Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is the process of making a web page or a website more visible in a search engine’s rankings, helping encourage more visitors to a site. SEO is a complex and often misunderstood topic, but it’s one that every business, no matter what its size, should fully embrace if it wants to maintain a competitive edge.
In this blog we look at the SEO basics and what you can do to help your website.
The role of search engines
Even if you’re baffled by SEO, you’ll probably be familiar with using search engines, such as Google, to find the information you’re looking for. When you type a word or phrase into a search engine, a list of links appear in the results, with the most relevant appearing at the top. The ordering of this is based on complex algorithms. The primary goal of SEO is to get your site listed at the top, or at least on the first page.
Search engines order links by first crawling, or scanning a site, for information. They then add and index all this information to a huge database. From this vast pot of data, the most relevant, high quality websites are retrieved and ranked using an algorithm, which aims to match your search query as closely as possible. There are many ranking factors taken into consideration, and these regularly change, but there are various strategies and ethical techniques you can take to help your site find its way to the top of the list.
How SEO can help your business
If you’re a small business, you may lack the know-how, time or resources to implement an SEO strategy, but if you want to achieve growth and success, it’s not something you can afford to ignore. In terms of return on investment, SEO has shown to score highly compared to traditional forms of marketing, so even if you choose not to carry out SEO yourself, it’s well worth seeking professional expertise to help you.
By pushing your site up the search rankings, SEO increases your visibility. It encourages traffic to your site, which can, in turn, generate new leads and business growth. With so many websites vying for attention online, if you want to stay ahead of the competition, SEO is a necessity, rather than a luxury. In particular, if you consider most people only focus on the first five websites that come up in a search list, if you don’t make an effort to boost your ranking, you could miss out on a lot of potential business.
Optimising your website to boost its search ranking isn’t just meaningful for generating awareness and leads, but it also elevates your credibility and reputation. In the minds of searchers, those sites that get ranked the highest are considered leading authorities, instilling confidence and trust in the user.
The beauty of optimising your website for SEO purposes is that once you get started, you can use analytics and metrics to measure and monitor your traffic. This gives you a unique insight into your audiences, including how and when they search and buy. You can manipulate your site to your best advantage, based on this user information. Additionally, when you employ good SEO practices, this improves the usability of your site.
How to improve your SEO
Now that you know just how important SEO is for your business, how do you go about setting it in motion? If you don’t have any experience of SEO, a good place to start is by talking to an expert SEO or marketing agency, such as our team here at Vaccoda. Since there are so many aspects to SEO, you’ll want to make sure you employ the right initiatives for your business, to maximise your chances of success. Additionally, since no two companies are the same, an SEO agency will work out what your specific needs and goals are, and tailor a strategy based on your requirements.
Essentially, an agency will look at how you can make your website more search friendly, by employing on-site SEO tactics, but also looking at what off-site strategies can be used to promote your site. SEO best practice involves following a series of rules that govern the algorithms that search engines use to rank sites, so knowing what these are and how to implement them effectively is key. It’s also worth noting that search engines frequently update their algorithm, so keeping up to date with SEO trends is critical.
As a starting point, your website will need to be reviewed to assess how search engine friendly it currently is. This may involve totally overhauling your site or just making minor tweaks to it. Get your website reviewed now by giving Vaccoda a call on 020 8776 0400. Alternatively, we have detailed below the various aspects you need to take into account if you fancy doing it yourself.
Research your keywords
Keywords are the cornerstone of SEO, as these are what people use to search for the product or service you provide. You’ll need to identify what keywords or phrases you want your site to rank for, based on what you do or what you offer. Take into consideration that, if your keywords are commonly searched, you’ll face stiff competition and it might not influence your ranking. It’s important, therefore, to choose keywords that are as specific and unique as possible, without losing relevance or meaningfulness.
Try to think outside the box when it comes to researching keywords. It’s not just about what you do, but think about who your target audience is, what they might be looking for, what problems they have, and base your keyword selection around these for a more targeted approach. If your customer base is local, focus on location-specific keywords.
There are various tools that can assist you with keyword research, such as the new keyword research tool developed by Moz but access is priced from $99. You can however use the free Google keyword planner tool but Google hide a lot of keywords and group all search volume data together so you will never get an accurate overview.
Implement your keywords naturally
Once you’ve decided what keywords best suit your business, incorporate them as naturally as possible within your site.
Title tags and meta descriptions
Title tags and meta descriptions are equally important to get right as this is what is going to get your potential customers to click on your website rather than your competitors.
Title tags appear as a short headline summary in browsers and search engine results. Meta descriptions offer an additional short summary about your site. To encourage clicks, these should be concise, relevant and compelling, with natural keyword inclusion.
Make your content king
Search engines place a high priority on website content to determine rankings. As well as including your keywords as naturally as possible within your content (without resorting to keyword ‘stuffing’), there are other factors that influence how your content is evaluated.
