Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science (as all marketing is today) of increasing visibility of your website (your most important digital real estate) on a search engine’s natural or un-paid/organic search results. Imagine you search the Heineken beer brand on Google, it’s a certain outcome that their website will top the natural listing (it does). But what happens when you search the term “beer”? Competition over that keyword does and beer retailers rank higher for that than manufacturers. Now, SEO may not be an appropriate extensive strategy for every website but it might be incremental for digital only brands. There are other paid for marketing strategies such as PPC or display advertising but search engine optimization helps build credibility, have a higher targeted reach than ever before and people who land on your website will find it relevant and rewarding (useful for the purpose it was created for). If your website has been designed badly or without SEO in mind, then there is a strong possibility that no new visitors will ever find your website through the search engines (and nobody wants that).
So how do we get started?
Keyword Research: Keywords are the phrases your target market types into a search engine for results relevant to them. It’s almost impossible to rank high on search engine results without choosing the right keywords for maximum efficiency. Here are some tips to remember when choosing the right keywords: for example you are a small Italian Restaurant in London and as an ambitious business owner point to the obvious keyword phrase “Italian Restaurant in London”. However, this phrase is a little too popular and will already have a lot of established websites ranking for it. The key in keywords (ha) should be to not use too broad of a phrase. How about “Italian Restaurant in North London” or “Italian Restaurant in Camden”. When describing keywords it’s best to chose two or more words that will better your chance of appearing on the first page of Google where targeted users can see your website rather than be on the fifth page fighting for a popular keyword.
P.S. A tool I recommend is the Google Keywords Tool that can help with suggestions of what keywords to choose and which ones to avoid and make life easier.
On Page SEO: Brilliant. We now have our keywords. Keywords that are not too generic but yet very relevant to our product/service for sale and relevant to our targeted customer. So what now? We want to appear in the search results section for our keywords and the only way we can do that is by using these words in our website content and letting Google know that we mean business. #WeAreSoRelevant, son.
Here is a quick breakdown of how we need to change our website to climb up the organic search ladder: Use of Keywords in Meta-Titles (text on top of your browser) and Site Descriptions (letting Google know what the page is about and when to list it). Image Alt Text (Google can’t read pictures, make sure they know it is “Yummy Italian Food in London”). On-page Copy/Content (Naturally fitting keywords that describe your products). Keywords in Headings/Page Names (Url’s within the website). HTML Sitemap (A map featuring all the pages on your website that helps them get indexed in the Google Index). XML Sitemap (an xml sitemap that will list all the pages on your site in a format that can be read by the search engine spiders. This file should be placed in your site’s root folder so that appears like http://www.yummyitalianfood.co.uk/sitemap.xml). Google Webmaster Tools (Register for a Webmaster tools account and by adding a piece of verification code to your html you can access detailed information about your site, you can tell Google you want to target searchers in the UK). Fresh Content (websites with no new published content are going to lose out to website publishing relevant, keyword related content on a daily basis) So, giddy up!.
P.S. The quicker your website loads, the better it is for SEO.
Off Page SEO: Apart from all the internal hard work, Google still needs more convincing that you should be number one. Seriously, Google? We need other people pointing out that we should be number one too. We need Backlinks. These are links coming in from affiliates or other websites that act as social signals pointing out that our web page content is popular and useful. Links provide an indication of value. The more links you have the more valuable your website is. Please don’t have inbound links from low quality/spammy websites (Google WILL punish you). Sudden backlink spikes can also raise concern, so gradually build high quality links from similar niche websites and blogs.
P.S. Engagement through social bookmarking and sharing of your link on social media are also good signals to search engines that your content is great and should be ranked higher.
Overall, Search Engine Optimization is a task that requires knowledge, research and patience when seeing your website move up the rankings. Also, according to Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. So keep a keen interest in this art of SEO if new targeted visitors and an online presence mean something to your business.
Which SEO strategy do you think is the most important to implement?