Search Engine Optimisation:
The Basics

Businesses are now making use of online marketing at an ever increasing rate. The days of print advertising are quickly fading, and companies are leaning towards marking strategies that allow them to target online audiences.

As the cornerstone of online marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) is very popular strategy for small businesses and large scale enterprises alike.

What exactly is search engine optimisation?

More commonly referred to as SEO, search engine optimisation is a way of getting your site to rank with major search engines such as Google. In short, it’s the process of altering a website so that it achieves a higher search engine results page (SERP) ranking, in searches for industry specific, high traffic key phrases.

Search engines look at many different aspects when deciding how to rank a site, and these can be divided into two categories – onsite and offsite. Onsite aspects cover everything on the actual website, whilst offsite aspects refer to ‘mentions’ of your website elsewhere in cyberspace. Effective SEO works on both offsite and onsite components.

Search engine rankings are determined by the search engine’s algorithm. Search engines such as Google use complicated algorithms that compare different aspects of website, deciding how they should rank in relation to particular search terms. The primary goal of a search engine is to make sure that it’s providing the user with the most relevant results, and an effective SEO strategy needs to take this into account.

So what is the primary aim of search engine optimisation? Essentially, the process strives to increase your website’s online presence, placing it front and centre when potential clients/customers enter search terms related to your business. The ultimate goal is to increase website traffic – and therefore boost leads, sales and your business’s bottom line.

How does this marketing strategy work?

Search engines continually change their algorithms, as this ensures they are providing the best possible user experience. From an SEO perspective, this means that techniques are constantly changing to keep with the times.

Offsite work:

  • White hat back links that are placed on relevant sites
  • Linking active social media pages to your website
  • Offsite citations such as directory listings that mention your business, without a link

Onsite work:

  • Search engine friendly sitemap and website structure
  • On-page content that is in depth, whilst including key phrases at the correct density
  • Internal content links between internal pages
  • Optimised title tags
  • Canonicalisation (amending internal duplicate content so search engine bots read the website correctly)

For search engine optimisation to be effective, the right strategies and techniques need to be used. What worked last year won’t work today – the industry is always changing. In fact, Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times each year, and while some updates are minor others can be very influential.

Search engines read more than 200 different ‘signals’ when they crawl a website, and for this reason it’s very important to make sure you implement a comprehensive SEO strategy. All aspects needs to be taken into account, and algorithm updates also need to be considered.

Key Phrases

When choosing key phrases, two things need to be considered – relevance and website traffic. Essentially, you need to choose phrases that are relevant to your business (i.e. products you sell or services that you offer), and they also need to generate traffic (therefore, they need to be commonly used search terms).

There are many new search terms appearing each day, and therefore thorough research is important. Key phrases are often clustered – that is, multiple key phrases are derived from one single core key phrase.


While it may be invisible to the untrained eye, website coding is a critical part of any SEO campaign. When working on the code, canonicalisation issues should be addressed and pages should be correctly indexed, as this allows search engine bots to read your site accurately and favourably. The sitemap also needs to be reviewed, as this is the ‘roadmap’ of your site.

On-page Content

On-page content is a very important aspect of a website for two reasons – it plays an important part in achieving a higher SERP ranking, and it also provides site visitors with valuable information.

This being the case, content needs to flow naturally, be informative and also hold a reader’s interest – as well as including key phrases at the right density. Currently, this density is roughly 1-2%.

Algorithm updates, such as Panda 4.0, have greatly influenced the way content is written. It’s no longer feasible to ‘keyword stuff’ a page – content needs to be carefully considered. Over optimised content (where key phrases are overused) can be detrimental to your site’s rankings – in fact, it can contribute to your website being penalised.

Back Links

Back links are links to your site placed on other websites across the internet. They increase your site’s authority, as they show it’s being talked about across the internet. In short, they work as a vote of confidence. Back links should be placed on relevant, authoritative sites if they are to positively impact upon your SERP rankings.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm mean that links needs to be high quality and white hat – they cannot be spammy. White hat simply means they are viewed as ethical and appear natural, and this is achieved by linking to the right sites and using natural anchor text.

Social Media

Covering Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, social media can greatly benefit an SEO campaign. When you link an active social media page to your website, it works to build trust and increase the authority of that site – which is great news from an SEO perspective.

Offsite Citations

An offsite citation profile is also very important. Similar to back links, they are essentially mentions of your website, placed on other sites – without an actual link. Citations can be directory listings, and often include details such as your web address, physical address, business name and phone number. They are useful for Google Maps listings, and other search results that based around business locations.

Get started and reap the benefits

Search engine optimisation is complex, and there certainly aren’t any short cuts if you are looking to generate good results. An effective SEO campaign should make use of all the above components, as they work in unison to help boost SERP rankings.

SEO has the ability to increase website traffic, and therefore increase leads and sales in the process. Online marketing is the way of the future, and SEO is at the forefront of this phenomenon.