Whether you’re building a brand or growing an already-established company, having a killer website is a given. But really this is just the beginning, as next you’re going to need people to be able to actually find your website. After all, what good is your polished product or shiny service without any customers or clients?
Yes, content marketing will play a huge part here. But before you even think about your social media strategy, it’s crucial you focus on understanding the other ‘S’ word and how to use it to your company’s advantage. I’m of course talking about SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, which is the process of organically gaining traffic towards your website through the use of search engines. When using cyber speak, the term ‘organic’ basically means ‘for free’. Win. If you pay for your website to rank higher on search engines, this is known as ‘paid search ads’, but I’ll discuss that in more detail in a later post.
All major search engines (think Google, Bing and Yahoo) have primary search results, where web pages and other online content are displayed and ranked based on what the search engine decides is most relevant to users. Clever things, aren’t they?
Why is SEO important?
SEO is more than just important to your website. It’s crucial. Chances are that unless your business is somehow completely unique to anything else out there, you will have competitors. Competitors who will just as happily sell their product or service to your would-be customers or clients.
What you’re offering might be a hundred times better than your competitors. Hell, you might be light-years ahead of them. But if your website has poor SEO and is left lost in an ocean of other pages somewhere in the outer suburbs of Google’s search results, you’re losing opportunities by the second.
Don’t drown. Learn to swim. Become an SEO pro.
Applying SEO to your business
So what ingredients are needed to create great SEO? There is a lot to learn and explore on this topic, so as this is just an introduction I’ll break down the key essentials in their simplest form. Once you’ve got your head around the basics, you’ll be able to build on your knowledge until you’re an SEO Jedi Master.
Words are weapons.
When it comes to Search Engine Optimisation, all the words across your website are your ticket to soaring high up onto the first page of Google’s search results. From the titles at the top of each page to the content on your blog, the words on your website will help its individual pages rank higher on search engines.
But how do you choose the best words to use? You basically need to train your mind to think like a potential customer. What terms would they use to stumble upon your website? Check these words by searching for them on Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which will show you roughly how many people are searching for that specific word or term each month.
Once you’re confident you know what the best keywords are for your website, you’ll want to scatter them throughout your web content in a way that is natural and readable. Which brings us neatly on to the next point…
Content is king.
You might have heard this phrase being used before. If you haven’t, don’t just take my word for it – there are heaps of articles out there on why content is so important when it comes to building your brand and telling its story. There are countless reasons why content rules the show, but for now let’s focus on its relevance to SEO.
Gone are the days when you could simply stuff your website copy or blog content with keywords and watch your website climb up the rankings of Google’s search results. The reason for this is Google is getting smarter. It knows that users are searching for quality content, so it does its best to ensure the most engaging blog posts and website pages rank the highest.
Don’t drown. Learn to swim. Become an SEO pro.
How do they work this out? By using what are known as ‘algorithms’. These are computer programs that look for signals or ‘clues’ across the Internet to give the user the answer to exactly what they’re searching for. These clues include things like the copy on websites, the freshness of content and PageRank.
PageRank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites in search engine results. Named after Larry Page, who was one of the founders of Google, PageRank allows users to filter through the rubbish and stumble across the most important website pages. Which is obviously where you want yours to end up.
The moral of the story? Focus on creating quality, fresh and engaging content that will make both search engines and your soon-to-be-audience happy. Look out for future posts on how to make your content tick all of the above boxes.
Love your links.
The last point I’ll touch on in this introductory summary about SEO and how it can help your business’ website, is the importance of links. Firstly, you should use links within your own website to help improve SEO. This can be linking to other pages or blog content on your own website, as well as linking to other websites. But even more important than this, is the importance of getting external pages to link to pages on your website. This is known as link building.
Link building can be a difficult and time-consuming task, as not all links have the same power. It all depends on the authority of the website that is linking to yours. For instance, getting the New York Times to link to a page on your website would have a much bigger impact on good SEO than gaining a link from a newly-built website with few daily hits.
So how do you get these authoritative websites to link to your website? Well, once again it all comes back to having quality and engaging content. Told you content is king, didn’t I? You’ll also want to submit your news to press and your site to directories, as well as put your product or service in front of influential bloggers in your industry.
All of this obviously takes time, which can get a bit frustrating. But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day – so neither should your links be.
Remember to be patient
Like a fine wine, the SEO across your website will get better with age. It all starts with sowing the seeds – which is creating a website that uses keywords and contains fresh and unique content – before watering your garden and watching the fruits of your labour grow.
I can ensure you, once these fruits begin to sprout – they’ll be delicious. And oh-so-worth the wait.