ABCs of SEO: Just What Am I Optimising?

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Soon after the internet — as we know it — was created in 1995, the term Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short, crawled in just behind (circa 1997). This opened a whole new world and vocabulary for marketers and developers alike (including our AKIN marketing folks).

Businesses started to notice the influence major search engines, such as Google, Safari and Yahoo, had on the internet masses and questioned: how can we grab a share of this pie among the sea of many? Gone are the days where good content and products simply sold themselves. Companies now need to have a solid grasp of the SEO language in order to stay ahead of the pack online.

A for About… (what is it really?)

A single puzzle piece

In short, SEO is about beating search engines.

There is an endless amount of information available on the internet — such as webpages, blog posts, tweets, images, videos, gifs and memes, etc, —and it continues to grow every day. In order to help users find the most relevant information, search engines (via tiny search bots) scan through certain signals on webpages to determine if the content is what the user is looking for — these include keywords used, how reliable is the website, how recent it was published, and how long users stay on your site.

In fact, there are well over 200 key signals and 20,000 sub-signals that engines need to scan through. That’s a lot of different moving parts for a website owner to consider! However, you can prioritise and look at signals and webpage elements that are more relevant to your industry norm. Are you an e-commerce e-store, an information page, or a photography portfolio site, etc.?

What SEO basically does is to tell search engines that your content is awesome and that they should rank your webpages on top in the search results.

So, whose job is it? There are typically three roles in this equation to get started:

  1. Copywriters: The masterminds behind stellar content, their role is to figure out what people are searching for, how they are discussing certain topics, and the terms that they are using. Doing proper keyword research and including these terms will help ensure that the content is useful and highly searchable. The more people click on it, read it, and share it, the better the content will rank!
  1. Developers: While copywriters write for people, developers write for search bots. Search engines are, in most parts, processed by bots and computers. These tech geniuses help makesure that the backend is well-written, simplifying the codes and naming each element correctly. The easier it is for the bots, the better the content would rank.
  1. Specialists: Think of them as the police of the SEO world. Specialists primarily look at on-page elements — which includes a whole laundry list of titles, metatags, URLs, placements, responsiveness, out links, backlinks, site speed, load speed, etc — to help copywriters and developers comply to best practices. By keeping an eye on the ebb and flow of search engines’ algorithms, they can make recommended tweaks to the content and codes, and help prioritise the to-dos of both copywriters and developers to maxmimise organic traffic from search engines.

With work cut out for any organisation, is SEO worth it?

B for Because… (why it is important?)

A missing puzzle piece

SEO is all about sustainability. Most sites cannot churn out 100 blog posts a month. SEO is best used to complement evergreen content that you have created to retarget, retarget, and keep retargeting users till you convert them into customers. This way, even content created 3 years ago (have you seen ours?) can still bring you new leads (commonly referred to as inbound marketing). SEO helps to automate and brings in the most traffic that your website and content can get.

In comparison, social media engagement is very trend-based, time-bound and current. Content created for social media can go viral very quickly, but it also has a lifespan of an adult mayfly (that’s a day or so…). Working with both SEO and social media will ensure that your website has both stable and surge traffic.

Also, people are online 24/7, searching about brands, looking for reviews and recommendations. This crowd has strong intent to engage and purchase. Not optimising your content would mean ignoring all these potential customers and losing them to other brands who have got their SEO game on.

C for Corrections… (what are some misconceptions?)

A mess of puzzle pieces

One big misconception is that you can buy SEO.

The paid, ad-based tool that brings traffic to your site is called Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM allows you to literally buy a good ranking. Sounds good? The issue is, this is a costly, short-term solution. It is unlikely for any marketing budget to buy ads for every page and search term (think thousands of them) indefinitely.

This is why SEO has to be considered together with SEM. Together, they allow you to plan for both quick and future wins.

Next: SEO is an overnight solution — do today, succeed tomorrow. 

SEO is unfortunately a slow, arduous and long-drawn process. You need to build up your keyword bank over time and continually update it as people change their search vocabulary. People’s needs, wants and search perimeters are ever-changing; SEO is always playing catch-up.

Keywords research is also not done in a vacuum or based off one’s opinion. Time is a necessary evil to tease out the terms that not only relate to your brand, but also to all the auxiliary content that you have to produce to support your brand.

A third misconception is that all you need is a few pieces of well-written content. Not quite… the truth is, the traffic to your website would only be a tiny fraction of all searches, and the odds would always be against you. SEO is really a numbers game: you need a lot of (ideally great) content in order to catch a sizeable crowd. That one amazing brochure would not cut it (sorry).

In a quick summary

SEO is free, slow, organic and requires a lot of content;

SEM is paid, fast, ad-based and does not require much content.

Here are some other cool resources that we have found, where you can learn more about SEO and SEM:

Ready to start optimising your company's website? Check out our free downloadable checklist here: 

SEO Checklis download

You can also reach out to us at for some help! 

Written by Hanson Ng

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