Search engine optimisation, commonly known as SEO, is the art of getting your website found on Google and other search engines.
I get many, many questions about how my clients can get SEO on their site, how they can use SEO to bring more visitors in and such. So, it seems like a good idea to put the answers out there for you.
Let’s start with something that everyone is more-or-less sure of. It’s important to keep your goal of getting found by the right people in mind whether you’re talking to an expert or planning to do something yourself. That’s because there is a lot of jargon, numbers and tech-talk associated with SEO that can distract you from your goal. As usual, I’ll be avoiding such distractions as I take you for a straightforward tour of the ins and outs of SEO.
Basically, getting your site found on Google can be broken down into four parts:
- Key word, phrase and geography planning – Work out what search terms you want ot be found for and where
- Initial setup – Things you need to do when you’re getting your site online and up to speed
- Content writing – Writing your site content in certain ways can have huge benefits.
- Ongoing SEO techniques – These include link-creation, social media and advertising.
Key Word, phrase and geography planning
You need to work out what keywords and phrases people looking for your business might use. For this use the help of others, ask what they might search for. And use tools to help you get data on what people are searching for and the search numbers. Many different businesses provide tools to help you with this including SEMRush and Google. There is no point in aiming for a search term that no one is looking for. You also need to look at the competition for the search term. How many other businesses are trying to do the same? How good is their website and what is their budget? While you can’t know their budget you can have a good idea that a large corporate is probably going to beat you in terms of SEO budget and skills. You need to also think about which geographical area you want to be found for. The search history tools allow you to drill down into the data. So you can ask how many people are searching for hairdresser in Leeds for example. Remember these targets need to be realistic and can change over time. So it might be that you initially decide to target hair stylist and hair dresser in a tight area around central Leeds. As you achieve success with that (using the tools outlined below) you could then expand out into other words and phrases and into a wider geographical area. It’s easier to start small and get those small wins and expand out, rather than trying to come top forhair dresser in the whole of the Uk first time.
Ideally, when you create your website and get it going online, you need to be thinking about SEO and getting your site set up correctly for it. But, it’s never too late to get things in place. So what things are we talking about?
Google Business is a great free service, a bit like a free ad on Google with the opportunity for your clients to leave reviews. It’s a way of giving customers looking for businesses like yours a little information about you. This includes what you do, where you are on the map, what area you serve and ways to get in touch. If there’s one thing I’d emphasise more than anything else, it’s go out and get those reviews! They bring customers to your site more than almost anything else. The setup is quick, easy and free. It’s a good idea to keep adding photos, posts, products and asking for reviews to keep it up to date. It’s a great first step toward getting your business found frequently on Google, especially in your local area or the region you cover. If you’re having trouble, I give you a tour in this video. Once again: When you’re set-up, Google Business can be a great way to get your site found more often by gathering positive reviews there. Ask satisfied customers to drop a review or direct them there automatically.
Remember that goal of getting your website found? Google Analytics gives you information on how well you are doing that. It provides a lot of information on how many people are visiting your site, how many are finding it using Google, where they are going when they get there and what they are doing. Setting up Google Analytics on analytics.google.com is a bit more complex than Google Business, but it’s not too difficult and is definitely worth it. See how to do it here. One important thing to know when starting to use Google Analytics is what you want out of your site. Yes, you want visitors, but do you want them to buy something, sign up to something, see some particular information, or something else? When you have a clear idea of that, you can look through the different bits of information Google Analytics offers and see which applies to your personal goals.
Google Search Console
As the name suggests, Google Search Console is a bit like a console from which you can manage your site’s interactions with Google. There are some basic tools to monitor searches. The most important function though is to tell you if there is anything wrong with your site’s Google listing. Don’t ignore these error messages as your site’s visitors could quickly drop to practically zero if you do! You can sign up at search.google.com/search-console. The process is a bit tricky unless you have your Analytics tag perfectly setup. Otherwise, it involves your domain name provider registration (the person who you pay for your site’s web address: www. — .co.uk), but the provider themselves can help you with that part. To sum up, having all three apps setup is essential to being found online. Google Business will help get your business found, with the help of any reviews you gather; you can check Analytics to see how well you are doing, bearing your goals in mind; and the Search Console will tell you if anything is wrong with your site’s listing and what search terms have been used to find it.
