In this post, we’ll explore the basics of what is SEO, and how it can be extremely beneficial to small businesses and charities!
For many, the answer will be “Google”.
Founded in 1998 by college friends Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google has become the place to go if you want to find or learn about almost anything in the world. Got a problem? Google it. In need of a sweet treat? Google it. Need cheering up? Google “cat fails” [fun fact: this was searched for approx. 65,000 times in the last year].
There are likely hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of results for your search. That’s an awful lot, and naturally the first page of results is dominated by the market leader in silly videos on the internet: YouTube.
Here, we see a number of things. Before we get to any websites at all, we might see a few paid adverts (with “Ad” in bold displayed prominently before the URL), and see a map with nearby bakeries displayed – after all, if you’re saerching for “bakery” Google can be pretty sure you’re hungry. Want your business to be displayed on this map? This is where local SEO comes in (more on that later).
If we scroll past the embedded map, we come to our first web result, The Hummingbird Bakery.
Does this seem strange to you? It’s not the market leader in the UK by number of bricks-and-mortar stores (that would be the ubiquitous Greggs, with over 2,000 stores in 2019), so why does Google rank it number one? The answer, of course, is Search Engine Optimisation – or SEO for short.
Let’s look at how Google came to the conclusion that when you wanted a bakery, Hummingbird were the best possible match. We’ll address two major factors: What it knows about you, and what it knows about them.
Most internet users have heard of cookies, those things you have to accept when you visit a new website to make the annoying pop-up go away. They help a particular website track who you are (by giving you an individual ID), and a few of your basic preferences such as targeted page layouts or colour schemes, or perhaps what you left in your shopping cart before leaving the site last time you visited.
But Google knows much, much more – your age, religion, health, likes and dislikes, where you’ve been in real life, who your friends are, even your future plans. If you don’t mind being a little bit spooked, there’s a great infographic here with lots of info about what data Google collects, and how it does it.
What a search engine can know about a website is based on what it finds when it looks. Each search engine has an army of so-called ‘crawlers’, which are little bots it sends to capture all the information it can about the site’s purpose, what products or knowledge are on offer, and how reliable they appear to be. Google’s overall decision on the site is based on a number of factors, the exact combination of which is a secret it keeps very close to its heart.
This is the essence of SEO. Hummingbird Bakery have done everything they can to ensure that Google is both certain of their raison d’être, but also concludes that they have the highest level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of all of the bakeries in the UK. They may not have the most physical stores, but they’ve made sure Google know they’re serious about their craft.
It goes without saying that Google knows from where you are searching. There are some web pages that have relevance worldwide (for example the infographic link above, which is by Canadian online publisher VisualCapitalist) so you’ll get the best available results for your query no matter where they are physically based.
Because Google also knows so much about you, it might decide that another bakery’s site matches your needs better. Try it for yourself and see who comes out on top!
Google matches what it knows about you with what it knows about them, to bring up relevant results from your area on the map. Additionally, if you were to have modified your search to “bakery near me” you’ll get websites from nearby businesses too – this is local SEO and this is the place where small businesses can make big gains, without having to take on the big guns in the virtual battleground that is search ranking.
There are basic elements which most site building platforms will allow you to do (or even manage for you automatically), but to really give yourself the best chance to be seen it helps to trust an expert – that’s where DittonDGM comes in. We know SEO is confusing, so get in touch today and let’s get you started.
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