(Ironically, that is one of the most relevant titles I have had to date.)
Let’s talk Search.
Have you ever considered that in that split second between hitting enter on your search terms and the answers appearing, a Battle Royale is going down behind the scenes between every relevant website?
That is probably for the best. Because this is not exactly - or even close - to how a search engine works.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a lot to get your head around.
I recommend you grab a glass of wine and settle in whilst we take look under the bonnet.
When it comes to SEO, the algorithms used by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing are kept under wraps.
And they change.
Aiming to 'crack' the algorithm is not an approach that is recommended.
So why bother trying I hear you ask?
Because SEO is important.
Because engaging your audience is just as, if not more, important.
Because having your site optimised for search engines and having your site optimised for humans are not mutually exclusive goals.
Trying to 'crack' the algorithm means you are not prioritising the human part of your business:
Search engines aren't purchasing your products or services, people are
Search engines are constantly being updated to mimic the human decision-making process so all that work can quickly be outdated
Your content should be engaging because it is written for people
Ranking high in search results, driving lots of people (traffic) to your website and delivering irrelevant content is not doing you any favours.
Think of it like this: If I am looking to buy a case of wine online - I don't want to be taken to a webpage selling equipment for making wine.
I am going to leave your machinery website pretty quick, because I am focused on finding a case of wine that is going to be conveniently delivered to my door in the next few days.
This is called a bounce.
Leaving a website as soon as you land is called a bounce
Buying a case of wine online is called Wednesday
Typically, your pages will have relevant headings and titles such as 'Our Wine Range'.
Written with some nice spacing. Maybe a few bullet points to make it easy on the eye.
Probably something describing the product - what we call the Key Words - Shiraz, Merlo, Red, White, Urgent, Express Delivery.
By writing for people, you are on your way to writing SEO content!
You see, SEO is what we call ‘Organic’ advertising. You are not paying to show up in a Google Search.
Your site appears because you have met the criteria and your website or page is deemed worthy by the search powers-that-be.
Sorry, what did you just say?
But you don't follow the rules - your structure is terrible, and your blog titles are always misleading?"
Writing for people is just the start. So let's look into this a bit deeper.
Your website is catalogued by search engine bots. I like to think the bots are like little librarians, with rules about where everything ‘fits’.
When your website was set-up, someone should have rolled out your basic SEO so the bots can find you. This includes a Sitemap - a file that sits on your website and is formatted for the bots to easily read. Like a map. To your site.
Most new website platforms automatically update this. Simply put, if you are regularly creating content, uploading new stock, blog posts or services - your site will automatically get updated in the various search engines as the bots review your website intermittently.
This is where those relevant headings and keywords all come into play. They tell the librarian bots how to catalogue your content.
We have already touched on it, but user behaviour on your site is also important. If my mum is my only reader and she spent 5-minutes on a post - that alone is not going to help my rankings.
I need a number of readers spending 5-minutes on my pages. I need you spending time reading my content.
I am in the analogy zone with this article, so let's try another one:
Do you know someone who can walk into a room and everyone listens to them? They always seem to have something interesting and relevant to say.
People gravitate towards them.
They have Social Authority.
The algorithm is trying to mimic this social behaviour. Based on the quality of interactions with your site, it is determining your Authority.
If your site shows when I search for 'Wine Purchase Urgent' AND I, plus everyone else doing a similar search, spend time on your site visiting multiple pages and/or purchasing something - then the search engine is going to tick this site as relevant. Which means it will prioritise this site in similar searches.
Sorry wine machinery company, your listing is going a lot lower because we don't have time to make wine. It's Wednesday.
Side note: By feeding us the most popular opinions, there is a valid concern that the information we find is framed by the status-quo. Aka, are we only reading what we want to read or being exposed to the most popular opinions?
This is an entirely different, but very interesting conversation. But I digress.
It’s actually quite fascinating when you start looking into the complexity behind something so simple as a search result.
Why do I break the ‘rules’ in my blog articles?
You see, my articles are written to maximise engagement - the amount of time someone is staying on my page.
When I was writing this, the average time spent on my Musings is just under 5-minutes.
Do you know how hard it is to have a full 5-minutes of someone’s attention online?
Let's take a second to consider...
Right now, where are you?
According to the stats on my site 75% of you will be on a mobile device.
Which means you are probably killing time waiting for a train or on said train, flicking through cat videos in front of the TV, lying in bed about to go to sleep. Lying in bed just waking up.
Calm down. My website doesn’t tell me if you are actually lying in bed. That is weird and creepy.
There are many moving parts that contribute to your search rankings, and we will need a few more articles to break this down further. However, creating engaging content is a good place to start.
At the end of the day, SEO is more a game of strategy then a bloody Battle Royale.
In saying that, if there was a Battle Royale my website would absolutely be represented by Xena, Warrior Princess.
On Wednesday when you are searching for that a case of wine, take a moment to take note of the search results and how closely they match what you were searching for.
And most importantly, wine recommendations can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.