We’ve all heard the riddle: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear, does it make a sound?
Well, it’s the same for any business that wants to be found online.
You may have a website; but can people see it? And if people can’t see it, what should you do for them to notice you?
Any smart business looking to promote itself on the internet will have to consider their website’s SEO (search engine optimisation) to improve visibility.
Because if people can’t find you, you simply don’t exist.
You may have read in places that SEO is dead and apparently it’s all about social media now. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of the search engine’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
SEO is still important.
According to Econsultancy, 61% of consumers use search engines before making a purchase. SimilarWeb’s Global Search Marketing Report last year shows that in every category of business, search engine traffic accounts for around half of website visits, against 2-7% of online traffic that comes from social media.
And of those search engine searches, between two thirds and three quarters are on Google. A figure that is unlikely to lessen any time soon as Google continues to dominate the smartphone market.
So it is foolish to neglect the SEO for your website.
But how do you do it?
Understand on-page elements (metadata)
Metadata includes the website’s site title, headers, image descriptions and keywords. They enable search engines to see your website and are necessary if you want to use your website to attract new business. Without this information, search engines, and more importantly prospective customers, can’t see you.
These elements contain your business’s descriptions, so it helps to first draw up a rough list of keywords that best describe your products and services. Next you should consider how potential customers might use these terms in their searches.
There are a number of online services that can help you discover popular search terms such as Google or Topsy. But you can also ask friends and colleagues how they would search, and perhaps do some experimentation.
Once you have found your keywords and key phrases, the next step is working out how to incorporate them.
Let’s say you’re selling wooden sheds. Consider how someone might search for them. For example, you sell lots of sheds but a customer will want to buy just one shed and might search under ‘best place to buy a garden shed in Melbourne’. Should your keywords include plural, singular or both? How might your sheds be used? Are they garden sheds, tool sheds, or perhaps you expect them to be used as playhouses?
On deciding which words and phrases to use, always remember that people search for what they want, not for what you want them to have.
You can then incorporate your keywords and key phrases into your page title, your URL, in meta tags, image descriptions, anchor text, and of course into your webpage copy. The best way to get the right terms in the right place is to keep them relevant.
So avoid ‘keyword stuffing’, a tactic where numerous similar terms are repetitively inserted into your web content to try to convince search engines of the relevance of your site. Google wised up to this trick several years ago, and is continually changing its search algorithms to filter out spammy websites that contain unnatural junk data.
Remember that the big thing in search engine development is the semantic web. This means that it is not only the keywords themselves that count, but how the words make sense when they’re put together. Value and quality will always trump quantity in the semantic web, so including keywords within content is crucial.
Content is key
Research by MarketingProfs shows that 72% of marketers worldwide say relevant content creation is the most effective SEO strategy. You should carefully and naturally integrate keywords and phrases into your copy. Search engines will notice good copy.
However poorly-contrived SEO content is not only bad for search engines, but also your business. Potential customers are no different to you. Coming across unengaging content or spam will put people off, and they won’t return.
Customers nowadays are becoming increasingly smart and web savvy and will identify something that seems phony in an instant.
On the other hand, if you have content that others find interesting and useful, they will want to read it, share it and link to it. Backlinks like these are essential to building relationships that search engines understand. Moreover, interesting content will get shares on social media, which is becoming increasingly relevant.
Get the links right
Getting backlinks to your website is critical to its ranking. Often, you’ll see companies offering access to ‘link farms’, which effectively promise to furnish you with enough links for a lifetime. However, search engines are now sophisticated enough to distinguish backlinks from link farms from genuine and relevant backlinks. Google is always creating new algorithms that can make that distinction, and if it suspects that the links aren’t genuine, it will ignore them.
While Google refuses to let on to how it evaluates the quality of links, some basic common sense should help you. Obviously your shed warehouse in Melbourne won’t benefit from receiving links from the ‘1000 best websites in Arizona’. A little research will show you where to best harvest inbound links.
In a nutshell
If you want improve your search engine rankings, you will need to follow these basic steps:
- Be genuine. Provide content that is genuinely useful. Do use keywords in your text, but make sure you embed them into natural prose. Offer something valuable to your customers so they feel that they can trust you.
- Produce content that others find interesting and want to link to. Quality backlinks are critical to building relationships that search engines understand.
- Don’t forget to use meta tags and meta descriptions. While some people say they aren’t as necessary as they once were, they are still vital and form part of an overall package.
- Seriously think about social media. While it may not be the main source of traffic to your website, it is beneficial. Remember that more people will notice you if you offer something they want to share. The value of the content really is key.
- Pay attention to your local environment and build relationships there. We tend to think of the internet as global, but search engines, social media and smart phones now target your location. With the launch of Google’s business directory and the plethora of local business search directories, the opportunity to build links with local networks is out there. Don’t miss it.