SEO stands for search engine optimisation and it’s the process of optimising websites and searchable web content so that they’re displayed earlier in a search engine’s unpaid search results. This increases the visibility of your online content, which drives traffic and can ultimately boost sales (or other desired actions like donations for charities and petition signatures for movements). Content that has been optimised for better search engine visibility is often referred to as SEO-friendly content.
What content can be optimised for search engines?
Many people think web pages and blog posts are the only things that SEO applies to but while these are some of the most common types of content that are displayed in search results, they’re plenty of other things that show up as well. For instance, if you have a LinkedIn profile, that can show up in search results so it can be subjected to an SEO treatment. Pinterest content frequently shows up in search engine search results too.
As you might now guess, written content is not the only type of content that can show up in search listings. For instance, pictures (and not just those uploaded to Pinterest), video and other visual content can show up in the main search results as well as in the dedicated image or video results.
The basic rule of thumb is, if it can be searched, it can show up in search engine search results and thus it can be subjected to SEO. Non-text content just needs things like a heading and meta description (the text that is displayed in search engine results pages) to help the search engines do their thing.
How is content optimised for search engines?
This is a huge topic but basically, there are two classes of SEO: on-page and off-site (also called off-page).
On-page SEO refers to the steps taken to directly optimise individual web pages or other pieces of content to improve the position of that content in a search engine’s results pages (SERPs). In essence, on-page SEO ensures content is:
- structured in a way that makes it easier for search engines to find and review it and for humans to read/view and understand it
- described in a way that makes it easy for search engines to determine what the content relates to and thus decide whether to show the content in response to any given web search
- quick to load and offers a great reader experience
Off-site SEO refers to the steps taken outside of a given website (we’ll call this the ‘target website’) to improve that target website’s position in the SERPs. It includes improving the target website’s popularity, relevance and perceived trustworthiness. All these things combine to increase the authority of the website. Web pages from websites with a high level of authority are automatically considered by search engines to be more useful to web users and thus they will be given a higher ranking in the SERPs.
Off-site SEO includes things like:
- encouraging other websites to include links on their website that point to the target website (these are called backlinks)
- social media marketing
- guest blogging