Focus on quality
High quality content that is useful and relevant to your audience will always get ranked higher than large volumes of content of poor value. Your content should be unique, engaging and able to solve your audiences’ problems or questions. Publish content relating to your niche market that showcases your expertise.
Make it current
Search engines look favourably on sites that keep their content fresh and updated, with frequent posts on topical issues. This also helps to encourage repeat visits from your followers. Don’t just add content for the sake of it, however. Quality control should be adhered to every time you hit the publish button.
Create shareable content
When you publish content of high value, your audience is more likely to share this with others, particularly if you incorporate social media share buttons at the bottom of your content. This is beneficial for increasing awareness and can boost your SEO profile.
Hone your writing skills
If the thought of creating content seems daunting, especially if you aren’t a natural writer, or you’re strapped for time, consider outsourcing this work to a marketing agency or freelance writer. This ensures your credibility is maintained.
If you create your own content, make sure it’s accurate, precise and unique. Search engines have a knack of sniffing out content that is duplicated or copied from other sources, so don’t risk penalising your ranking potential by resorting to plagiarism. Also, follow the best practice rules of basic text formatting, for improving the user experience.
Add internal links
Adding internal links in your content directs users to other parts of your site and helps establish an information hierarchy. Search engines refer to internal links when working out what your site is about, so they’re an integral element of SEO. To make the best use of internal linking, it’s vital to only create links that are useful to the reader, and will aid navigation, without going overboard.
Adding visual content to your website can promote your products and enhance the user experience, and it’s generally highly regarded by search engines. Be mindful of adding heavy files or plugins, however, as these may slow down the loading speed of your site, which can deter visitors and may even devalue your search ranking.
As well as optimising the size of your images, consider adding alt text, which helps describe the image to search engines, to improve your ranking.
Structure your URL’s appropriately
The URL’s, or web page addresses, of your pages appear in search results, and can have an impact on SEO. Ensuring they are appropriately formatted can influence ranking, usability, authority and shareability. Keep your URL’s short, precise and unambiguous, so they are easy to understand for users and search engines. Add keywords as naturally as possible to describe the page in your URL, and separate words using hyphens (-). If a user mistypes your URL or a page is redirected, this shows as a 404 error. It’s essential to properly configure this page, so users know where to go next, and to avoid it hampering their overall experience of your site.
Build external links
As well as having internal links within your content, if you want to succeed at SEO, it’s important to add external links, too. These should be high quality, live links from other relevant sites that help to drive target groups to your own site. Link building can be a complex affair, and search engines can penalise sites that flout the rules, so it’s worthwhile seeking expert advice to get this aspect spot on.
Make your site easy to navigate
Your website should flow naturally and logically to aid navigation and usability. A well-designed site will also portray a professional image, and, as such, eliminates many of the errors that contribute towards search de-ranking. A sitemap can also help audiences and search engines easily locate your content.
Keep on top of SEO trends
SEO is not a one-off activity, and if you want to do it well, you need to keep on top of what trends the search engines are currently favouring to boost your ranking.
Having a mobile-friendly website is one of the most important SEO must-haves of recent times. In fact Google themselves have stated that there are more searches performed on mobile devices in English speaking Countries than on a desktop device. With more people using mobile devices for searching, any website that doesn’t optimise its site for mobile use will miss out on attracting new leads, and will never achieve a high ranking status.
Social media is also a big consideration for boosting your brand awareness and driving targeted visitors to your website. Although social media likes and shares do not directly secure a higher ranking, the impact of these shares does. Social media marketing can be a minefield, especially for the uninitiated, so an expert marketing agency can help put an effective strategy in place for you.
Track and measure your SEO strategies
If you want SEO to work for your business, you need to track and monitor your strategies. SEO analytics are invaluable tools and methods for gaining a huge insight into aspects, such as how long visitors stay on your site, page loading times, whether your content is well received and getting shared, who your audience is, what content they want and whether your keywords are working.
This invaluable information can help you to shape future SEO strategies and tailor them so you get the best return on investment for the initiatives you employ. It will also better serve your audiences, and, of course, improve your search ranking.
Lastly, Google have stated that it is important for the user experience for each page of your website to load as fast as possible. Nobody is going to hang around and wait ten seconds for each page to load. It also has a direct negative impact on your search engine rankings.
Check yourself to see how fast your website loads using GTmetrix. It will also give you a list of suggestions that you or a marketing agency can implement to speed up your website.
Does all this sound far too daunting to do yourself?
Whether you need assistance on which SEO strategies to implement for your business, how you can make your business grow through SEO or how to monitor your SEO campaigns, a professional SEO and digital marketing agency, such as Vaccoda, can set you on the right path to SEO success and help you drive new leads and sales. We can also build a new website for you too!