I was with a new client yesterday helping them to manage their move from their current website to their new website. The client in question explained to me that she wouldn’t have even considered the SEO implications of the website move had she not attended a recent seminar we held here at our office.
“I don’t know what I don’t know about SEO,” she said. “And I worry I’m missing out because of that.”
Of course, SEO (search engine optimisation) is a complex digital marketing discipline that’s taken our team of digital marketing experts years to master, so I won’t proclaim to be uncovering all of its secrets in this one blog post. What I will give you is this: the top things you, as a business manager, marketing manager, CEO or CMO, don’t know you don’t know about SEO.
You don’t know… SEO is the foundation upon which successful websites are built
SEO is too often an afterthought for business websites. Website managers have been known to ignore SEO until their website is up and running, be it their first website or a new website for a business that’s been online for years. They wait instead until everything is up and running before turning to SEO to bring in the traffic. Sound familiar to your business?
But SEO cannot and should not be an afterthought. Indeed, it should be your very first thought when it comes to your business website.
Why? Because SEO guides the structure of your website by uncovering the search intent of your potential website visitors. The content of your website should be created based on the recommendations of SEO. The user experience should be designed in conjunction with an SEO strategy that ensures strong calls to action and tangible results for your business.
We regularly undertake projects for clients to determine the optimal navigation structure for their new website, or to review their current website to identify what works well and what needs to be improved for SEO benefit. If you’d like to find out about these services, contact us using our online contact form or call us on 0115 948 0123.
Whether you’re considering a new website or you’re looking to improve your current website, you need to be implementing SEO as a very top priority.
You don’t know… SEO impacts every department of your business
SEO; it’s the job of the marketing team, right?
In every business, SEO needs to be a consideration for everyone and to be successful online, it’s your job as a business manager to ensure everyone has at least a basic level of SEO understanding.
This means educating your workforce as to what SEO is and how it affects them. For example:
For the IT team:
Your IT team needs to understand that page load speeds are important and that they need to monitor your servers to ensure best performance. They need to understand that your need to be able to update your website content on a regular basis and that you need to be able to change the meta title tags and descriptions for optimal effect.
For the sales team:
Your sales team speaks to your potential customers and clients more often than anyone else in the business. They should be helping you to record where strong leads come from by asking, when appropriate, “what search term did you use to find out about our services?” or “was there a particular page on our site that made you decide to call?”. They should also be recording for you the questions and comments prospects make which your SEO can then turn into useful content on your website.
For example, if you sell automotive parts and a common question from your potential customers is ‘how quickly can you deliver’, you might create a page on your site which is about fast delivery of automotive parts.
For the PR team
Your PR team should work really closely with your SEO team, whether that SEO team is in house or an agency.
The boundaries between SEO and PR are very blurred, because everyone is trying to achieve the same thing: better visibility for your business. Your PR team should be sharing new press releases with the SEO team, who can then ensure the content is optimised for search and use it in their own online PR efforts. Your PR team should be aware of the necessity to include website links in the press release.
For the management team
Your management team should be communicating regularly with the SEO team to ensure they are aware of the overriding strategy of the business at all times. There are so many opportunities afforded to businesses through SEO that it’s important to be able to focus the SEO activity on achieving the business’ goals.
You don’t know… SEO relies on your website being technically sound
Successful SEO requires your website to be technically sound.
This means your web developer needs to work closely with your SEO team to optimise page load speeds, to implement an XML sitemap, to remove 404 errors, to redirect pages appropriately using 301 redirects, to maintain the .htaccess file… the list goes on.
You shouldn’t be surprised if your SEO team wants to kick off with a technical review of your site. SEO relies on a large number of technical considerations which may seem to you to be failing to deliver any tangible return at first. But believe me, the results will show themselves over time if you get the technical element right from the start.
You don’t know… Successful SEO starts with your website content
SEO comprises two main components: on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation.
On page optimisation is the process of getting your website working technically for optimal visibility in the search results, and ensuring the content of your site is best placed to rank highly for search terms relevant to your business.
In order to achieve this, you or your SEO team need to undertake a process called keyword research to identify what terms your potential customers are likely searching for when seeking the product/service you provide.
They they need to use this information to specify a single page to target each one of those keywords using a process called ‘optimisation’.
