Making SEO work for your business – Website optimisation tips
S–E–O. Three little letters that can land a really BIG punch. SEO (search engine optimisation) is the holy grail when it comes to online marketing – every business wants it, even if they don’t fully understand it or know how to make it possible.
Large businesses will often have their own in-house IT and SEO experts or have the budget to hire one. Small businesses don’t have this luxury, but the great news is there are plenty of cost-effective ways small business can boost their SEO.
I spoke to SEO expert and web strategist Jared Smith to demystify SEO and get some tips to give your website an edge.
Jared explains first what SEO means and why it’s so important to businesses.
“SEO is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining high ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo),” he said.
“It is the process of improving the visibility of a website or web page via natural, unpaid or organic search results.”
While there are other forms of search engine marketing such as paid listings, we will focus mainly on organic search results.
Why is SEO important?
“In general, the earlier (or higher a page), or more frequently a site appears in search results lists, the more visitors it will receive via the search engine.”
The aim is to attract more visitors to your site, which will hopefully result in more business or customers.
Higher search results also tend to give credibility and standing to a business.
Don’t search engines use complicated algorithms?
It is no secret that search engines such as Google are constantly updating their algorithms to maintain the credibility of their search results. SEO experts are always looking for technical ways to beat or work around the algorithms. Algorithm updates aim to shut down any unethical SEO tricks and may penalise websites that use ‘blackhat’ techniques.
A good SEO expert will keep up-to-date with the latest algorithm developments and ensure the SEO techniques they use will help not hinder your website.
This all sounds too hard
Don’t be put off by the technology and algorithms behind SEO. There are still plenty of ways you can make the most of your SEO without getting too technical. And despite the fact algorithms will always change, there are some SEO basics that remain constant.
Here are Jared’s and our top 10 tips for mastering SEO basics.
1. Have a goal in mind
Like any marketing activity, you need to have a clear goal in mind and that goal needs to tie back to your business’s overarching vision and objectives. While appearing on page one search engine results is a great outcome, it shouldn’t be your primary goal of SEO or online marketing. Neither should increased website traffic.
Both of these should be your supporting objectives, but at the end of the day you want people to do something once they reach your website. That may be to make a purchase, visit your physical store or get information for a later buying decision. Any SEO activities you do need to support this ultimate goal. And your goal should also be referred to for evaluating the success of your SEO activities.
2. Content and keywords are king
Search engines will always reward websites with relevant content and keywords.
Content must be well written, concise and tailored to your target audience. Ensure you use correct spelling and grammar and messaging is consistent across all of your online platforms.
Focus on providing content that your target audience will consider valuable.
Ensure your content features relevant keywords that users are most likely to use when they are searching for your type of products or services.
Keep in mind, what you think is a keyword and what words people are actually searching for can be completely different. There are several ways you can verify what the most popular keywords are.
Free information on hot keywords and trends can be found at Google Trends and Insights, Wordtracker and Ubersuggest. You can also type a search term straight into Google and see what predictive search options come up, choose a suggested search term and then directly below you can see how many search results there are. For more detailed keyword information you can use Google’s Keyword Planner but it may require you to set up a free Google Adwords account and campaign (though you don’t have to proceed with campaign and payment if you don’t want to).
Also keep in mind that they way people are searching for keywords these days is changing.
People are not so much searching for ‘red leather compendium’. They are more likely to type ‘where can I find a red leather compendium in Brisbane?’.
Also keep in mind what keywords your target market may use. Keywords may differ depending on your demographic. If there are hundreds of businesses all using the keyword ‘disposable coffee cups’, but your niche is ‘recyclable coffee cups’, your target audience is more likely to use a phrase like ‘recyclable or sustainable coffee cups’.
Another interesting thing to note from above is that depending on your business it may not always the best option to use the most popular keywords. There may be less competition for a niche phrase, meaning you can increase you chances of appearing higher on search results. As long as the niche phrase is relevant.
Once you have identified our keywords, make sure they are incorporated into your website copy where relevant, but do not ‘keyword stuff’. Keyword stuffing means overusing keywords and using them out of context or on pages that are not relevant to the keyword. Search engines will penalise you for keyword stuffing.
Some people may be tempted to copy and paste web content and duplicate it on their own web pages or submit it to other sites or blogs. Don’t ever just copy and paste text search engines will penalise you for duplication. You need to tailor text for each site and audience.