How the content of your site is written can make a huge difference to its SEO success in terms of how often it is found and how far down the search results it appears. The main technique for succeeding on this front – keywording – is also the simplest. Keywords and keywording Keywords are the words and phrases users type into Google or any other search engine to find your site as discussed above. In order for your site to be a success, it needs to attract the kind of people you want by containing the keywords they might write in the Google bar when searching for you. Imagine one of your prospective customers or audience members sitting in front of Google looking for what you and your site provide. What do they type? Those words are your keywords. If you want to write a site that nails SEO, it’s usually a good idea to start by listing these keywords. As a hint, they usually include:
- Your product or service – e.g. Dress designers
- Your location, or the area you cover – e.g. Taxis in London
- The group of people you serve – e.g. Shoes for children or Marketing for accountants
- Specific describing words (not just ‘good’) – e.g. Cute shoes for children, objective-oriented marketing
- Questions your customers might ask – e.g. How do I get customers for my accountancy business? (for our accountant-marketers)
- Try to be specific to avoid competing with too many other sites.
Once you have listed your keywords, include them as often as you naturally can in your site’s content, including the content you can’t see like page descriptions, image names and titles. Don’t just list keywords or repeat them more than twice per page as this will put people off and get you punished by Google. The best approach is to write the content naturally while keeping the keywords list to hand in case you find somewhere where one might go. Reviewing your site after writing to see where more keywords can naturally be included doesn’t hurt either. Keep updating content While writing a keyword-friendly site gives you a good base to start from, updating your site regularly with new content like blog posts ensures that it stays high in Google’s rankings. Include relevant keywords in your blogs, build links between them and share them on social media to improve your site’s standings even more. Learn more about social media and links in the techie part below and more about writing blogs to promote your site here. Make it interesting Creating stuff people want to see does your SEO no end of good. It will bring more people to your site, get them to stay longer, get shared and get linked to. All of these things are good for SEO and for your site in general. Obey Google I would need to write an encyclopedia to list all of Google’s SEO rules, and because most of them are secret, I wouldn’t be able to finish it anyway. Here are a few basics though:
- Make it readable and relevant. Google is constantly getting better at checking this.
- Put most keywords in titles and leading paragraphs.
- Mix up your format with headings, bullets and numbering.
- Don’t be repetitive.
Do all this and you should have a page that brings in a lot of search-engine users and keeps them interested when they get there.
Other content tips
- Make sure every page has a clear, accurate description for search engines and users to read.
- Ensure images and text are marked up with the correct tags so google knows what is important and what your photos are of.
- If you’re using WordPress, plugins like Yoast can help you to get your SEO just right.
Ongoing SEO Techniques
Links Links are incredibly important to SEO. The most important thing is to have a lot of them connecting your site to others. That includes incoming and outgoing links, as well as links between pages on your site. The more the links get used, the better. Make sure links are relevant to both pages involved and justified on the site they are linking from. The informative links included in this blog are good examples of how to do this. A link out of the blue won’t help you and misleading links or pages full of them may even be bad for your site’s search results. This is a huge amount of work for anyone who isn’t a web expert. However non-SEO experts can build links relatively easily through blogs, forums, free sites like Yell and Bark and social media.
Social media The jury is out on whether links from social help with your SEO. Google has stated not, but observation of the data is less clear. One thing is clear, social links drive visitor numbers, and visitor numbers help with your SEO.
Growing visitor numbers A key factor Google uses to judge your site is visitor numbers. If your site has lots of visitors Google thinks it must be useful so moves you up the rankings. This means you need to do some work on social and in newsletters to drive visitors to your site so Google can see how popular it is.
Blogging Adding content is vital to ongoing SEO and helping you expand into new keywords and areas. Remember you want blogs that are interesting for your readers, but that are also building the use of those relevant keywords.
Keep looking at the data The data doesn’t lie. Have the visitor numbers from Google grown? What have you done this month, what will you do differently next month? But do remember SEO is a slow game, nothing will change overnight.