Many of the things we do start with a search engine, and it seems everyone spends more time online nowadays. Whether reading reviews for a new TV show, booking tickets or ordering a take out, it all starts with a search. The portal to almost everything we do is on the World Wide Web.
The topic of this post is search engine optimisation, most commonly referred to in its acronym form as SEO. I will shed light on SEO strategies and show you how to invest in it and see real returns.
If being found in search engines such as Google and Bing is important to you, keep reading.
Topics I will cover are:
- An overview of SEO
- Keyword research
- Optimising content for keywords
- Content planning
- Social media distribution
- Link building
An overview of SEO
In the first instance, let’s take a minute to explain what SEO is. It’s the practice of developing content to be seen in search engine results (SERPs), gain exposure for your brand and ultimately, more visitors to your website.
The best way to understand SEO is to look closer at the function of search engines. The sole intention of a search engine is to deliver relevant search results to users. They want to provide an excellent service and show results that match what the user may be looking for.
Search engines achieve this by regularly scanning your site’s content, and from this, assign the site a rank. Search engines take into account many factors; your site will be ranked based on content quality, loading speed, how secure it is, traffic volume and quality of code. This information gets thrown into a very sophisticated algorithm, and in the blink of an eye, your site receives its ranking.
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs); whether it is on Google, Bing or Yandex, all share similar formats. First, are paid listings; these are advertisements that people have placed to appear with specific keywords. They will then show approximately ten ‘natural’ listings, a headline, some descriptive text and the URL.
These natural listings are likely to be a mixture of news, videos, products and images as the search engine is returning personalised results to match your search query best. It is important to remember there’s a lot of different opportunities to get your content on results pages and in front of more people.
Good things come to those who wait, and that couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to SEO. Long-term gains require a long-term strategy and understanding this will help you to set goals and manage your expectations. Researching keywords, creating quality content and fixing technical problems on your site takes time.
For the first time, users are showing marketers their intentions through the search words they use. And the bigger the web, the more users will rely on search engines to make sense of it all. Couple this with the boom in smartphones and high-speed mobile Internet, making a search possible from almost anywhere, at any time.
Good SEO will put you in front of a targeted audience and provide you with a stream of intentional traffic. With analytics in place, you can monitor and measure effectiveness. You are privy to what users do and don’t do on your website. Allowing you to alter and change content to better advance them through your sales funnel.
Optimising your site’s pages for the terms your potential customers use is key to SEO success. A structured approach to finding the keywords for use on your site will provide a solid foundation for your SEO efforts.
To start any keyword research, you will do best if you think as if you were a customer – try to look at your business from their perspective. A good place to start is by listing all your services and products, write down as many keywords and phrases as you can, the more, the merrier.
Now that you have your keywords, let’s look at a tool you can use to develop them further. By far the most popular is Google Keyword Planner, it is free, but you will require an AdWords account to gain access.
Once you have access to the Keyword Planner, it is easy to develop more keywords and ad groups. You can select location, language and other options to fine-tune. There is even a ‘Get Ideas’ option which, if pressed, will offer up suggestions. From this, you will start to understand the search terms and phrases typed into Google.
Once you have researched your keywords, you will want to see how much demand there is for ranking for them. The keyword planner will indicate which keywords are low, medium or high in the competition column. A wise strategy moving forward is to look for keywords and phrases that are very relevant to your business but don’t get a lot of search volume. Finding lots of these long tail keywords can make for a successful keyword strategy.
Your next step will be to sprinkle these keywords into the pages of your website. For some, you will be looking to optimise existing pages. Others, you will need to create new pages to accommodate the keywords you want to rank for in search engines. Remember to continually analyse your keyword usage, keeping an eye on current trends and your analytics for better ways to turn visitors into customers. SEO is a continuous process; it is not a do once and forget marketing strategy.
Optimising content for keywords
People use search engines to find information relevant to their query. A search engine’s job is to quickly provide search results (SERPs) to the word or phrase searched.
It all starts with your site structure; Google will reward you if it is clean, straightforward and easily understood by users. If a search engine can understand your site semantics, it is more likely to return often and most importantly, recommend you to its users. A clearly laid out website can go a long way to ensuring good search engine visibility.
