If your business has a website, or you operate online, knowing what SEO is and how to do it is part and parcel of the digital world.
In a nutshell, it makes your website better and can massively increase your customer base. Read on to find out what you need to be doing (and why it will help you).
SEO – what exactly is it?
SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’. What you need to know is that search engines view a website differently to the way you and I would view a website. They hunt around for information that will tell them how valuable your site is to a user, so they can then display the best results possible whenever someone does a search.
‘Search engine optimisation’ is the act of providing or creating the right information to signpost your site as a top-notch candidate to show up in those valuable result pages.
Why does your website need SEO?
The majority of current online traffic is driven by large, household name search engines (we talk about Google a lot, but Yahoo! and Bing are also up there).
If somebody has come to your website from a search engine, they wanted to find you – and in the web world, targeted traffic, from users who want to find you, is a very valuable thing.
It’s one step closer to converting a browse into a sale/enquiry. Better conversion is a big tick in any website’s book.
Some terminology to get you started…
Keyword – The words that people type into a search engine to find a result. For example, a person who lives in London and needs to redecorate their house may be likely to type in “hire decorator Islington”.
If you run a decorating business in the Islington area but don’t have these keywords on your site – “hire”, “decorator” and “Islington” – Google can’t show your website to the Londoner who wants to re-do their living room.
Work out what your primary keywords should be by filtering down the key aspect of your services, and perhaps include geographical terms if your USP is based on locality.
SERP – quite simply, ‘search engine results page’. The page of results that appear when you search for anything.
(Web) Crawlers – the online robots that systematically browse the internet to rank and index web pages. They’re the workers busy behind the scenes of the SERP results, looking at content and hyperlinks to judge how valuable every site is.
Black hat – ‘unethical’ techniques to improve your website’s SERP rankings – i.e. trying to trick search engines into thinking your site is a more valuable result for the user than it really is.
White hat – genuine, valid techniques to improve your SEO. Generally this means that you are optimising your site with the user in mind, rather than the search engine. Plus, it follows all search engine rules and policies (i.e. it’s not black hat practice.)
What tips and tricks make a website look good in the SEO world?
So now you’re acquainted with the vast world of SEO, where do you start? SEO work can become exponential; if you’re seriously invested in the online world, you may want to hire a digital expert or agency to put your website through an SEO audit.
However, there are a few basics you can tick off to help yourself along the way. Here’s 4 to get you started, and an extensive source at the end:
Use your words
Crawlers rely on text: they can’t ‘read’ images. So a site that’s image-heavy looks pretty empty to a crawler.
This is why any site that sells lots of products online will give every product its own unique description – not only is it helpful for the user, but it means every page will have crawler visibility.
If you want any pointers for making great online content, see our collection of tips for online marketing here.
Plus your keywords
Now you’ve established the words that people will connect with your business, make sure you use them. Put them into any relevant intro text, relevant page titles or product and service descriptions.
Pay close attention to the word ‘relevant’ above: If you simply stuff your site full of keywords, this would be considered a black hat technique. Search engines are great at telling the difference between useful, well-written content and filler content that’s poorly written, nonsensical or just not relevant.
Plan your website
A site that is easy to navigate and doesn’t have duplicate content is vastly superior, both in the eyes of the user and the search engine crawlers.
Think about the journey that your user will follow through your website, and try to make the pathway through your pages as intuitive as possible.
Avoid repeating any content – this duplication is frowned upon in the eyes of search engines as it looks like more keyword stuffing or plagiarism.
Do the boring admin
You need to be scrupulous in your SEO approach. Always try to include at least 400 words of text on a page (the limit when a crawler will pick it up), and remember your keyword strategy.
If you add an image, make sure it’s saved with a relevant file name and, if you can, include ‘alt tags’/’alt text’ – a field that most backend site managers will let you fill in to give more information about an imagine that can be read by crawlers.
If you want a more comprehensive view, check out this handy guide by the experts at Econsultancy. And remember, being rigorous in crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s is key to getting the SEO job done.