Yup, you have all heard those words and we have all sagely nodded, pretending we know exactly what is being talked about; we’ve sucked in breath at what seems like an opportune time in the conversation and rolled our eyes to register our disapproval at something we think we should do… when really, as a local plumbing or luxury spa resort, we haven’t the foggiest what is being debated.
The stock answer tends to be ‘our web design people do it’ and, with a flick of the hand, we have washed all SEO responsibility from ourselves. We assume the web design people are doing it; they could be but, it does pay to know what it is you may have agreed to (as some of it may cost you money!).
SEO – what is it?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation and it is the process by which a search engine – such as Google, Yahoo etc. – push your website to the top of the pages that a searcher will see when they are looking for something. Get it right, and your website will be at the top (or near it) on the results page and that is a really fabulous place to be.
There are lots and lots of articles on what SEO is, attempting to shed off the veil of uncertainty and mythical powers such as in this article https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/jan/16/what-is-seo-how-website-google-visibility
The search engine – a creature with mythical powers
Unseen, yet powerful, the search engine has an immense power in the background that spends all day and all night, wondering around the Internet, all-seeing and all-knowing. And these are some of the things they do:
- Spidering – not the hairy-knee’d tarantula type but more a description of the research phase of a search engine’s cycle. It takes a quick look at all or some of the pages on your website and then it will group it along with other, similar websites. So, if you are a beauty therapist, your website will be placed with all the other beauty therapy websites.
- Page rank – this is when Google or another search engine after indexing your website, will assign a certain level of importance to it. The more reputable and authoritative the search engine believes your website is, the higher the page rank.
- Search results – this is the list of websites that pop up when a user has typed on a phrase or words they want to search. The users types in ‘gardeners London’ and it will throw a whole load of websites into a prioritised list that it thinks best matches the search that user is making. These are the natural search results, as opposed to the sponsored adverts.
Many companies and local, online businesses want to improve their performance on these search engine rankings, not surprising when you consider how searchers use the listings; how far past page 2 do you look?!
How to improve your ranking
1. Key words and phrases
These are the words that point the search engine to you website, telling it in one word or short phrase what your company is about. The start of this process is quite simple – simply match the words that are obvious such as an accountancy firm would use ‘tax’, ‘book-keeping’. ‘Self-assessment returns’, ‘small business’, ‘VAT’ etc.
But, the second step in this first process is to delve a little deeper in to how customers would search for a company offering a product or service like yours. There is a technical trick to finding what their keywords are so you can match theirs… (right click on a text area, this will open a new window of code; at the top of this box you may see their hidden keywords).
2. Use these keywords on your website
This is where the ‘marathon not a sprint’ bit comes in to play and why so many online business invest in professionally written articles and posts. You can, of course, write blogs etc. yourself; if a key phrase is ‘website designer Gloucester’, then you can create a blog that has these key word phrase peppered through it (Note the word ‘peppered’, not over stuffed!).
Companies tend to be a little over-zealous about the number of different keywords and phrases in an article. One blog is not going to cut it – you are looking at creating a series of blogs and posts that have these keywords in them… the marathon, not a sprint bit!
There are many articles on the use of links on websites but stay away from the whole buying links as this sends the wrong message to the search engines, especially Google and once you have a black mark against you, it can be difficult to claw your way back.
So, in your articles and posts you add some links to other authoritative websites (like we do in our posts). They need to be appropriate and fit with the content and have an obvious reason why they are there. Like keywords and phrases, just stuffing them in is not the right way to go about optimising your website for the search engines.
Many websites, serves and hosting companies have the ability to measure the number of visitors to your website and you should start to see an increase as soon as you start to make these changes. Some people say that when you posts your articles and blogs is important; potential customers tend to be browsing in an evening and over the weekend, so having your articles online before these times is a great way of tapping into a ‘market’ (Monday morning, some experts say is the time people are least likely to be surfing the web, with later on in the week is the ‘best’ time).
But, this is an never-ending task… once you have completed this cycle, you need to start again!
SEO is the process of getting your website as close to the top of the results page as possible. There are many other technical aspects to getting your website noticed all of which can be helped along with some expert input, such as meta tags and more.