Search Engine Optimisation Basics - SEO 101

Tom Pritchard

What Is SEO - Search Engine Optimisation?


SEO or Search engine optimisation is the process of making progressive improvements on and off your website in order to increase visibility in search engine results. This increased exposure in search engine results will generally lead to increased visitors finding your website and engaging with you whether it be for news and information, or your products and services.


In order to know what improvements will affect search engine results, one has to understand the goal of search engines themselves. Essentially, a search engine's primary objective is to find and understand all of the content out there on the Internet and then quickly deliver Relevant and useful results based on any phrase that a user might be searching for. SEO is the process of 

How Search Engines Rank Pages

Search engines evaluate web pages against two indicators

  1. Relevance
  2. Authority


Google Search Ranking Factors

To make this clear let’s look at a real world example…

When a user searches for something like "Hotels in Sydney", search engines want to show a list of results that are relevant to the topic of Hotels based in Sydney. Search engines will analyse all of the webpages that they've ever visited and pick out the pages that they believe are the most relevant to the users search request. They determine this by evaluating lots of different factors, including how your content is written and implemented in code, as well as how other websites around the Internet are linking to you. All of this is stuffed into a secret complex and very proprietary algorithm. This algorithm filters through and is then able to rank and display all of those webpages in order of relevance to that phrase that the user just typed in, in this case, Hotels based in Sydney.


How SEO affects organic results How SEO affects organic results


This is very important to understand because search engines make a very clear distinction between content that's about “Hotels in Sydney” versus content relevant for other phrases like Sydney resorts, or a phrase like "Sydney beach getaway". Search engines are able to understand quite a bit about semantic and thematic connections between words and concepts.

Take another example search query, "dog walking services Melbourne CBD". A search engine knows that pages selling dog walking services that are based in Melbourne’s CBD are extremely relevant to that search query, but it also knows that websites providing pet minding services may also be very relevant. It also knows that a website promoting things like pet friendly cafe’s and dog grooming services may also be relevant to the search query but probably a little less than websites providing a direct match to the users query.

The other factor that influences search engine exposure is Authority. In other words, out there on the largely lawless World Wide Web where anyone can post any thing, is your website a trusted place on the Internet that the search engines would want to show to their users? One very common way that search engines determine the authority of a webpage or a domain is by evaluating what other websites think of you, and this can be measured through the links out there that are pointing to your website.

Web Links

You can think of a link as a vote on the Internet. A web page linking to your website is almost like saying, "Hey, I trust your content enough that I'm willing "to reference your page "and possibly even send traffic to your site." It's a vote of trust, and the search engines pick up on this as they scour the web, reading, evaluating, and storing all the data they can find on all the pages of the Internet, but it's important to know right from the start that this is not just a popularity contest where you try to accumulate the most votes on the Internet. Search engines have safeguards in place to prevent this kind of abuse, and instead, place an emphasis on the quality of the link.

For example, a search engine is more likely to trust a link if it comes from a well-respected or an industry-related site, like an industry-leading blog or a registered non-profit or Government agency. Crucially, a link coming from an irrelevant site that has nothing to do with you or your industry is not going to be valued nearly as much. In fact, the majority of search engines try to detect low quality link behaviour to potentially penalise any participant websites from some or all search results on the web.

Understanding how important both relevance and authority are to a search engine will help us to both understand and improve these factors and will ultimately lead to better search engine exposure and more visitors to the pages of our websites.

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