Did you know: Google handles over 40,000 searches every second, and less than one percent of searches result in clicks beyond page one? If you want to hit page one - and unless you're willing to invest in ads forever - you'll need to start thinking about an SEO strategy for your site.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s all about what you can do to optimise your site so that search engines such as Google and Bing show your pages in SERPs (search engines results pages), to the people you want to convert.
- Search engine (noun): a site on the World Wide Web that uses such software to locate key words in other sites
- Optimisation (noun): an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible
What’s the point of SEO?
The aim of SEO is to get your site ranking highly, organically - rather than through PPC - for relevant search terms.
What’s the difference between SEO and PPC?
The main difference between SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) is that the website owner does not have to pay for each click on an organic visit to their site, whereas if a user comes through to your site via a PPC link, you will have to pay for that click through. Unless you’ve set up an ad campaign with the search engine, you don’t need to worry about this happening.
For a detailed breakdown of the differences between the two digital marketing techniques and how you can use them, check out Search Engine Land’s article, SEO vs. PPC.
Is SEO right for my business?
While many aspects of SEO are simply good practice when building a website, the benefits of investing heavily in SEO don’t outweigh the costs for every business - particularly at the beginning. This is because SEO is a long, ongoing process. It won’t deliver instant results and requires a lot of work - particularly in terms of building content. For this reason, many businesses start with PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, relying on traffic from paid search, which does deliver quick results.
Why should SEO be part of my long-term strategy?
While paying for ads is the fastest way to the top of search results, it can quickly get expensive. The investment in SEO, in terms of building high quality content, isn’t small, but in the long run, the return on investment tends to be higher.
And while 60% of people don’t recognise paid ads on Google, we can expect this to shift with more digitally savvy younger generations. Moreover, those who do recognise them tend not to click on them. So that’s a large number of people you’re potentially missing out on, if you’re expecting to be dependent on ads bringing people to your site, forever.
Even if you’re not yet ready to invest in support from an SEO consultant, it can help to do what you can to structure your site in a way which will make the transition to implementing an SEO strategy, so read on.
How does a search engine determine which pages rank well?
Search engines aim to serve people what they want to see; they have a level of authority they need to maintain. In order to do this, they need to make sure that the results they’re serving actually match the user’s intent when they type something in.
They determine this based on hundreds of factors (or signals), such as click-through rate, time spent on pages, links between different pages, etc.
To keep things manageable, what you really need to think about in the context of your website, is:
- Does the content on my page serve a purpose to somebody and;
- Is this particular purpose my intention?
If it’s a yes for both, you’re heading in the right direction.
If you’re interested in learning more about the technical details, Moz has a helpful guide to how search engines work.
Getting started with SEO
SEO is a marathon rather than a sprint. It's on ongoing project which requires plenty of time, patience and some experimentation. However, this is not to say that you can't start influencing factors which will improve your chances of ranking (and perhaps you already were, without realising).
Here are five things to that you may be able to start thinking about immediately, without the help of an SEO specialist.
1. Get your site’s architecture right
Think of your website as a supermarket. You’ve got the storefront, which is equivalent to your homepage and then lots of different aisles, grouping related products - equivalent to different sections of your site. The way a supermarket is organised determines how easy it is for a customer to find what they’re looking for. The same concept applies to your website and the ease at which both site visitors and the crawlers which inform search results, are able to navigate it.
For more information on this, check out Backlinko’s guide to website architecture for SEO.
Tip: Make sure that whoever is looking after your site's content and SEO works closely with the developers who build and maintain your site.
2. Find your keywords
The aim here is to figure out the most common search terms or keywords, someone would type in to search for your product or site, so that you’re able to optimise your pages for these keywords. No guesswork is required - there are tons of keyword planner tools out there to help you out with this.
To get you started, Ubersuggest is an easy to use, free keyword planner.
Tip: Make sure you set your location to the relevant country. Keywords can vary by country (even if in the same language).
3. Understand user intent
User intent, also referred to as search intent, is all about understanding the goal someone has when they type keywords into a search engine.
Start with the basic question: what is my website selling? As an example, for a cycle insurance company, this would be 'cycle insurance'.
Next, think about the keywords someone would type in the search bar in order to find what you’re selling. To continue with the cycle insurance example, this would probably be 'cycle insurance'. But if you were to test 'bike insurance' as a variant, you'd find that Google serves results relating to motorcycle insurance. So, as a cycle insurance business, you'd want to avoid targeting that keyword as it doesn't match your user intent.
Tip: Need to find out what Google thinks someone's looking for when they search a certain phrase? It's simple - just carry out the search yourself!
4. Metadata matters
Although meta data isn't necessarily a ranking factor, it's important as it's the first thing someone scanning search engine results will see.
It consists of your meta title tag, the link at the top of listing, which will look something like '[Page title] | [Company name]' and the meta description, which is the summary that sits below.
However, bear in mind that more often than not, Google rewrites meta descriptions to best match the search intent of the user viewing the results.
5. Structure the content on your pages logically
'Keep it simple' is a good mentality to have when it comes to page structure. Just as an article is ordered, with a header and subheadings, the content on your pages should follow a similar logical structure.
If your pages consist of long swathes of copy with no paragraphs, no headers, etc., they'll be difficult for a human to make sense of, let alone a search engine.
For a detailed overview of best practice page structure for SEO, check out Moz’s guide to on-page SEO.
What are you waiting for?
We hope this article has piqued your interest in SEO. Here are a few great resources to help you continue on your journey to ranking success:
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