Search Engine Optimisation – SEO – is a fundamental part of digital marketing. It is also changing all the time.
So we thought it would be useful to do a series on the essentials of SEO.

The series will include information that we hope will be of use to you whether you are a complete newcomer to SEO, or whether you are a seasoned expert in an SEO agency.

In Part 1 we look at some of the fundamentals of SEO and explain a few of the essential terms. In this article you will learn more about:

  • SEO
  • Search engines
  • Optimisation
  • Spiders
  • Algorithms
  • RankBrain
  • SERPs
  • Keywords
  • Content
  • Links
  • Rich search results
  • Organic search results
  • Paid search
  • PPC

So what actually is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Let’s break this down further:

A search engine is a computer program that enables users to enter a query in order to find information. The best known search engine is Google.

Optimisation means ensuring that you do everything possible to your website for it to be located by a search engine and appear in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) returned to the user.

How do search engines work?

When the user enters their query the search engine will use software to search for webpages that most closely match the query. This software is called a spider, because it crawls the web in a methodical, automated manner.

We all have our own methods of searching for things. For example, if there was a topic on our introductory list above that was of particular interest, some readers would immediately scan through looking for that topic. Others would continue to read sequentially until the topic appeared.

But unlike humans, spiders need to be instructed how to search effectively. The criteria used by spiders to find the most relevant websites to match the query are determined by an algorithm. Google uses a combination of different algorithms, including:

  • Panda – conducts searches based on the quality of content
  • Penguin – conducts searches based on the quality of links.
  • Hummingbird – conducts searches based on conversational search queries.
  • Algorithms change regularly, and an important part of SEO is keeping up to date with algorithm changes and how they can affect the ranking (position) of your website in SERPs.

    Recently, Google has started using an artificial intelligence tool called RankBrain to help sort and manage search queries. RankBrain is Google’s machine learning algorithm whose aim is to help Google understand certain types of search queries, particularly ones that it has not Google seen before. This applies to around 15% of search queries per day, although RankBrain is also beginning to be used for more popular queries as well.

    How to achieve high SERP rankings

    There are three main things that you need to do:


    Analyse the search habits of your target audience, to understand the terms they might use to search for a business like yours. Google offers a tool called Google AdWords which can help with this. Then make sure that these keywords are included in the metadata (hidden information) and pages of your website.


    The old saying “content is king” is very relevant in the world of SEO. High quality content that is fresh and relevant and regularly updated will work wonders in terms of SERP rankings.


    If your site includes both inbound and outbound links from/to other websites, this can help search engines verify how trustworthy your site is. So whenever you mention a site or a source, include a hyperlink. Make sure that your social media sites link to your website, and get your website listed on as many directory and professional body sites as you can.

    It is also worth spending time making sure that you have a lot of internal links (eg from page to page) and that these all work correctly, as this will increase the time spent on your site by the spiders.

    Rich Search Results

    One additional feature that has recently started appearing on Google’s SERP pages is the Rich Answer Box, also known as rich snippets. This is an enhanced listing which aims to be the answer to the perceived real question that the user is asking. For more information on rich search results see our recent article How to Benefit from Rich Results.

    Organic and paid search

    You may also have come across the term organic search. It simply means the natural – ie unpaid – listings that appear on a SERP. So yes organic search results just means search results.

    However, on some SERPs you will also see paid search results. You can tell because they will have Ad in a box next to them. The spiders will select up to 4 paid search adverts to feature on a SERP, using an algorithm to determine which are the most relevant to the user’s query.

    These adverts are called PPC (Pay Per Click). If a user clicks on the advert to go to the website, the website owner will be charged money by the search engine.

    We hope that this brief introduction to the weird and wonderful world of SEO has been useful, and will return to this topic in due course. SEO is constantly changing, so the more you can learn about the principles behind it – and how to harness its power to boost traffic to your website – the better for both you and your business.