3. Create credible backlinks to your website
Search engines also look for credible backlinks to your website. It is good practice to have as many links back to your website from other websites or directories as possible.
This can mean submitting your website link to credible online and industry directories. You can also have links back to your website from your blog or other people’s blogs. If you are commenting/engaging in social media or blogs you can provide a link back to your website (just make sure the comments you are making are relevant and not just a blatant promotion of your website).
You may also ask business and industry partners to include links on their websites and you can offer to do the same for them.
You may like to pay for an entry on credible directories (such as Yellow Pages online), especially if they are directories commonly used by your target audience.
Constantly seek new opportunities for backlinks as search engines are looking for new links where possible. A good balance is 30 per cent new links and 70 per cent static or older links.
A word of warning though. Make sure your links are appearing on credible websites. You don’t want to be associated with spammy type sites.
If you believe your website has been listed on an inappropriate or blacklisted site and you are being penalised, you can check by obtaining a backlink report via each search engine’s Webmaster Tools and if required follow a disavow links process.
4. Leverage built-in tools on your platform
Most website platforms have built-in SEO tools and functionality that you should familiarise yourself with and leverage.
Speak to your website provider/watch tutorials/read FAQs to obtain a handle on what SEO functionality they offer.
This may involve the opportunity to specify keywords and phrases that will appear in your site’s metadata.
They may offer analytics or statistics on keywords people are using to find your site, as well as who is viewing your site, from where and how long they are spending on particular pages.
Free blogging and website platforms such as Blogger (a google product) and WordPress are already optimised in many ways. They are also automatically optimised for mobile devices and tablets and are search engine friendly. They also have built-in social media buttons for sharing your content. For some businesses it may be worthwhile considering moving their website to one of these platforms to take advantage of the SEO capabilities. Both platforms allow businesses to customise their domain names as well.
5. Use images, visuals and attachments but keep it simple
Using graphics, illustrations, photos or videos will boost engagement and search engine optimisation. When you do include visual elements, also include a relevant description, caption, tag or comments featuring keywords.
Photos and video should be compressed or resized, to minimise loading time, and be reasonably professional looking. You can compress or resize images with simple programs such as MS Paint.
If you don’t have the budget for your own professional photographs you can purchase royalty free images quite cheaply from photo libraries such as GettyImages or Shutterstock. You can also use free services such as www.pexels.com
Video content is also highly regarded by search engines.
Other types of downloadable items such as relevant infographics, podcasts and pdfs also will help with SEO.
While visual elements are a great idea, keep it simple. Avoid flash, music, pop-ups, scrolling screens and animation. If these items must be used, use them minimally.
6. Submit your site to search engines
your URL and include it in their directories.
You will be asked to identify a particular category for your industry. The category you choose will also inform SEO results.
7. Embrace social media
Having an active social media presence can boost SEO. This means having social media accounts that are kept up-to-date and engage people. As a general rule, the more engagement you have on your social media site, the higher you will rank.
Only create social media accounts on platforms relevant to your audience and you can sustain, in terms of keeping them up-to-date. Generally speaking search engines regard blogs, LinkedIn, Youtube and Facebook quite well. Depending on the industry Pinterest may also be a good option.
On all of your social media sites include a backlink to your website.
Listings or links on other reputable sites such as ebay and Gumtree are also useful if you have an e-commerce presence.
8. Keep your web-site up-to-date
Up-to-date web content not only looks professional and better connects with users, but will also help with SEO.
Make sure your content is always up-to-date, regularly renewed and accurate. Regularly check links and remove any that no longer work.
Evaluate the success of your website on an ongoing basis. Compare your results against your initial goals and objectives.
Google Analytics is a free tool that gives an overview of how people are finding and engaging with your site.
If you use your website for e-commerce you may also consider purchasing conversion software to track links between web traffic and sales.
10. Paid options and experts
Above we have outlined nine free (or mostly free) ways to boost your SEO.
However sometimes it is worthwhile to invest a little money to really give your SEO an edge.
Simple options such as using Google Adwords for paid or sponsored links may benefit your business. It is relatively easy to measure the effectiveness of any Adwords campaigns and refine your keywords.
You can also consult an SEO expert such as Jared and his company Website Software Solutions. Experts like this will take technical SEO to the next level and keep on top of any SEO developments. They will use coding and IT techniques to maximise your SEO.
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