- What is SEO and why should I care about it?
Modern search engines work on a framework of relevance. If the algorithm within the Search Engine, in this case Google, deems your website to be the most relevant site for the inputted search term then your site will appear as the first suggestion on Google’s first page, a coveted prize that is proven to increase web traffic.
If you have a think to how you search for anything on Google, I doubt you rarely scroll more than two times before you click on a site and I bet you can only count the amount of times you’ve delved into the second page of Google on one hand. This is because we have become accustomed to convenience and simplicity thanks to delivery services and the internet we can pretty much run our whole lives from home.
The same goes for search engines and our trust in the service being provided, we trust Google to give us the most relevant site for our search term, which is why SEO is a vital part of any marketing or business development strategy. Relevance is the key when it comes to SEO which requires an insight into how users search for results on sites an how this information can be used to boost a site’s listing.
- Putting Search Engines to work for you
Search Engine Optimisation is essentially the practice of designing a website that ranks highly on the search engine. This then requires the site to be created with this in mind and should comprise of elements that will increase the readability of your site that include;
- Entry and Exit Pages
- Page Titles
- Site content
- Web site structure
- HTML readability
However, multi-chain marketing principles dictate that growth is generally greatest when multiple channels are utilised. This applies especially for driving web traffic to your site, which is ultimately the goal of SEO. The external factors that can be optimised are;
- Advertising campaigns
- Update frequency
This shows that SEO is evidently not just affected by a singular factor but multiple collaborative factors that feed off each other. The first of these external factors that can be adapted to greatly boost search terms’ rankings is the ‘Keywords’ or ‘Long Tail Search Terms’.
- What are Long Tail Search Terms and how do they affect SEO?
Imagine you’re searching for a new carpet and are looking for a specific aesthetic and material. You wouldn’t just type “carpet” into the search bar would you? You’d search for the exact colour, material, quality etc of the carpet as you as the consumer know what you want. This is the cornerstone of utilizing SEO as your business will know your service offering or product inside out and can therefore boost the ranking of your site with the consumers that know they are looking for your service or product.
This comes in the form of ‘Long Tail Search Terms’ which are longer and more specific keyword phrases that are more likely to be used when a customer knows exactly what they want and are more likely to pay for it when they find it. To go back to the carpet analogy, let’s say a user is looking for a “brown, 2m x 4m, woolen carpet”. Now we know the competition is fierce for furniture sites so the inclusion of a term such as these will most likely see your site swallowed by the page 3 Google leviathan never to be seen again.
To curve this over saturation of the market, the site could use longer more specific keywords or phrases such as “Egyptian wool, sandy brown, carpet”. The inclusion of these terms as opposed to the conventional “mainstream” terms will result in your site appearing higher on the search page for more targeted audience who’s click through rate and transfer to interaction will be statistically higher as they are seeing results for exactly what they are looking for.
The reality of Long Tail Search Terms utilization is that this is the foundation of what you should be doing for SEO and has to be used in conjunction with the other contributing factors mention above to see optimal returns on clicks. To fully optimize your site, an SEO plan must be formulated.
- How to create an SEO Plan
An SEO plan is important for developing a web site as it will allow you to adequately pinpoint your goals and focus on the aspects of SEO that are not performing to the desired level. To achieve a high position in the search results, your site must not only look recognizable but has to meet certain criteria dictated by the algorithm. These criteria include;
- Anchor text
- Site popularity
- Link context
- Topical links
- Title tags
- Site language
- Site maturity
There are multiple other criteria that the search engine crawler (the analysis tool used in search engines to determine relevance) will examine before ranking your site but these are the predominant ones that can be easily actioned upon. These elements are likely to impact on your site’s ranking, even when you do nothing to improve them, however without focusing on these improvements you are leaving your site ranking completely up to chance.
It is therefore important to set manageable goals for your SEO that act as an ever-evolving check list as you walk the path of site ranking optimization.
As you start to create your SEO plan it is important to realise that this is a long process, although there are going to appear to be huge amounts of improvements to make at the start, you must understand that these will form a timescale of multiple months and years. To manage this avoid looking at your site from a macroscopic point of view and instead deep dive onto each page and carry out a site assessment. The site assessment will tell you exactly what you need to improve on and takes the form of:
- Site / Page Tagging: The meta tags included in the coding of your site are essential, specifically the Title Tags and Description Tags as they are the most important to the search engine crawler.
- Page Content: How relevant is the content? How often is it updated? How much content is there? Content is the life blood of your site as users directed to your page will be looking for specific and relevant content that relates to their search term. If content is not sufficiently updated and readable, the search engine will detect this and reduced your site’s ranking so it’s important to keep fresh and updated content on your site.
- Site links: Site links are heavily sought after by search engines as they are connective bridges between relevant content that will optimise the user’s access (this is the aim of any search engine). Any incoming or outgoing links must therefore be relevant and in context, as they will quickly demote your site’s ranking. Broken links are the most common form of search engine ranking demotions so ensure your links are still working during the assessment phase.
- Site Map: A site map is imperative for SEO increase as it contains all the relevant information about each page (URL, last updated, relevance to surrounding pages) and takes the form of an XML document at the root of your HTML. Using an XML site map ensures that even the deeper pages of your site are analysed by search engines, therefore boosting your chances of moving up rankings with more relevant information. If you don’t have one create one and if you already have one ensure it is accurate and up to date.
Once the assessment stage is completed you will have a good idea of where the strengths and weaknesses of your site lie, however it is worth noting that the pages that seem strong a the moment may not stay strong in future and must be updated constantly. Your SEO plan will look very similar to many of your other business plans including:
- Current state
- Marketing efforts to boost external site traffic
- Time frames for SEO actions
- Capital expenditures while implementing SEO plan
- Goal you wish to reach as a result of the SEO Plan
- Strategies to boost SEO (for example submitting site to directories manually , planning the content included to draw search crawlers, key word marketing plans or pay per click programs you plan to use)
With all of these be sure to include a timeline of the actions you plan to use, as this will help you to plan for follow upset your plan.
A follow up is an essential part of the SEO plan as it includes retrospective learning and adjustments of strategies to see what works for your site. A proven method for follow ups is to plan them quarterly as this gives your plan a sufficient time frame to show results (following up too soon will yield no productive results and following up too late will make it hard for you to get the full picture of how your site is doing).
The optimal time frame is between 3 and 6 months.
As we have already stated, SEO is an ever-evolving process and will require maintenance to keep optimized but is manageable provided you invest the time. These are the basics to help you get started with getting your site onto Page 1 and can be built upon and developed to increasingly develop an SEO Strategy.