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Why is SEO so confusing?

When Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) first became a thing, it was much simpler than it is today. The first recorded use of the term dates back to 1997. By the start of the 2000s, it was being used much more. Interestingly, the term even predates Google. Nowadays, however, Search Engine Optimisation is much more complex—and it can be confusing to those who are trying to understand it for the first time. Let’s explore some of the most commonly confusing aspects of SEO for beginners.

Understanding Algorithm Updates

Search engines like Google update their algorithms often. The purpose of this is to enhance the quality and relevance of results for those using the search engine. Search engines want their users to receive information that is the most accurate, helpful and authoritative. In other words, information that has a high level of credibility, trustworthiness and expertise in a particular subject.

When refining algorithms, search engines try to stay ahead of trends and adapt to changes in the internet landscape. It also helps to combat spam.

For website owners and SEO professionals, these updates can cause confusion and disruption. Each update introduces changes that can impact website rankings, sometimes significantly. What worked well for SEO one day might become obsolete overnight. It might even be detrimental. This calls for continuous adaptation to keep up.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is crucial for SEO. For many, this in itself is confusing. Though on the surface it looks like finding a list of popular search terms, it is much more complex. To fully understand keywords for SEO, you need to understand things like user intent and search trends as well as the intricacies of algorithms.

To select the right keywords to use, you need a strategic approach. This needs to consider a range of factors like:

  • Search volume. In other words, how often the term is searched for.
  • Relevance to the target audience. How closely a keyword aligns with the interests and needs of the audience.
  • Competition levels. How many other websites are vying for visibility using the same keywords.
  • User intent. Understanding why users are entering these terms – do they want to buy something? Do they need information?
  • Long-tail keywords. High volume words are important but long-tail keywords are important for targeting niche audiences and capturing qualified leads.
  • Conversion potential. How likely the keywords are to lead to desired actions like purchases or form completions.
  • Geographic considerations. For businesses targeting specific areas, location-based keywords are essential for local search visibility.
  • Seasonal fluctuations and emerging trends. Anticipating and capitalising on emerging trends can help maintain visibility.
  • Semantic relevance. Using synonyms, related terms and other semantically relevant keywords can enhance search visibility.

Myths about SEO and Dated Practices

There’s loads of advice about SEO to be found online but as we’ve stated above, it could become outdated quickly. Google states it makes significant changes to its search algorithms and systems several times a year. These core updates mean that things that used to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs) might not rank.

When you enter the wormhole that is SEO and try to understand it for the first time, you’re likely to come across outdated ideas (unless Google has pushed them down the SERPs in its update). Lots of people also fail to review their SEO knowledge periodically. This means that they’re not keeping up to date with new practices.

Some common outdated practices are keyword stuffing, cloaking (which shows different content to search engine crawlers compared to people) and doorway pages (low-quality web pages created for ranking specific keywords that then direct users to a target website). These practices are now considered harmful for SEO and are contrary to guidelines.

Prioritising Content Quality

Keyword stuffing might have worked once upon a time but algorithms are more sophisticated now and require content to be of high quality to rank. Although keywords and backlinks often dominate discussions on SEO, the centre of success is the quality and relevance of the content itself.

Google in particular has shifted focus and prioritises delivering content that is of genuine value to users. This means that what you write and how you write it is important. SEO is more about enhancing user experience than ever before. Search engines aim to serve up content that addresses queries while enriching the user experience.

Valuable content offers entertainment, insights and solutions. It could be a blog post, a guide, an infographic or a video. Whatever the content, if it captivates and compels users to engage, it’s likely to rank higher.

Let’s Not Forget Technical SEO

The term SEO often conjures images of keywords and content optimisation – and so far, that’s what we’ve focused on too. However, SEO encompasses the technical side of things too. This includes:

  1. The site structure: how content is organised, accessed and navigated. A well-structured site means users have a better experience and search engines can index the content more easily.
  2. Mobile optimisation:  mobile search is crucial and so it’s important for websites to be mobile-optimised in order to reach their target audience.
  3. Page speed: People have short attention spans. They don’t want to wait for your page to load. As such, websites that load quickly will rank higher.

Link Building Matters

Link building is very important for SEO but you need to be careful to link appropriately with high quality, relevant back links. High-quality backlinks come from reputable and authoritative sources. Conversely, links from spammy sites and link schemes are bad in the eyes of Google.

To earn good backlinks can be a challenge. Effective link building involves cultivating relationships and creating valuable content that fosters a genuine connection. The only real way to do this is by providing valuable resources and compelling content to grow backlinks organically. You can also engage with thought leaders and influencers to attract natural backlinks.

Understanding the Difference Between Local SEO and Global SEO

It can be a difficult choice for businesses: do you focus your attention locally or globally? If you’re operating within a specific geographic area, you’ll need to understand the nuances of local SEO strategies. This means optimising for local keywords, seeking out positive customer reviews and being present on local directories like Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yelp.

Global SEO aims to reach a broader audience. If this is your aim, you’ll need to focus on broad keyword targeting, international link building and multilingual optimisation.

Key Takeaways

Search engine Ranking is a benchmark of SEO success. Here are some key takeaways about SEO and how to improve:

  • Continue to research emerging SEO trends—rankings are never static.
  • Focus on user experience above anything else. Technical SEO and keyword targeting are important but the ultimate goal is providing value to users.
  • Build a backlink profile that establishes credibility but ensures that these are natural links from genuine interactions, collaborations and partnerships.

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