What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation or SEO refers to the undertaking of activities with the intention of improving the positions that pages on your website appear in the “organic” search results returned by search engines such as Google.
Typically, websites that appear higher up the search results for the keywords they contain have a better opportunity to attract new business compared to websites with inferior search engine rankings. Therefore, it is no surprise that the majority of businesses have the objective of getting to page one and ideally to position one for the search terms related to their products and services. However, whether ranking in the top position or even the first page of the search results is actually achievable largely depends on the market that they operate in.
If you’re just starting out in a highly competitive market like insurance, you’ll be fighting a losing battle – unless you’ve got a sizeable budget to spend. However, if you’re offering a niche product or service in a tightly defined local area, you have every chance of achieving first page rankings in the local search results if you pay close attention to the following principles.
How do search engines work?
Before a search engine can tell you where a file or document is, it must be found. To find information on the billions of web pages that exist, search providers such as Google and Microsoft (Bing) employ “spiders”. A spider is an automated piece of software that crawls the web in a highly methodical manner. Search engine spiders are able to browse websites to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like use of certain words and phrases. This data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a specific word or phrase into Google, Bing or any other search engine.
With this in mind, you will need to carefully consider the search habits of your target audience, and ensure that the terms they might type in to find the products/services you offer are reflected on your pages. For example, if you offer photography services, your website content should include the specific words or phrases that people may search for, such as “wedding photography”, or specific queries such as “Fashion photographer in London”.
A useful free tool for identifying potential keywords that you could implement on your website is the Google AdWords keyword tool. This tool is primarily designed to help prospective advertisers identify the most relevant keywords for their chosen market, but can equally be used to research copy for your website. Once you’ve identified a set of relevant keywords, you’ll need to ensure that they’re included in the copy and titles on their respective pages across your website.
Google and other search engines will perceive quality in your website based on the number and quality of both the inbound and outbound links to and from your website. Links help search engines to verify how trustworthy websites are. Linking between sites allows what’s referred to in the marketing industry as “link juice” to be passed on to other sites. Put simply, if your site is linked to by a site in a related industry that’s been in existence for a number of years, valuable “link juice” will be passed to your site, which could eventually improve the ranking of the specific page that has been linked to.
Despite the fact that it is almost impossible to control the inbound links to your website, there are a number of basic steps that can be taken to improve the authority that search engines will see in your site. Firstly, you’ll need to ensure that your site is linked to from each of the social media platforms you are active on, most notably Google+. Whilst you should also make sure that you’re listed on free open directories such as DMOZ, as well as the professional bodies associated with the industry you operate in.
Building the amount of relevant internal links is absolutely crucial to improving your appearance in the search results. As for internal links, meticulously linking to each page on your site will increase the time spent on your site by search engine spiders. Therefore, you may wish to revisit your site navigation structure, or insert a quick links footer, which will ensure that each page on your site has a link to your most important products and services.
Keep it fresh
The rate at which search engine spiders crawl your site is largely determined by how frequently the content of your pages change. A fairly simple way to reduce the time it takes for search engines to crawl your site would be to change text, images, or add new pages each month, in order to ensure that your content is regularly updated.
An even better idea would be to set up a blog on your site and allocate time each day (or week) to write or curate some content that is relevant to your target market. For reference material (which should always be credited) use Google Alerts to keep up to date with online content that matches your keywords.
Keeping up to date with SEO
The algorithms used by Google, Microsoft and other search engines to determine the order of their results are often subject to tweaks and improvements as various search engines attempt to deliver ever more accurate search results over time. For instance, this year search engines have been tweaking their algorithms to prepare for the impending rise of mobile voice search over the next few years. This has lead website owners to focus on the creation of conversational content to answer questions that search engine users may ask, and is yet another example that SEO is constantly evolving. However, the basic principles that I’ve mentioned above are unlikely to change significantly in the next few years, as they have and always will be the key determinants of your ranking positions within the search results.
If you’d like to find out more about our SEO services, or feel you’d benefit from an SEO training course, please feel free to call us on 0115 948 0123 or use our online contact form.