The A-Z of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) needn’t be overwhelming. In fact, it’s easy as ABC…

A. Algorithm. Search engines use these as an automatic means of discovering what content lies on a website. Most trawl a webpage’s keywords and content, but images form part of SEO too.

B. Black hats. How the SEO world refers to chicanery… People don the raven trilby of duplicity when fraudulently boosting their visibility to search engines. This includes stuffing their text with excessive keywords, adding unsuitable keywords or placing invisible text in the HTML.

C. Crawler. A slightly less techy term than algorithm. Crawlers do the gruntwork of a search by embedding an algorithm in their code.

D. Danny Sullivan. Talking of techy, Danny Sullivan is your man on all things SEO. He’s the editor in chief of Search Engine Land (

E. Eric Schmidt. And talking of chiefs, look no further than the top man at Google, which accounts for 67% of the world’s search traffic. It stands to reason that the most powerful man in the prosaic world of SEO should be called Eric – Schmidt that is. When Google changes its algorithms, mountains crumble, oceans retreat, and self-styled content-marketing gurus fall silent for a while. Eric is behind it all.

F. The F-word, and worse. Webmasters can prevent crawlers from indexing adult or iffy content through placing a suitably modified Robots.txt file in the root of their website. These can be used to block crawling of any page.

G. Googlebot. How Google refers to its own means of trawling the web. Luckily, Google publishes a beginner’s guide to SEO ( Riveting chapters include ‘SEO Basics’ and ‘SEO for Mobile Phones’.

H. Hummingbird. Google’s latest search algorithm, released in November 2013. Sharing the bird’s speed and accuracy, the algorithm aims to better answer questions that users type in to search bars, not just trawl for keywords. When asked: ‘How many self-styled content-marketing gurus have written about hummingbird?’, it comes back with more than 1.3million results.

I. Insomnia? Some of those gurus have got into print: Amazon stocks 1,363 books with SEO in the title.

J. JPEGs. SEO doesn’t just apply to text. Think pictures (and videos) as well. Google throws back 159,000 pages on the subject of how to promote pictures up the ranks of its image searches. This isn’t one of them.

K. Keywords. That said about pictures, keywords and key phrases remain, well, key. The right words and phrases will promote a website in an engine’s search, and so need careful consideration.

L. Links. Pages that enjoy lots of links from other sites also rise up the search ranks.

M. Meta descriptions. These short excerpts explain what your webpage is about and sit in the HTML of your homepage. Importantly, they form the marketing blurb displayed on a web engine’s search result.

N. Not so fast… What else about meta descriptions? In effect their position means they are advertising. They also have an optimum length of 150-160 characters, so slightly more liberal than Twitter.

O. Outsourcing. So crucial is the art of SEO that it has spawned a standalone industry, supporting companies who wish to outsource their SEO to a third party. In the UK this industry is thought to be worth more than £500m per year.

P. Panda. Before Google’s Hummingbird algorithm there was Panda, which was deployed in February 2011. It aimed to prevent low quality sites from ranking highly in Google search results. Why the name Panda? A reference to the dubious cola with the same name?

Q. Quality. On the topic of quality, search engines don’t just look at text and pictures. They also scrutinize a site’s usability, meaning how well it has been created, its design and generally how easy it is to comprehend.

R. Right or left? Research by GfK involving eye-tracking software found that more than 70% of users ignore the adverts on the right-hand side of search engine results.

S. Search. Boring fact no. 1: According to studies by Outbrain, search is the top driver of traffic to websites. Perhaps no surprise, but it beat social media by more than 300%.

T. Title tags. Better known as the bits of text at the top of a browser’s window, SEO consulting company MOZ says titles are only second to content when securing a high search placing.

U. URL. Search engines – Google in particular – look at website names to inform their searches. So the first three results from a Google search of ‘Avocado’ yields some recipes and a Wikipedia entry. The fourth, however, is, a personal messaging, calendar and picture-sharing tool – without a hint of guacamole.

V. Victory. For content. Boring fact no. 2: In the UK, only 6% of searchers click on paid-for ads; the remaining 94% click on content they’ve actively sniffed out.

W. White hat. The acceptable headwear of SEO jiggery pokery. This is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user sees. The way of the white hat is typically summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines.

X. X-traordinary. 2014 is the year when semantic search is predicted to take off (like a Hummingbird). Semantic here means judging the meaning of words in their context, what users think of content, how new the content is and the credibility of the author.

Y. Yahoo! And Bing. For all the talk of Google and its 67% stake of the web search market, Yahoo and Bing share 29%.

Z. Zzzz. Boring fact no. 3: More than 75% of web searchers never scroll past the first page.

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