As an example of this, take a look at my popular ‘travel SEO’ blog post (which at the time of writing this post, ranks in position 3 if you search Google for ‘travel SEO’). You’ll notice that the term ‘travel SEO’, for which the page is ‘optimised’, is used throughout the content, from the title of the page through the subheadings, the copy, the image tagging and even the title tag and meta description (which are the parts you can’t see on the page itself but will see as the title and description in the search results on Google).
The page is not only using the words ‘travel SEO’, it features relevant travel industry examples and is clearly useful content for travel professionals.
For your business website to rank well for search terms relevant to your business, you will need to undertake a process of on page optimisation.
You don’t know… Successful SEO also comprises ‘off-page’ techniques
As well as being technically sound and having great, optimised content, your website also relies on a process call ‘off page optimisation’ to succeed from an SEO perspective.
Off page optimisation is, again, a complex discipline but the basics comprise:
- Link building – or online PR
- Content marketing
Link building is the process of getting other, high quality websites to link back to yours in the form of hyperlinks.
Very basically speaking, Google considers links back to your website as if they are votes for the credibility and value of your site. The more votes your site has, the more likely it is to appear high in the list of search results for search terms relevant to it. Very basically speaking.
But not all votes are equal. Links to your website from a high authority website in your niche or from highly trusted association websites or government sites will have more weight than a link from, say, your friend’s blog. We wrote a blog post on this very subject last year, which you can read here:
Link building is about promoting your website and its fantastic content to people who might find it useful, interesting or entertaining, and encouraging them to link to it from their own sites. Abra Millar from team Hallam regularly writes very well on topics around link building and the various techniques therein, or search ‘link building’ in the search bar for more useful tips.
Content marketing is all about creating fantastic content online.
This might be in the form of great blog posts. It could be really useful whitepapers. It might be videos. It could even be infographics – take a look at our digital marketing map as an example.
Great content supports SEO because it is likely to be shared across the web and to be linked to from other websites. It also gives your link builders something fantastic to share when they’re reaching out for new links.
Successful SEO for your business will very much depend on the ability of your SEO team to utilise link building and content marketing to best effect. It will require a lot of time to be invested – for link building, time to research potential ‘linkers’, to find a reason for them to link, to find their contact details and to reach out to them. For content marketing, to create the content and come up with a strategy to share it.
It will also require a monetary investment because of this, but, like all aspects of SEO covered in this post, it really cannot be scrimped on if your business wants to succeed online.
You don’t know… the SEO industry has a ‘dark’ side…
Like any good story, the story of SEO has a dark side. We call it ‘black hat SEO’, or ‘non-ethical’.
As a business that wants to invest in SEO, you’ll want to ensure the team you employ is a team of ‘good guys’ – the ‘white hat SEOs’, if you will.
So what exactly does all of this mean?
SEO is a discipline based on many, many rules, set by Google. And here’s the fun part – these rules are unwritten, but break them, and you face penalisation from Google which in its worst cases, will see your website removed from the search results entirely.
‘Black hat SEO’ plays with the rules and uses techniques which are designed to ‘fool’ the system. In the past, these techniques have included things like buying links (which as you now know, count as votes for your website’s authority) or ‘keyword stuffing’, where the keyword target of the page was hidden in the form of white text on a white background to make Google think the page was more relevant to the search query than it actually was.
Today, black hat SEOs still exist but their clients are paying the price for their misdemeanours. As Google continues to refine its ‘rules’ (also know as its algorithm), it becomes ever better at catching these misleading techniques and penalising those who use them.
White hat, or ethical SEOs, are those who play by the rules and don’t try to cheat the system. They optimise sites honestly and create relevant, useful content for the users of the site and those searching for its content. They build links through ethical means, developing relationships with influencers and sharing with them content they will genuinely want to promote through their own websites.
As a Google Partner, we’re accredited by Google and that’s one way you can identify an ethical SEO. To find out more about ethical SEO and what it means for your business, take a look at this article from Hallam team member Elliot:
When considering using SEO in your business, make sure you’re using an ethical SEO team to do so.
You don’t know… SEO benefits businesses just like yours
A common myth of SEO is that it only benefits already digitally savvy businesses, like web designers or technical companies.
SEO benefits businesses just like yours every day. Take a look at a sample of our client list, which includes:
- Manufacturing businesses
- Construction businesses
- Legal firms
- Financial services providers
- Professional services providers
- Medical device manufacturers
- Healthcare businesses
- Travel companies
From medium sized businesses to large blue chip corporations, every business can benefit from the opportunities of SEO.
If you’d like to talk to us about how SEO can help your business to succeed online, use our online contact form or call us on 0115 948 0123.