Welcome to Part 1 of a 2 part series of SEO: The Basics. The aim of this blog is to give you a general basic understanding of what SEO is, why you might need it and to give you some ideas of what you personally can do with your website to increase business!
What Does SEO Mean?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This means making influential changes to your website, so that your pages show up as a result of people’s searches on Google, without you having to pay for an ad. You are literally optimising your website in order for you to increase visitors to your website and drive up revenue organically.
Why would you need SEO?
- You’re wanting to increase the number of people visiting your website.
- You want more customers to buy your products.
- You want to save some money.
Why have you got a website in the first place? If you only want it to show people that you’re a legitimate business after a day of networking then you may not want to be actively growing it – you have a reference website. If, however, you are interested in getting new leads or selling more products then you absolutely need to think about SEO.
The Three Main Areas of SEO:
So let’s look into the three main areas of SEO. There are three main overarching elements of SEO and these include: On-page SEO, Off-page SEO and Technical SEO:
One: On-page SEO
Covers all things that you can do on your website to give it a little help.
On-page SEO includes things like: Internal Linking
This is where you hyperlink text on a page to link through to another page on your website. This tiny little task is a quick win for reinforcing the structure of your website. By internally linking text across your website, you are unknowingly sending a signal of relevancy to Google. When Google crawls a webpage, it will know where that link is being pointed to, so only make links if they are relevant.
Internal links will also encourage your website visitors to look around the website and stay on it for longer and the longer someone stays on your website, the higher a chance you have of them either buying from you or submitting a contact form if you are service based. A couple of links per page if relevant is a good starting point. You don’t want to do too many on one page or it will have a negative effect as Google will see that as keyword stuffing and you could be penalised for this and be pushed down the rankings on Google (rather than climb up them). Think about the User Experience (UX), when doing internal linking. If I am a customer reading about a topic in a blog that is discussing a product or service that is being offered – ask yourself the question: ‘how can I make getting to that page easier?’. I don’t want to have to go all the way to the top of the website to look through the main menu to find what I’m looking for, I’ve just been reading about how great this thing is. I am now convinced it’s what I need but how do I find it? Try to internally link at both the top and bottom of your blogs to help that user journey. If you don’t have a blog – you should get one!
Another aspect you may want to consider is: External Linking
This is exactly the same as internally linking with hyperlinked text, except you are linking to a page on someone else’s website. If you are talking about a venue or a supplier for example, it would be good to link through to their website (if they have one). Again, by doing this, you are telling Google what this page is about, you are reinforcing that it is that particular company or location that you are discussing on your page. You want to both give and receive external links but we’ll move on to how to go about getting them shortly…
Now you’ve sorted out your on page links, you should review the copy or text on each of your web pages. You should think about:
Using keyword research to focus your copy/text
Google looks to give top positions to website pages based on a huge number of factors, some are known to SEOs whilst others are theoretical. As a basic, when creating a website page, you need to ensure that the primary keyword you have chosen for that page is in the first paragraph and set up as an H1 title on the page. You should then use secondary keywords for that page as headings to try to rank for those as well (but don’t overdo it!). Cramming in as many keywords on a page as possible is unlikely to get that page ranking well for any of them as it will be seen as keyword stuffing and, just like I’ve mentioned with the internal linking, it may have a negative effect rather than a positive one. You should go through every single page on your website and review the content on the pages. How much copy do you have on the page? If your webpage has a few sentences about something and your competitor has a few paragraphs – who is more likely to get a top spot on Google? Google is highly tuned to giving top spots to website pages that answer a user’s question. As a guide, aim for at least 300-500 words on the main pages but don’t waffle – your content has to be of good quality, targeted and relevant to your keywords.
When you’re choosing a keyword for your page, it might be easy to assume that you should go after general keywords but this is not the case. General keywords like “cats” will have a high volume of searches every month but because it’s so broad, you’ll find that anything to do with cats will show up and if you have a website with a low Domain Authority (which is a score out of 100 that Google gives a website – i’ll tell you more a bit later), you will not be ranking well if at all for that keyword so you should be more targeted and choose something like “cat pencil cases”. This is known as a long tailed keyword but as it has a smaller search volume, you have more of a chance of ranking high for it and because it is more specific, you also have a higher chance of the person who clicked on your link and and who has gone to your page turning into a customer!
“Cats” – 550,000 estimated searches per month in the UK!
This has lots of traffic but lots of low value traffic where nobody is sure what the intent behind the search is – are people looking for a cat sanctuary, funny cat videos, images of cats or looking to find out more about them?
