Business Technology

What Team GB and SEO have in common: Improving overall performance

7 min read

03 April 2014

Britain won seven out of ten track cycling gold medals in the London Olympics. British Cycling’s performance director, Dave Brailsford, appeared on BBC Breakfast on the last day of the Olympic track competition and gave the game away about how his team were winning so much – it was all about ‘marginal gains’.

“The whole principal came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of riding a bike, and then improved it by one per cent you will get a significant increase when you put them all together,” explained Brailsford.

Every little detail, down to how a competitor cleans their hands so they don’t get ill and therefore take less time out of training – was taken into consideration. By making a difference in every little aspect of training and then adding all those little differences together, the results can improve significantly. 

Having a sporting chance with SEO

When someone types in search terms for a product or service there may be potentially thousands or millions of pages that have relevance to those terms. SEO is about making sure your page is the one that is seen first. SEO could be compared to something of an Olympic sport in itself. About 60 per cent of people searching on Google don’t go beyond page one when the results come in and around 40 per cent click on the very top link on page one. The value of a page one ranking on a popular search engine can be the making or breaking of a business. This is why companies big and small will fight tooth and nail to keep the SEO strong enough for that sacred ‘top table’.

“Imagine SEO is a race to be first to a sale when you have thousands of competitors who mirror your business service, or stock the same products as you,” commented Tom Vaughton, Director of search engine marketing and website design company, Varn Media. 

So how can your business website achieve a number one ranking with so much competition? Take a leaf out of Team GB’s winning methods to get winning results.
“To push to the first place in line you have to make sure everything possible can be done to justify you being in that position. Today Google are very switched on to those who want to manipulate their way to the high rankings with the dirtier tricks of the trade – such as building lots of poor quality web pages saturated with key words and ‘shoe-horned’ in links. There are no short cuts like the ones that were so prevalent in the old days. Just like an elite athlete you need to concentrate on all the variables that have an effect upon performance.”

200 reasons to rank number one

Google is by far the biggest player in ‘search’. There are 200 algorithms or ‘clues’ that Google uses to decide how it should prioritise a webpage for a searcher’s query. That’s 200 methods that have to be considered to get your website high in the rankings. A website’s match to a search will be decided by everything from relevant words and links and semantic cohesion of the webpage to details like how up-to-date it is and how busy it is. The spelling and grammar of a website’s copy will also be inspected for flaws. 

It is important to keep your website alive with news updates. It’s obvious these days but keep your social media and blogs regular and of a good quality. If your site is old and inactive it will not look as attractive to Google as a similar one that is lively with updates.

Google uses software called ‘crawlers’ that will look over the details of any publicly available page. They will check many aspects of the page including the quality of its links to make sure they are relevant to the page. Poor quality or irrelevant links are not a good idea.

It is an advantage to have traffic. It is also a consideration to be geographically relevant to the searcher. 

When a search term is entered those who truly want to be seen by the searcher will have thought through and worked hard to appreciate as many of these criteria as possible.

“It’s worth your time focusing on all the aspects that a search will inspect but at the same time don’t obsess about one signal,” explains Tom Vaughton. “If you overdo it when focusing on just one signal like using keywords to trigger SEO it may come across as too heavy handed which will be flagged as spam. Also, do not put irrelevant information on your website or Google’s criteria for finding relevant results will mark it down. Also don’t forget to optimise for mobile – which translated to being less wordy but with good calls to action as people browse more on mobile than on computers. Make sure you address as many different influencing factors as possible. In short, don’t be lazy and always stay focused on what a human being would like to see.” 

SEO today is about having a wide consideration of many influencing factors that will drive the relevance and popularity of your website. If you want to be seen by customers and want more page one ranking – think like an Olympic winner – make the marginal differences and gains work to push you to the number one spot.

Richard Forsyth works for website marketing company Varn Media. Thanks to Tom Vaughton for his support with this feature.

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