So, you will need to take time designing a logical and easy to navigate website. If you and your visitors understand your site, you can be assured a search engine will too.
The content contained on a modern-day website comes in many forms, but the obvious place to start is with your text. It should be organised and formatted in a way both humans and search engines understand. For example, you will have headings and subheadings, plus the main text body. You will also have ordered lists, product descriptions, FAQs; all need to be formatted clearly and correctly.
Decide the keyword or phrase you want a page optimised for, the next step to consider is the page URL. Your keyword or phrase should appear in it as concisely as possible. It needs to be short, descriptive. There is also a title tag and meta description to consider. It won’t necessarily help with ranking per se, but it may increase your click-through rate if well written.
There are lots of other texts we can optimise – the content itself. Here we need to focus on being user-friendly and not so much for search engines. You can’t beat the algorithm when it comes to text relevancy, so, you should write with the user in mind. A rule of thumb is to include your target phrase once to three times in any piece of text.
Images, animation, audio and video can all convey feelings much more efficiently than text, and make for an interactive experience for visitors. The problem is, search engines cannot view this content the same way as a human can. To solve this, you will need to ensure a descriptive text containing your keywords to accompany the non-text element. Make sure you insert your keywords into the file name, alt text and in the metadata behind the element or as a descriptive paragraph next to it. As long as the formatting is logical, a search engine will understand your intent.
Having a sound long-term content strategy is more important than ever for business owners looking to achieve online success. The planning, creation and management of content needs a plan. Look closely at your audience and consider their needs and what’s important to them. Support this with keyword research, and you’ll have a foundation for creating great content.
There’s no doubting content is king when it comes to online marketing. If you’re not publishing content to the web, you are missing out on potential traffic to your website. Quality is important in attracting the right audience. Well written and thought out content is much more likely to be returned to for reference, or shared on social media. Search engines reward this, as they see it as a sort of testimonial and will rank you higher as a result.
Central to any content marketing strategy is an editorial calendar. You will need to map out, who will be writing what, when, and how best to manage the distribution of your new content across various marketing channels. Using an editorial calendar is a great way to keep track and ensure consistency. Quality is crucial, and you will want to properly plan content opportunities that search engines will love and your visitors find informative.
Links are the underlined text on web pages that when clicked will take you to another web page. Search engines see these links as an approval from the site linking to you. The more of these you have, the more official your website is in the eyes of Google and alike. Building up these links is important, and your ranking will be much higher with them, than without.
There are two types to consider; one is internal and the other external. Internal links direct users to the pages of your website. Conversely, external links point users to a different internet site. Of course, internal links you have full control over and should look to reference other relevant pages and articles whenever possible. These links help search engines decide relevancy and understand your content.
External links are harder to garner, and you are probably thinking how are you going to get sites you have no control over to link to you. There are a couple of tactics you can deploy; the easiest is to register your business in directories such as, Google My Business. Another way is to create quality content, if it is good, others will want to link to it, providing these hugely important links over time.
Social media distribution
More and more businesses are leveraging social media to share content and refer traffic to their website; it’s a powerful tool in helping potential customers find you. It is however still quite new, and many businesses have dived in feet first without really knowing how to use it correctly.
You’ll need to consider what social networks to use. You’ll want to have a presence on the top social networks, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You may also need to embrace networks such as Instagram or Pinterest; it depends on your business type. For example, if you’re a restaurant and don’t use Instagram to take pictures of your food and premises to share with the world, you are most certainly missing out on opportunities to increase online presence.
If you’re actively looking to grow your communities on social media, a share button on your website to the most common networks will help achieve this. Once you’ve selected your networks, look to your editorial calendar for the best way to get new content out there. You will be glad you did.
There is much more to SEO than covered here, but I hope by now you will have a basic understanding of search engine optimisation. Wherever you decide to turn your attentions to first, I hope the path ahead is little less daunting.
Of course, if by now your realise SEO is something you can’t do, due to time restrictions or gaps in technical skills, you can always rely on AA Marketing to complete this for you. Contact us for a tailored approach to your SEO needs. We look forward to hearing from you and of your success.