“Cat pencil cases” – 480 estimated searches per month in the UK.
This has a much smaller number of searches but the users know what they are looking for. There is a much higher chance of them becoming a customer or making an enquiry because they know exactly what they are looking for. This is the type of traffic you want to be attracting to your website because they are more likely to become a customer.
You should be very wary of anyone that promises you top spots on Google. SEO often involves testing things to review the results and to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. There is no guarantee that you will be in the top positions for the keywords you actually want to rank for as there are so many factors involved and it is extremely difficult, particularly if a client’s website is in a highly competitive industry. It’s not impossible but it’s an art form.
*Top Tip: Chrome has lots of wonderful free extensions that you can download. Keyword Surfer can be installed so you can check at a glance, what the estimated search volume for a certain keyword is and this can assist you in creating a digital marketing strategy to get more customers and reach more people.
Now, speaking of strategy, the next thing to consider on-page is:
As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t have a blog currently on your website, you should really think about getting one. Blogs allow you to target more keywords if you don’t really want to set up a new page in the menu for this. You can add internal links to the main page in your blogs to again, reinforce and support your website’s main pages. Blogs can allow you to write about similar subtopics to your main pages and if done well, can bring you a large amount of traffic. Always keep in mind what you want your website visitors to end up doing. Blog pages are a way of opening up your net to catch more potential visitors, you convince them to read more in your blogs, point them to the main page where you might have a call to action such as contact form button or an add to basket button.
With that in mind, you should think about doing regular…
Review all of your website pages to ensure that you have a decent amount of copy or text and that you’ve included internal links where necessary. Do you have any pages that don’t have good quality images or any that don’t have images at all? Customers do not want to be confronted by a great wall of text so using imagery to break that up can significantly improve your page and user experience.
So now we’ve looked into the stuff you can do on-page, this brings me to:
Two: Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO covers elements of SEO where you do things on other websites to help your website.
Backlinks & reaching out to people!
This is basically where someone on another website has hyperlinked some text to externally link back to your website. You want backlinks going to your website as they can help with trust signals, particularly if they are coming from a website that is authoritative such as a government body or a media website or even a website that is relevant to your industry. Google will often know if you’ve bought backlinks, some companies that offer to help you build your backlink profile will find websites that are very untrustworthy in the eyes of Google and often have links to thousands of sites with no clear industry. These are known as ‘link farms’ so steer clear from paying for links from sites like these.
If you want to build up your backlink profile and increase the number, the best way is to naturally create amazing content that people will want to share! You can also incorporate backlink building within your digital marketing strategy. You want to be looking to see if you can get backlinks by offering other websites great content or suggesting they might find your content useful. Getting a backlink from a website that has a decent Domain Authority score (there’s that word again), is like gold dust because it’s an indicator that Google trusts this website and therefore will start to trust yours.
A couple ways of working on getting some backlinks is through:
PR focuses on reaching out to people on your behalf in order to ultimately obtain a backlink from a website to yours but also to share press releases and build up your brand awareness. If you don’t get a backlink from carrying out a PR exercise, then at the very least, you can be increasing your brand awareness and getting more visitors to your website which in turn will help Google understand that your website is popular and will reward you for it by pushing you up the rankings. This again is one of the multiple different ranking factors that SEOs know about.
We’re all familiar with social media but we might not be using it for our businesses in the way that we should. Like with any strategy, you should consider creating a social media content plan. This is to support your website efforts by promoting areas of the website that you’d like to improve sales wise, letting your followers know about your company updates and engaging with your customers. You need to look at social media as a way of signposting potential new clients to your website and build brand loyalty. Someone who is actively engaging with your brand is someone that is likely to be a repeat customer if you look after them. Statistically, it’s much easier to get a customer to become a repeat buyer if they have a good experience than it is to seek out new clients. This is why making sure that your website is a good experience for visitors is so important. If you walked into a shop and the salesman was disinterested or you couldn’t find what you were looking for – you wouldn’t expect them to be a customer and the way that you look at your website should be no different – it’s your shop front in a digital setting!
Which leads us into the third main part of SEO…
Three: Technical SEO
I won’t go into much detail here as this is a very advanced part of SEO but it covers all things technical to do with website performance and a bunch of stuff that will blow your minds. Website speed and broken pages fall under this section of SEO but I mention it because it should be something that you consider when working on your digital marketing strategies.
Keep an eye out for part 2 to see what else you can do for your website…