This post is written by Simon Ensor, Managing Director of Yellowball, Award-winning Creative Consultants. Here he shares his expertise on SEO and how you can use it when building your website.
What is SEO?
Let’s start right at the beginning; SEO stands for search engine optimisation. But what does that mean? It means that you optimise your website so that people can find your business when they use a search engine, preferably through a number of routes including people that may have never heard of your business but are looking for a supplier of a particular product or service.
Is it effective? Yes. If executed properly SEO is one of the highest converting forms of marketing. It is a critical form of what is known as ‘Inbound Marketing’. Traditional marketing was interruptive, i.e interrupt someone’s day with a radio ad or a large billboard and hope that they are either persuaded by your ad or are by chance have a need for that product or service. It would be unfair to call it a ‘spray and pray’ methodology because for instance radio can be targeted according to the demographic of the station’s listeners. However, it is a far cry from the type of targeted campaigns that our digital age has afforded us. How fortunate.
The beauty of great SEO (or Inbound Marketing in general) is that the user finds your business off their own back. They come to you. They have already demonstrated a need, or at least an interest, allowing you to then prove your worthiness to said intrepid internet explorer.
You get it. But how do you harness such potential?
SEO has for a long time been considered some sort of mythical dark art shunned by the rest of the marketing community and only achievable by an obscure club of people who sit in dark rooms with pony tails and star trek t-shirts. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there are some technical aspects but the core theories can genuinely be grasped by anyone. There are over 200 factors that go into an SEO campaign. But fear not, I shall attempt to form a starter pack of sorts. You will have to excuse the very broad strokes of the metaphorical paint brush. Be warned, executing a great campaign is time intensive and results are by no means instant. Good things come to those that wait – except this requires hard work for the duration of the waiting period…
Decide on which search terms you want to target.
It might seem abundantly obvious…but humour me. This goes further than just choosing your main keywords (hence why I have called them search terms). Think about what people might be searching for in the run up to making a purchasing decision. Will they be researching a particular aspect of your product? Are they likely to search for costs? Are there technical aspects of your product which would be searched? All of these search terms will fuel the rest of the campaign.
The next stage is to find out if these search terms are actually worth anything. If nobody searches for them you are unlikely to get the returns you want from a campaign. Bear in mind that the more specific the search term the less likely it is to have large volumes of people using it, but conversely could have a higher conversion rate. There are a multitude of paid tools which give you aggregated numbers. However, as a method of dipping your toes in the water you can use Google’s Keyword Planner. Just type in your search terms and see the range of search volumes. You can then apply common sense as to which ones would be valuable to your business.
Focus on Authority
I dare not go into the minutiae for fear of having to chain myself to a desk for a number of days to finish this article. However, I do believe that a lot of the smaller detail can be achieved by default if you focus on quality and therefore authority. Google is super smart, in fact scarily so, but Google doesn’t live in the physical world. You may be the greatest personal trainer in London but if you are not demonstrating that to Google in a digital form, Google has very little to go on.
You need to prove to Google that you are the best and most relevant result for a given search term. This does NOT mean putting that keyword as many times as you can on your website (a.k.a keyword stuffing). That may have worked 10 years ago but Google didn’t become the behemoth that it is now without evolving to be smarter than such simple tricks. It means ensuring the content on your site adequately demonstrates your knowledge on the subject and the products/services you offer.
What do I mean by content? Well in simplistic terms I am referring to the text that is present on your site. Google is not a mind reader, it relies on certain elements of the web to determine the value that you represent for the user. One of these values is content so make sure that your content is detailed (without being boring), engaging for the user and updated regularly. Create a blog or news section and join in with industry commentary and research. Provide guides on your website or technical specifications, beef up some of your current website content. Just make sure that it is interesting. View it as adding value for the user during the time they spent on their website rather than just writing for the sake of ranking on search engines, this will help you maintain authoritative content.
Read up on Onsite Optimisation
One of the big reasons people avoid learning about SEO is the excessive amount of terminology that is casually bandied about by those ‘in the know’. Don’t be intimidated. The marketing world loves terminology and whilst it might sound complex it is actually rather easy to pick up.
On that note, you should read up on the major pieces of onsite optimisation. ‘Onsite’ refers to everything that is actually on-your-site, get it? Lightbulb. For example your title tags should be optimised…..again, to demonstrate that the terminology is not that complex, title tags act as the titles of your page. These are the links that are displayed in search results and the words that pop up if you hover over the tabs at the top of your browsers. Include the search terms you want that page to target, make sure they are enticing and relevant as well as under around 55 characters.
View onsite optimisation as the foundations of your website’s ability to rank in the search results. Ignore onsite optimisation and you can waste a lot of effort on a campaign. The big secret is that a lot of people do exactly this. Why? Because going through onsite optimisation is particularly mind numbing. Regardless, there are a number of items that you should cover as a bare minimum:
– Title Tags
– Meta Descriptions
– Cover off as many items on Google’s Page Speed Insights as possible.
– Heading Tags
– Duplicate Content
– Alternative Text on images
– Your Google My Business Page (although not technically onsite, it should still be covered)
Fear not, if you don’t understand all the terminology use our SEO glossary to expand the cranial grey matter.
But What About Linkbuilding?
If you embark upon even the smallest journey of discovery into SEO you will no doubt come across whole swathes of information on linkbuilding. It is possibly the most infamous aspect of SEO and one that can land in you in very hot waters if done incorrectly. Let’s set the record straight. A link from a website to your website acts as a vote of confidence or endorsement in the eyes of Google. However, the website needs to be relevant to yours and of sufficient quality.
The problem with link building is that people can’t seem to resist the temptation of attempting to manipulate the system. Historically these ‘Black Hat’ SEOs have used incredibly low quality websites such as link directories to gain a link for their website. These websites are set up purely to provide a link holding very little value for the user….and therefore Google. These websites were not used by real people and had little to no relevance to the websites they were linking to. It makes sense then that Google would actively penalise websites that looked to gain these types of links – avoid them at all costs.
View link building as a form of digital PR. When securing placement of content on another site you want it to be of high quality and on a website as relevant as possible to yours. If this was part of a digital PR strategy its objective would be to provide great traffic to your website that will convert into customers. The same is true for link building. Focus on increasing your authority on the web by being featured on the best and most relevant websites. This can be through reviews, editorial content or any other form of placement. The only other thing to bear in mind is that Google detests paid links. So don’t go round websites offering them cash in return for a link.