This is a guest post written by Sarah Evans, Insight Manager at Bottle, creative PR agency.
For a lot of businesses now, their website is their shop window, so ensuring it can be found by potential customers while they’re searching online is critical.
If this is your first foray into the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), it can be hard to know where to start with its jargon and indecipherable acronyms.
We’ve put this post together to provide a starting point, as well as linking to resources that go into more detail in each of the topic areas.
1. Understand search behaviour for your sector/industry and choose your keywords and phrases accordingly
The backbone of any SEO strategy is keyword research – you need to know the kinds of things people are searching for when they’re looking for your product, so you can reflect the same kinds of words and phrases in your content.
What kind of questions are they asking in the research phase? What choice of words do they use when they’re ready to buy? You’ll also need to consider which keywords are more competitive, i.e. are all of your competitors going after them too? Are there any specific niche areas or longer questions and phrases where you could achieve more cut through?
You’ll need to consider phrases, questions and semantic intent as well, as search evolves beyond pure keyword optimisation and is optimised for making sure the user completes the task they set out to do successfully. Here’s a thorough guide to get you started.
2. Create relevant and interesting content that is hosted on your site that answers questions people are asking
Content is a brilliant way to make your website more engaging and more discoverable. As you now know the questions that people are likely to have in and around your product, create content that answers those questions.
This is another chance for you to get in front of the right people, and another opportunity for you to be relevant and present in the search results. It’s also good to establish yourselves as experts in your sector, build trust and brand recall, and means there’s more to keep people on your site than simply buying your product.
Make sure content is rich and a mix of different media. Text only content can get quite repetitive, so mix it up with more visual and engaging content like GIFs, infographics and videos. Here’s a link to a very handy tool called Answer the Public, which is great for content ideas.
3. Build an active social media presence
Social media, particularly Twitter, is good for building your online presence as a brand, and this in turn has a positive impact on SEO. Publishing your content on social media will also get your content out in front of more people, encouraging them to click through to your site.
4. Build good quality links to key pages on your site
Having great content on your site will encourage other sites to link to it. You can bolster this by proactively reaching out to other brands and sites to encourage them to link to your site.
Offering content to sit on third party sites can also be a good tactic to secure links. Monitor these backlinks, and disavow any that are low quality, as these can hurt your link profile more than help it. Ensure that while you do this, you remain Google compliant: for example, don’t try buying links on other sites in any way.
If you’re working with an influencer and you pay them in either money or another type of incentive, you’ll need to make sure you make that link a nofollow link. Here’s a beginner’s guide to link building to get you started.
5. Ensure each page of your site has great meta data
When setting up your website (and maintaining it), ensure that each page has punchy, relevant metadata. This tells Google what the page is about, and the meta description is the text that shows up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), so it can also encourage a user to click on your listing over a competitor’s. Here’s some advice to get you started.
6. Your website needs to be mobile-friendly or responsive
This is pretty much a given now; and not just for SEO purposes. Marketers have been telling of the rise of mobile for years now, and now 61% of time online in the UK is spent on a mobile. Google prioritises mobile-friendly sites in the SERPs, and for good reason; the user experience is much better for those browsing on their phones.
As a user yourself, you’ll know how frustrating it can be when you land on a site that isn’t responsive (you’ll probably leave that site, right?). If you need any more statistics to support the mobile argument, here’s a good compilation of them.
7. Make sure you’ve set up and are looking at Google Analytics
This lets you see how much traffic is coming to your site through organic search (and other channels). Look at what pages are being landed on the most, how long people are staying on your site for and what the bounce rate is.
Enable your Search Console (guide here), as this will give you more granular insight into the types of keywords people are finding your website through. This kind of information gives you a benchmark so you can see how much your activity is driving to your website, and where you could look to make user journey and website improvements.
Here’s a quick guide on how to optimise your Google Analytics set up (all for free).
8. Keep an eye on Google’s changes and updates
SEO is a huge industry, with entire departments, companies and websites dedicated to stay on top of latest developments. It can be overwhelming to try and stay on top of all of them, and you can tie yourself in knots trying, but just aim for an overview.
Each one may not mean extra work for you; some updates are small and some are only suspected updates, but as long as you have an ear to the ground, you won’t miss anything important. Search Engine Land, Search Metrics and SEM Rush all have good blogs (and of course, there are many more…).
9. Use some tools to track your progress
There are lots of different tools out there to suit every budget. More sophisticated tools can command a high price tag, but there are plenty of free and entry level tools that will suit a smaller business’s budget.
Tools can help with position tracking, keyword research, technical (onsite) SEO and competitor analysis. Google Webmaster Tools is free and is a very good place to start, and they also have lots of digestible training material to dip in and out of to get you started.
Here’s a complete list of SEO tools updated for 2017.
10. Treat SEO as a marathon, not a sprint
Optimising your website for search is a sustained and consistent effort, not a one hit wonder.
Other competing websites will be constantly updating, so if you stand still with your site, then you will seem less fresh and relevant to Google, meaning you’ll be pushed down the rankings.
Regular site updates, a consistently active social presence, outreach and link building activity all contribute to building and maintaining your online presence, and therefore your rankings. “Big bang” campaigns can be overlaid onto this activity for a big push, but there should always be a regular drum beat of activity.
Ultimately, Google wants what is best for the user, and you should too. The world of SEO can feel a bit like a dark art, and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole. As long as you’re always aiming to solve user’s needs, then the objectives you and Google have will be aligned.
Always keep your audience front and center when thinking about all of the above: content, website changes and posting on social media. Don’t underestimate your audience with average content: would they find it useful, interesting or unique? Is it easy for someone to find what they’re looking for?
A great user experience will keep people on your site longer, make them more likely to recommend your site (through social for example), and come back for more. All of these are positive signals that Google picks up, making it more likely to serve your site as a result.
Sarah is Bottle’s Insight Manager, who has experience in digital marketing, SEO, attribution modelling and multi-channel measurement, as well as bringing reporting and analytics into the PR world! Before Bottle, Sarah was Digital Acquisition Manager at Endsleigh Insurance Services, looking after the end to end journey from awareness to conversion.