Why does SEO matter and how does it work?

SEO is all about visibility, constructed strategically and organically to get to the top of the search page ranking. The people searching employ the same language, online behaviour and use the same technical equipment (phone or desktop) whether they are looking for the opening time of your café, things to do on a Friday night in Bristol, or thinking about a family outing to a museum on a rainy day during February Half Term. People expect to find the information they require through online search quickly and easily. The good news is that museums are subject matter experts. So when a member of the public has a query about art, science or history, it makes sense for a museum to be there with the answer. As a result, one could say that being the top search result is in line with a museum’s educational mission.

By following a clear process, museum marketers can boost visits, ultimately driving conversion and engagement.

SEO is knowing the answers to your audience’s questions in order to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions and products you offer, whether this is in the form of ticket sales or free access to your collection.

Search engines themselves are the answer machines. But knowing your audience’s intention is only one side of the SEO challenge – the other side is optimising it or delivering it in a way that search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, can find it, understand it and deliver it back to the searcher. 

How Does Search Work?

In order to answer this, let’s stick with Google as – for now – they are the dominant search engine. The team at Google has created a helpful YouTube video presenting an overview of what happens in the half second it takes to answer a query when you do a web-search on their platform: How Search Works.

Search engines such as Google, take the content on your website and via a process using “robots” called “crawling and indexing” categorise it, and order it in ways that best answer the searcher’s question. This process leads to answers or results appearing in a number of ways we automatically come to expect as information consumers. This is called ‘ranking’ or SERP (Search Engine Rank Page). This is where your SEO diligence plays an important role, ranking the best web pages and best information first. 

The challenge in your content reaching the top position of Google’s first page in a search is that it’s a crowded place, filled with advertising, images, location markers, and related search questions, some of which are paid for and some are not. While paid advertising, social media and other online platforms can drive traffic to websites, the majority of online traffic to your website or webpage is driven by search engines determined by organic search. 

So what kind of keywords are people typing in and the human intention behind the question? A good resource is to read more here about the algorithms behind search results.

Next step is to assess whether the usability of your webpage is easy for users to navigate, engage with content, ask questions with clear results using internal search, or allows people to purchase a ticket or sign up for a newsletter. This is usually related to how you provide good structure, good information and usability across different devices. So, for example, if your website does not fit a smartphone screen, or load quickly, Google will rank you lower.

The latest Google algorithms are called Hummingbird with two big features – knowledge graphs provide searchers with more visual, richer results, some statistics, numbers, and prices. The other is a semantic search feature or in other words, understanding natural human speech or the language of internet users and giving the most relevant answer, taking into consideration the implicit intention behind keywords used. This brings us back full circle to user intent.

Recap: Why is it important for organisations to use SEO?

  1. To make sure your brand, link, and website are discoverable as organically as possible.
  2. Being visible means that you are offering your potential audience the opportunity to find you, find your information, access your library, collection, materials or archive and engage with your social purpose. 
  3. Most of the time, people will click the first top five results of the first page. Google is a business, wanting people to use their platform i.e. a better search experience and performance, the better it is for business – in other words,  it’s a two way street.

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