Running a business without a website is like being a salesman without the ability to speak. You may have the best products or services, but no one will know about them. Because of this, there are millions of sites vying for the same target audience in each sector. How can you come out on top in this competitive marketplace? The answer lies in SEO (search engine optimisation).
Try and picture what a search engine has to do. Once a user types in a search, it has to trawl through billions of sites and bring up a list which satisfies the query in terms of relevance and importance. Proper SEO helps search engines recognise both these qualities in your site and rank your webpage more accurately.
Before we look into the basics of SEO, it will be helpful to list some common vocabulary.
- Keyword: A word used by search engines to look for relevant websites
- Title tag: The text in the top line of a web browser when displaying a webpage
- SERP (search engine results page): A list of results returned by a search engine
- Meta description: A short block of text found under each site header on a SERP
- Link: A connection from one webpage to another
- Anchor text: The text highlighted in a link which can be clicked
- Sitemap: A list of pages on a website made for search engines to browse
- Redirect: To automatically change the web address from one URL to another
Now we will go over the basics of SEO and how to create a commercial site that really stands out.
The basic principle is to write for people and not search engines. Will people be satisfied when arriving at your site after making a query? Will they find what they were searching for?
When writing your content, localise it using the spelling, terms and slang your intended audience will most likely search for. This will target your content and ensure the right people visit you. After all, web copy is about attracting the correct type of traffic.
Ensure most of your content is in text or html as this is what search engines can see. While you can include images, videos, flash, etc. for your readers, you should make these readable through the following means:
- Alt tags for images (invisible text descriptions)
- Text supplements describing flash and java plugins
- Transcripts of any audio and video found onsite
Avoid duplicate content as this can dilute your ranking. After all, how does a search engine know which page is most important if they’re the same?
Marketing is essential for building links since search engines rank sites in terms of relevance and importance. If you don’t promote your site, it will be invisible to them. Instead, generate popularity so your content is read, liked, shared and commented upon. This enhances how your site looks to each search engine.
There are two main types of link, each of which is important:
- Internal. These are links from one page of your site to another
- External. These are links between your website and others. They come in two categories: inbound (linking to your site from a third party page) and outbound (the opposite).
Ensure all important pages can be reached through internal links so the search engines can see them. Avoid pages solely accessible via submission or search forms. Also limit the number of links on each page. When forming links, always use text and images as flash and java plugins won’t be visible to the search engines.
Adding rel=”nofollow” to certain links is also recommended. For outgoing links, this tells the search engine to ignore that link, preventing your page rank ‘leaking’ to sites you don’t want to endorse. This tag can be useful in instances where you want to refer to a certain low-ranking site without affecting the hard work you’ve put into your SEO.
Never use external links between two sites on the same server or hosting plan. Since they likely use a similar IP address, the search engines may guess that you own or run them both. This can lead to your site being penalised. For the same reason, don’t link from multiple sites with the same domain.
Since search engines see everything in text, adding specific keywords to your site will help them gauge the relevancy of your site with regards to certain online queries. To choose these keywords, think about the competition (e.g. how many sites will also be using those specific phrases). Typically, fewer words will mean greater competition while specific phrases with more words will have less.
For instance, “business” has a high number of monthly searches yet has millions of sites optimised for it. “Business networking” has fewer monthly searches with less competition. “Business networking in West Kent” would have even fewer monthly searches with even lower amounts of competition. This makes it easier for your site to achieve a higher ranking for that specific, yet longer query.
When choosing keywords, consider how they can drive traffic and produce conversions. Brainstorm root keywords, such as “business networking”, and modify them with various stems that people may search for. For our example, this can include:
- Business networking in Kent
- Women’s business networking
- Business networking groups
- West Kent business networking groups
In this case, individuals searching for these keywords will definitely be interested in your website. These specific phrases connect you to a smaller targeted audience to improve your conversion rates.
For proper SEO, place your keywords in the following ways throughout your site:
- Use keywords at the beginning of the title tag
- Insert them once near the top of the webpage
- Spread them evenly throughout the body copy
- Include one in the alt tag of a single image
- Write once in the URL and meta description
Choose a single keyword for each webpage to help the search engines distinguish between them. These should also be consistent for all inbound links to that page. Using the same keywords repeatedly on different pages throughout your site won’t give a clear indicator of which is the most relevant. This will, in turn, dilute the traffic interested in those particular search phrases.
URLs and Domains
Tailoring the web address is a smart way to enhance your site’s SEO. This applies to the domain name (which for this website is wibwestkent.org.uk) as well as the longer URLs of each individual webpage (e.g. http://wibwestkent.org.uk/using-referral-marketing-to-boost-business/)
Not only should these give the reader an excellent idea of what they can expect to find on your site, each URL should also satisfy the following SEO criteria:
Contains one or two keywords
- Words separated with hyphens (not spaces)
- Short enough to fit in the search results
Think carefully about the domain name and URLs you use as this can set up your site for better SEO later on.
The title is the text that shows at the top of the web browser and should be an accurate description of the page content. For the homepage of this website, the title is “Women in Business West Kent – Business Networking for women based in or near West Kent”.
There are a few ways in which you can optimise the title tag for better SEO:
- Keep the length less than 75 characters as this is all that is shown in search engines. Anything else will be cut off and replaced by an ellipsis (…)
- Insert the most important keywords close to the front
- Put your brand somewhere in the homepage’s title tag
Write a compelling title designed for the user. Ensure it conveys a positive emotion and encourages them to visit your site.
A meta description is a short summary of a webpage’s content. It is found below the title tag on each SERP. While this text isn’t used by the search engines for SEO, it can act as advertising to promote your site and draw in more traffic. Be concise though as anything after about 160 characters will be cut off. Make the description compelling and insert some keywords in the text as these will be bolded in the search engine results, highlighting your page for the user.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate good SEO on your website is to create it with the CMS, WordPress. This is thanks to its user-friendly interface and extensive functionality. While you can alter the SEO basics in the fields found the Pages and Posts menus on the Dashboard, you will need plugins that offer the following capabilities:
- Optimising the title tags to include targeted keywords
- Configuring meta descriptions for each individual post
- Creating a sitemap for the search engines to trawl
- Redirecting users from outdated webpages to newer ones
Recommended plugins include Yoast (used on the Women in Business West Kent website), All in One SEO Pack, and Redirection. You will have to combine the features of these plugins with the SEO techniques listed above to ensure your site ranks well enough to boost web traffic and bring more conversions to your business.
If you need any more advice, or are looking for someone to help with on or off-site SEO for your website, we are ready and willing to help, just an email away.
Guest blog post by Ben Avenell of SEOpie – Search Optimisation Services for small and medium-sized businesses.
Which SEO do you use for your blog posts? Have you any tips to add in the comments below?
References and Useful Info:
SEO Basics for Small Business Owners (http://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2014/10/30/seo-basics-for-small-business-owners/)
SEO Acronyms and Initialisms (http://www.seopie.co.uk/seo-acronyms-and-initialisms)
40 Essential Terms Marketers Should Know (http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6080/40-Essential-SEO-Terms-Marketers-Should-Know-Glossary.aspx)
The Beginners Guide to SEO (http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo)
SEO Strategy Guide (http://www.seopie.co.uk/seo-strategy-guide)
How to Do Keyword Research for SEO (http://www.seonick.net/keyword-research/)
How to Do Keyword Research: A 6-Point Checklist (http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/how-to-do-keyword-research/)
WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need (http://www.viperchill.com/wordpress-seo/)
Infographic: What Is The Nofollow Tag; When & How To Use It (http://searchengineland.com/infographic-nofollow-tag-172157)