SEO: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation aims to improve the amount and quality of your website traffic organically via search engine results.  You’ve probably heard of SEO but may not know why you need it. So, let’s look at how it works, and why you do it for Google first.

There is nothing magical about SEO. It’s about making sure your content sends the right signals to search engines. Those signals tell the search engines that your content is worth showing in search results. 

In very simplified terms, the more relevant your content is to a search the higher up the search engine results page (SERP) it can be placed. SO that’s why SEO is important.

How SEO works

Search engines have bots that crawl the content on the internet, reading and indexing it. These crawlers recognise keywords, images and their descriptions, and of course text. 

At the moment a search engine user starts typing a search term, the engine starts working to display the most relevant results. Because most people will include a keyword in their search, this is one of the most important parts of optimising. We’ll talk more about keywords in a moment. 

Optimising also includes improving website performance. Page load speed is a factor, along with how the website, webpages and content is organised, coded and navigated. 

Why Google first?

Before we go any further, let’s look at why people usually talk about Google when it comes to SEO.

Take a look at this chart:

Worldwide Search Engine Market Share Jan-Aug 2018 (Source: www.gs.statcounter.com)

So let’s bring that into real terms. In a group of 1,000 people from around the world, 910 of them are using Google. 31 use Bing, 25 use Yahoo!, and 10 use Baidu. 

New Zealand’s stats are similar. Out of 1,000 Kiwis, 950 would use Google, and 32 use Bing. The remaining 18 would use MSN (7), Yahoo! (5), DuckDuckGo (4) and Baidu (2). 
(Source: gs.statcounter.com)

With more than 90% of the search engine market share, optimising your content specifically for Google is a no-brainer. 

Keywords

Now we know why we’re optimising for Google, let’s take a look at keywords. 

Keywords help search engines crawl and index your content. You need to use these words, and also variations of them, across your website. 

Picking the right keywords isn’t usually hard. These are simply words you’d associate with your business. 

You’ll also want to know any keyword variations being used to find content like yours. One of the easiest tools is the Google Keyword Planner

The first this to do is set a town, city, region or country. Try the one that’s most relevant to your business. 

Now type in a topic you’d like to have your website or blog associated with. Wait for the results to load. You’ll see a list with your chosen keyword(s), and other related keywords. You can also see how often they’re being used along wth other stats. 

Hint: If there aren’t lots of searches, you can try widening the location. 

Use these keywords in your page titles, meta snippets, text and image tags. This will increase relevancy for crawlers, which will help searchers find your content. 

Blogging

If you’ve been looking into digital marketing, you’ve probably seen references to blogging for SEO. That’s because blogging is a great way to increase the amount of keyword-rich content on your site.

Depending on your industry, blogging can be easy or frustrating. Applying SEO thinking adds another aspect. If you’re keen to give it a go, maybe try this Blog Topic Generator from HubSpot as a start point. Hint: Make use of your keyword list!

Pick a topic, and use the Five W’s and an H method to write 1500+ words about it. Try to use your keywords in context with the information around them. Google can spot an old tactic called “keyword stuffing” easily!

Getting it done

Like so many other parts of marketing your business, optimising your website and content comes down to time, knowledge, and budget. People invest time and money earning certifications and becoming SEO experts. They also keep track of changes to the way Google and other search engines index your webpages. 

You might be able to afford to employ an expert or agency. You could also pay to use SEO plugins or software. Or you might have to make do with a few simple guidelines that will keep your content search engine-friendly. 

We’ve put together a few ideas here, because we’re happy to help

Simple SEO Guidelines

Google wants to make SEO better because it helps users. So of course, they provide a couple of tools that can make it easier. 

Their Search Console is free to use, aimed at helping you monitor and also maintain your site’s appearance in search results on Google.

And because of that, you need to use it. Get started with Google Search Console here.

Being present on Google My Business is now crucial for small and medium-sized businesses. Google is even asking existing customers or clients of SMBs to review the business/services! Those reviews are then displayed on GMB. 

It is also integrated with Google Maps and Google reviews.

Google will display your GMB profile when someone searches for you, so it’s a great way to earn more relevancy for your site.

This shouldn’t be tricky! Your page titles should simply tell both users and bots what the content is about.

You can also think of ways to make them more attractive. For example, some hotels/restaurants put Review in the title to grab attention. 

Make sure you don’t try to mislead them though – because you could be penalised for that. 

Have you ever heard of the Flesch reading ease score? It’s just a way of measuring how easy a piece of text is to read. If you want to know more about it, read this.

Using a cloud-based solution like Readable.io can help. If you are using a service like WordPress, for example, an SEO plugin will usually include a function for this. 

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It means “address”. The key to a good URL for SEO is making it easy to read and remember for humans and bots. 

For example:
Make sure your keyword is in your URL.
Get rid of any “stop words” in your URL. See a list of these words here

Meta tags are little bits of code, also called snippets, that help to tell search engines what a page is about. 

Editing these depends on the platform you’re using and your ability level. Learn more about them from Google, here

Trying to see things from a user or bot perspective isn’t always easy. Ask a friend or colleague to give feedback on your navigation, so you can make adjustments.

Alternatively, you might use Google Analytics. If you can see where people are getting stuck, you can change it. 

People browse the internet using their mobile device ahead of laptops or desktops. So it generally makes sense to ensure it’s easiest for the majority first! 

Google has moved to Mobile First indexing from 2018.

Open a Channel Grouping report (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels). Select Organic Search. 

If you have enough traffic, you’ll be able to see how people are finding you. Check the keywords, and think about the pages they lead to. Can you make a change to improve the experience? 

You can also consider how people use your navigation, landing page structure and calls-to-action. Can you simplify it?  

 

Other benefits of SEO

Writing for search engine optimisation will make you focus on readability – not just for bots, but for the people who visit! It’s a nice spin-off effect. 

For example, using shorter sentences and words will make your articles simpler to read. It’s likely that you’ll use sub-headings and also be aware of paragraph sizes.

Depending on your business, you might see improved conversion rates because potential customers are finding and using your site more easily.

Plus, SEO can also have an impact on how much you pay for Google Ads – but that’s a subject for another day!

Conclusion

As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to grow your business. Often that mean reaching more people to let them know about your products or services. 

That’s why so many businesses now include optimising content and publishing blogs as part of their marketing strategy. 

Improving your online presence with the world’s biggest search engine in mind is something you should have started, or at least have high on your to-do list. 

By improving your website content’s readability and functionality, you’ll be helping Google to help others find you. It’s a win-win, if you can dedicate the resources. 

If you’d like some help with this, or another aspect of digital marketing, please get in touch with us

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