What Is Search Engine Optimisation?
You may have heard the term SEO being bandied about here and there in discussions on online marketing and website creation. However, for you, it might be one of those terms that although you think you know what it means, you’re not entirely sure – and you don’t really want to display your unfamiliarity with the term for fear of appearing less than au fait with the lingo (come on, you have to admit that this happens from time to time – I know it’s happened to me). Anyway, this is where you can lay your fears to rest and find out exactly what they’re talking about.
SEO is an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. That’s the first part of the question answered, but you need to know a bit more to really come to grips with the concept. In a nutshell, SEO is how you get found by your customers and clients who are searching for businesses like yours on their computers, phones or tablets. There are a lot of people out there looking stuff up online – it’s estimated that at least 2 million searches are conducted on Google alone every day and the actual number is likely to be a lot higher than this. Some of these two million or more people are folk hunting for services and products just like yours, and you want to be able to make sure that they can find you. It’s not just luck or fate that will do this; being found by your clients is all about good SEO.
Why SEO Matters For Business
You might wonder what on earth the problem is. If you’ve got a website, you’ll show up on Google or any of the other search engines, won’t you? Well, yes and no. To illustrate, we’ll keep using Google as an example as it’s the biggie to think about, even though there are other browsers and search engines out there. Anyway, when someone punches in what they’re looking for (these are known as keywords in the lingo), Google will list them all. As you may have noticed in your own browsing behaviour, there can be millions or even billions of matches. Google can’t present them all at once but has to list them in some sort of order. To do this, the matches aren’t presented alphabetically like they were in the old telephone book days, but they appear in rank order. Where your business’s website appears in this list is known as your page ranking.
Where you appear in the page ranking matters. Think about your own browsing and searching behaviour, for example. When Google presents you with a list of several million pages matching your search term, you don’t look at all of them, do you? Instead, you look at the first page of results and jump to one of those sites to find what you need. The items listed on Pages 2, 3 or below hardly ever get looked at. I won’t say that people never look on Page 2 or 3 because I know perfectly well that I have, but then, I’m quite a patient person and other people just use what comes up first. It’s not that what appears on Page 1 is better than the others; they’re just more popular and have worked out how to make SEO work in their favour so that all the complicated mathematical algorithms that Google uses to rank all those millions of pages land them in the right place.
Getting onto Page 1 of the search engine results is the Holy Grail of good business marketing. If your business website is listed on the first page of the results, then you are visible to your potential customers and clients, and that’s likely to translate to an increase in sales.
Now, it is possible to pay a premium for Google ads so that your page appears up the top of the search results. However, people these days are getting a lot more cynical and suspicious about paid ads turning up in their search results. An awful lot just skip over the ads, especially if they’ve had a few experiences with paid ads that aren’t terribly relevant turning up. I know I do! What’s more, paying for ads isn’t cheap and doesn’t have the best return on investment. It’s far, far better to jump through all the hoops and create the sort of website with the sort of content that search engines love and reward by ranking highly.
Your Top Three SEO Weapons in the Battle for Domination of Page One of the Search Engines
To keep all those algorithms ticking over nicely and moving your page up the rankings, then there are three main tools that businesses can use to increase their online visibility. These three are great content, killer keywords and links.
1. Content is King
Let’s start with content. Google’s algorithms and AI have got a lot smarter since the early days of the World Wide Web and now know how to recognize good content from bad. Let’s face it: nobody wants to read something (or buy something from) a page that’s badly written, boring or irrelevant. This is where having good content is so important. A page or site that’s great for your customers and clients – and for your search rankings – is one that has tons of information that’s interesting, relevant, great to read and possibly even entertaining.
Content comes in a range of forms, from your bread and butter home pages and descriptions of your services and products, through to blogs and videos on topics related to your particular service or business. Pictures and memes can help as well, but you have to take care with these so that your site is mobile phone friendly – but a good SEO expert can help you here.
2. Keywords are SEO's Bread and Butter
Keywords are your second important tool for boosting your page rankings. Most users over the age of 10 know that in order to find exactly what you want and not have gazillions of vaguely related pages that aren’t really what you want, you have to be precise in your search times. For example, you don’t just type in “piercing” if you’re looking for a place to get a nose ring (note: example doesn’t apply to actual 10-year-olds!); you get a bit more specific and type in something like “nose piercing in [your nearest suburb or city]”. Hey presto, up pops a list of the sites with those precise words. The trick here is to identify these long and precise “long-tailed search terms” or “long-tailed keywords” and make sure that your online content has them somewhere in the text. Google helpfully collects the terms that people use most often when searching, and these are your hot buttons to boosting your rankings… as long as you don’t sacrifice the quality of your content to do so!
3. Links - Every Website's Voting Rights
Last but definitely not least of the tools in your SEO kit is the use of links. It’s called the internet because of all the links from this site to that site. One of the things that Google has used since the 2000s (the noughties) to rank pages is the number of links leading to a particular page. The bad old days of link farms are gone, thank goodness, but links leading in – and out, these days – are still important SEO tools.
Admittedly, building links is the hardest part of SEO and it often takes an expert to help you build them, especially if you’re busy doing your business. Having social media accounts for your business is one simple way but there’s often more to it than that. For example, you have to have social media accounts on the right platforms. Then there’s the bright and exciting world of social media influencers, guest blogs and more, for which you might need an expert to help you navigate so that you can get the best out of your website and absolutely crush the SEO thing.
Hmm, Using an SEO Agency Looks Like a Great Investment
Here is reason No.1 why you should invest in boosting the rankings of your business website (which is your best salesman by the way) - PROFIT! Increased online exposure leads to more visitors ---> more enquiries ---> more profit in your pocket. An expert SEO company can make a great impact on your bottom line while being able to maintain your rankings for a long-term ROI.
Nick Vassilev is the driving force behind London SEO Guy. Since the very beginning back in 2000 his efforts have been concentrated on generating new leads for his companies through organic local SEO. He is a master of ranking small business websites in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America.