Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the science, not art, of optimising the ranking of your pages in search engine results.


This involves both optimisation of the actual pages themselves (on-site SEO) and how they are promoted (off-site SEO).

The Evolution of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation has had to evolve in line with advances in search engine algorithms.  Search engines seek to evaluate pages (and entire websites) based on human evaluation criteria.

Subsequently, advances in natural language processing and semantic search favour well-written content, over pages with the highest density of keywords stuffed in the most prominent of places.

Another advance in search engine algorithms has been the ‘social graph’ of how pages are linked to by people and pages of authority on relevant subjects, and how visitors engage with pages.  These metrics all seek to determine the most relevant pages to serve for any given keyword.

Knowing what counts…

Evaluating to Optimise

When you evaluate a page for SEO, a useful acronym to recall is RATS – Relevance, Authority, Trust and Security.  This breaks down into the following:


How relevant is the page content to the search term (keyword)?  This is all about on-site SEO, such as how well the keyword matches written content on the page and metatags in the page code.  Importantly, this includes natural language variations on the keyword and associated terms.

The age of the page content is also taken into account.  Page content that has not changed for a long time can have a negative effect, as search engines may consider content to be out of date.


How much authority on the topic does the page or site have?  This is largely about off-site SEO, such as whether experts in this field, or sites with high traffic volumes or authority, link to this page for this topic.

There is an element of on-site SEO at play here though.  For instance, a new page on a site with high-authority on a given topic will inherit a degree of authority – just because of its location.


How reputable is this page?  This is where the old black-hat SEO approach of buying huge amounts of backlinks falls foul.  If your page is linked to by a significant volume of disreputable sites, this will count against your ranking.

There are tools to determine whether these links exist and to help you remove association with them.  Quality of page code and content are also factors in this evaluation.  Keyword ‘stuffing’ in copy is frowned upon and will negatively impact your ranking in this area.

Trust can also be seen to include quality as an aspect of the scoring now; trusting whether a page will load quickly and well on any device attempting to access it.  For this reason, it is advised that all pages are mobile-optimised and performance-optimised.  Failure to load quickly and reliably counts against a page in search engine optimisation.


How secure is this page?  The broad use of HTTPS is considered favourable by search engines nowadays.  More crucially, pages which become hacked and infected with malware will be stripped from search results rapidly.  Search engines do not want to be responsible for directing users to potential sites of infection!

On-site SEO

On-site SEO (alternatively called on-page SEO) is the practice of optimising pages for search.  The most common approach to this includes the following aspects:

Keyword placement

Take into account the prominence of relevant keywords in title tag, h1 and other heading tags, bullets, page URL, hyperlinks, body copy, metatags and even asset filenames (e.g. keyword.jpg for a relevant image).

Page code

Clean, performant and optimal page code has an impact on search ranking. Pages should always load quickly (particularly the aspects of interest to a search spider/bot!), reliably and accessibly across a range of devices (e.g. considerations such as mobile optimisation and general accessibility).

Linking and access

Pages within a site should link to other pages, via menu, footer and page content.  Linking via relevant keywords helps users navigate the site an improves usability.  Search engines like this just as much as human visitors do.

It is important to consider the location of content too.  For example, an iframe is actually a window into another website, so won’t get picked up as part of a webpage via a search engine crawler.  Therefore, this content won’t count towards your on-site optimisation.


The content composition of pages, volume of content, recency of content and language use are all taken into account by search engine algorithms. The rule of thumb here is to write clearly for humans; as search engine ranking algorithms evolve they evolve to interpret page content in a more human manner.


Bounce-rate is taken into account by search engines when evaluating a page. If visitors leave quickly after reaching a page, this is a clear indicator that the page was a poor match for the search query.

Consider how likely visitors are to spend time on the page and whether there are other related pages you would like them to visit after this.  Once visitors reach your page, they need to find content that is interesting, relevant and engaging.

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO (or off-page SEO) consists of all the activity to influence a page’s ranking that is done away from that page.  The essence of this is the link equity from any external location linking back to the page in question.  Link equity is a function of how much authority the linking location has for search in question.

Equity is determined by the linking site’s popularity (volume of traffic), relevance to the keyword topic, age of the link, text used in the link and associated copy, authority and trustworthiness of the linking domain and page.

Off-site SEO encompasses, but isn’t limited to, the following approaches to receiving backlinks:

Natural linking

When you produce excellent content and other sites choose to link to this, it results in a backlink.  Such as the excellent page about off-site SEO by here.

Content placement

Where you create content which is shared/promoted by other sites, such as a download or other proprietary asset of value.

Social media marketing

Content shared via social media channels and conversations linking back to your pages can have a superb impact on their ranking.  Moreover, the reach of a social media post can be enormous, presenting great potential for relevant traffic to reach your page.


Traditionally, off-site SEO was dominated by the purchase of backlinks and registering pages with various directories.  There is still value in the latter approach, but algorithms have evolved to downgrade the equity of links generated in this manner.

The rule of thumb here is if the links are easy to generate and not highly relevant to your market/topic then the value will be negligible.  Keep efforts in this space highly-relevant and think about where your audience would go to find links, rather than simply looking for link volume.

Keep Your Perspective!

Stop and think about why you are optimising your pages for search.  SEO may result in more relevant traffic to your pages, but each page needs to be clear and engaging or visitors will leave quickly.  The purpose of SEO is to drive higher volumes of relevant traffic to pages.  Subsequently, this traffic should go on to engage with marketing content and ultimately progress towards point of sale.

If you have a long sales cycle, consider funnelling visitors into a marketing automation process where you can nurture them, learning more about them through each engagement, towards sales readiness.  For shorter sales cycles, you need to sign-post visitors from the landing page towards information they might need to evaluate and ultimately where to purchase.

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