I do get a set of relevant results. This often involves expanding the search phrase, or making it longer. When the phrase is made longer, or more targeted, then we see fewer search results, but they are generally more relevant results. Also, often searchers make their search more targeted by adding to the phrase the location of the products or services that they are interested in, which makes sense because we often look locally for products and services.
Remember this: searchers often search locally and so use location to target their search. They are also likely to expand their search terms in order to get more targeted results.
Finally I get a set of results that seem relevant to the products or services that I am looking for, and I start scanning down the list of results. Note that each result is a unique web page, so the list that we see in the search results is a list of unique results for the targeted search. If I don’t see relevant results in the first few results, then I’ll modify my search.
Remember this: Google does not display multiple copies of the same web page content, or even very similar content. It just doesn’t display duplicate content.
Now, when I scan down the search results list checking for relevancy, I am looking at the headings of the listings initially – those that are blue and underlined. Google helps with my scanning by bolding the words that I used in my search. I am more likely to stop and look closer at one of the results if the words in my search phrase (bolded by Google) are a) altogether in the listing and b) in that blue heading. The heading of the result is called the title, and this is pulled from the title tag of the page from the website being referenced in the search results.
Remember this: we want the phrases that our target market searches for to be in the title tags of our website’s pages. Furthermore, we know Google doesn’t display duplicate content therefore we must ensure that the title tags of the pages in our website are all different.
So I am scanning the search results and stop when I see my search phrase in the title of a result listing. I am scanning from top down, so will stop at the results closer to the top of the result list. I look at the listing closer and read the little summary underneath (called the snippet) to see how relevant this result (a webpage!) is. If the snippet doesn’t sell me on the webpage’s offering at this point then I move on. If it does convince me, then I click the listing to look at the web page in more detail.
What does this mean for SEO?
What this means is that:
• You are focusing on search phrases and make them targeted
• You need to focus on phrases that your target will actually use when searching
• If the phrases your target market uses when searching are not on your website, then your website won’t appear in the search results at all.
• The search phrases should be in the title tags of the pages and the title tags should all be different.
• Duplicating content either within your website or with another website should be avoided. Google disregards or even penalizes duplicate content.
Good first impressions are essential
Ok, so after conducting a targeted search on Google, I’ve clicked on the first relevant result in the search results and am sent to that webpage. I will give that page about 5 seconds to grab my attention, and convince me that I have made the right decision to visit and to stay on the website and look further. If I searched on “Brisbane plumber” then I want to see clearly “We provide plumbing services in Brisbane” on that page.
Remember this: searchers from Google can often land on one of your internal pages, not always the home page. So make sure internal pages speak to the new arrival.
If I find what I want on a web page quickly then I’m likely to stay longer. In that few seconds I am going to scan down the page looking at headings, bolded phrases, bulleted points and links to other pages that contain the phrase that I just used in my Google search (or very similar phrases). I’m going to pick up words and phrases that are emphasised. If this continuity between my Google search and the page content is lost (ie the content of the page doesn’t support my search) then I am going to hit the back button, go back to my search results and go to the next relevant result in that search list.
Remember this: as well as the title tag, ensure your keyphrases are in the headings, bolded and used in links on the actual website page.
I am going to leave that page if the content, especially the content that is featured (such as headings, bolded words, bullets etc) does not match my Google search closely enough. Of course I’ll also leave if:
- The website looks cheap and poorly constructed
- The website is broken
- The website takes too long to load
And conversely, if these things do not apply then I’m more likely to stay, look further and make an enquiry.
What does this mean for SEO?
This means that:
- SEO is undertaken on a per page basis. All pages should be optimised, and if Google can’t find a page then that page and the keywords and phrases it contains won’t appear in the search results.
- Google puts emphasis on keyphrases in headings, bulleted points, bolded phrases and links (amongst other things, we’ll see later), which is where a person scanning the page will see them quickly, so ensure your keyphrases are there. So if we optimise for people, then we are also optimising for Google.
- There are a number of technical aspects associated with SEO, such as page load speed, ability of Google to get to all the content and more.
See you next time…