As an entrepreneur, you know that your website is probably your most important business asset. It allows customers to find you, gives you a space to explain your services and promote your knowledge and expertise and it also gives you the ability to work from home – or anywhere else in the world for that matter. But once you have finished building your website, how can you make sure that it functions at its very best?
The answer lies with SEO
To explain why people use SEO, one of the best metaphors is that the internet is like a city. Every house has its own address and is filled with rooms; every website has its own address and each page is like a room within that address. The streets between each house connect them; the links between websites connect them. Doors between rooms and links to pages on the same website provide movement there too. The metaphor can get a bit fiddly, but you know where it’s going…
This is an image of what the internet looks like:
The premise of SEO is to make your website as easy as possible for people to find. This means building lots of roads towards your house, or rather, placing lots of hyperlinks on other websites to lead people to your own. The more times your site is linked to on other sites, the more important it will seem and the more likely people are to land on it.
The number of clicks and the amount of time spent on each page are measured by Google as well, so it’s not just about bringing people to your door, it’s also about encouraging them to stay and have a look around. In fact, there are all sorts of things that are measured by Google and used to feed its algorithm and determine your page ranking.
But SEO is also about planting signposts for Google’s bot to crawl so that it knows what your site is about and how relevant your own links are. As is Google’s way, they are constantly changing the criteria for which signposting techniques are best. This means that while keywords stuffing was a great idea 10 years ago, now it will get your site blacklisted. Similarly, the size of blog posts is up for continual debate and who you should link to is controversial too.
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Essentially, what you need to know as a business owner, is that your website SEO is never going to be finished. There will always be things you can improve and things that will be a great idea now but in a year or two’s time will already be a disaster. Think of it like interior design, avocado baths were great in the 70s but not so much in the 21st century.
But before you start panicking, here are a couple things you can do now that should help your website improve its results – and these things haven’t changed too much in the last couple of years either.
In some ways, keyword research is a really easy task. If you are a spaghetti maker, the main keyword on your site will be spaghetti. So far, so obvious. But keyword research will also show you the keywords and phrases that are most relevant to spaghetti – meatballs, for example – and which keywords and phrases searchers tend to use most. Really, you are looking to create the most comprehensive semantic field you possibly can.
Furthermore, keyword research will often flag up the keywords being used by the competition. This doesn’t just show you where your site needs to be added to in order to compete on these keywords, it also indicates where the competition is failing and therefore which keywords you can incorporate to jump ahead.
Keywords are also a good way to identify trends and get involved. For example, Google Trends will show you exactly which keywords and topics are trending on the search engine. This gives you an impression of what is concerning the public most and could provide an opening for you to write a blog post or something similar to get involved and compete for those keywords.
Once you have your keywords, you should definitely start planning your content. Ideally, every piece will be relevant in some way to your industry so that it will naturally incorporate a variety of keywords.
This is why regular blogging is such a popular idea and hasn’t slowed down at all over the last few years in spite of the growth of video. In fact, if you want to jazz up your blog posts, incorporating a video is a really good idea. Blogs that contain embedded videos tend to attract more inbound links, making your page much more popular in SEO terms. Plus, you can embed the same video in multiple blogs, just add a different content each time.
But you don’t have to stick to blogs to build your SEO up. Adding pages that bridge blogs and services or products is a really good idea to provide your customers with more information in order to persuade them to convert. A simple ‘explainer’ page will take them from a ‘you should do this’ style blog to a ‘you should buy this service’ page by adding just a bit more detail and laying the groundworks for success.
Location, location, location
Another aspect of SEO is location. This is where the internet city really intersects with the real cities you are targeting. Think of it as a portal from the online world to the physical world, a way for searchers to come and actually find you and your shop (if you have one).
Location pages are a great way to capture an audience who search using longtail location-based search terms such as ‘property in London’ or ‘plumber in Manchester’. Of course, generic search terms like these will be highly competitive so the best thing to do is reduce the pool of searchers slightly in order to appear higher in the rankings.
So, terms like ‘property in Lambeth’ would be more specific and ‘property in West Dulwich’ would be even more so. Specificity is key here and the more location pages you have, the more likely your site will be found locally.
Though a lot of SEO experts like to make SEO sound like some sort of crazy witchcraft, it is actually more about competing with other similar sites with a set of rules to follow. The principle of SEO – make your site as easy to find as possible – is actually fairly simple and there are plenty of pages that will outline how best to go about doing it.
The real trick, then, is having the ability to spot where changes can be made to improve the site, how your competitors succeed and fail and, where SEO practices are changing. Essentially, you want to stay as close behind Google in the marathon as you can while keeping an eye out for competitors trying to slip past you.
If you are naturally gifted at SEO and you have the time, you could stay on top of your website yourself. But, given that you are really meant to be running your business and not just the website end of it, a smarter move is to either hire an SEO expert to work within your company or to get the advice of a consultant or consultancy instead. Outsourcing SEO is common practise amongst businesses and why wouldn’t you choose an expert when it matters so much?