It is important to understand that as a small business owner, ranking highly in a search engine is crucial for your websites success. Where you rank can have a direct impact on your profits and you have the ability to directly influence this through search engine optimisation (SEO).
SEO improves website visibility
The process of SEO involves making your website visible in search engine results. The Google algorithm will consider hundreds of factors when deciphering which websites to show when certain search terms are inputted.
Your website is the starting point. Google will send out automated ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’ which visit all available pages on every website across the internet. These ‘spiders’ then collate data from the web pages and store them on the various worldwide servers. This means that when an individual then searches for a term which is related to your site, the Google algorithm processes all the information which has been collated from your website and others similar. The algorithm will then establish which sites are most applicable to the search query and display them in an ordered list with the most relevant options at the top.
To put it another way, think of the internet like a library and the ‘spider’ as the librarian. Your website is a new book arrival and it is the librarian’s job to decide which section of the library to display it in. A visitor may come into the library who is interested in the genre of your book but isn’t aware of your books existence. The visitor then explores the relevant section, finds your book and checks it out because it is what they are looking for. Simple.
The evolution of SEO – avoid the spam!
Since the rise of the internet in the 1990’s, website owners have being attempting to make their sites ranks the highest in search engines. Some SEO practitioners in the past managed to trick the algorithm into thinking that their websites were the more relevant than they actually were. This optimisation created negative experiences for web users and quickly became criticised. Some of the once approved and accepted SEO techniques became frowned upon as the web matured and they became overused.
To ensure that these ‘black hat’ techniques become less effective, search engine algorithms are consistently updated. This means that SEO is continually evolving therefore techniques that could have been effective a few years ago, are considerably less effective today. If a ‘black hat’ technique is found by a Google ‘spider’ your website could be penalised and the site will drop considerably in the rankings.
One way to ensure that you steer clear of ‘black hat’ SEO is to ask yourself whether your site is providing users with useful and unique information. If you feel that you can confidently prove this to be true, you can feel reassured that your website is search-engine friendly.
What are search engines looking for?
Search engines aim to direct users to the most relevant content for their search and this relevancy is determined by several core elements:
- How relevant is the content for the users search?
- How efficient is the site?
- Does it load quickly and work well?
- Do authoritative sites use the website as a reference?
- What is the user experience like?
- Is the website easy to navigate and does it look safe?
Key ways to optimise website visibility for search engines
Knowing where to start when trying to learn about SEO can be overwhelming. The following list provides you with the best places to begin:
1. Keywords These are terms which you need to make sure exist within your website. Keywords are essentially queries which your prospective customers will search for when researching your business sector. By using a keyword tool, you have the ability to identify other terms which could direct people to your website. This will allow you to gain an understanding of how competitive certain keywords are, how often people search for them and then ensure these terms exist within your own website.
2. Title tags
These act as the title for each page and shows as the link in search engine result pages (SERPs) as well as in the tab of most web browsers. It is therefore important that you ensure each title tag is unique and contains significant keywords. It is advisable that you include a keyword which is specific to each page and if there is room, your brand name should also be included. Using a hyphen (-) to separate your brand name from keywords is advisable as well as keeping the copy to no more than 55 characters so it isn’t too long to display.
3. Heading tags
There are six different heading tags which can be used from H1 to H6. H1 should be applied to the page headline and is the most important heading tag for search engines. Be careful not to use the H1 tag more than once per page. This can result in a penalty from Google for over-optimisation. Other title tags may be used more than once per page. For example, on a page which is copy heavy, the H1 tag could be used for the headline title and H2 tags could then be applied for the sub headings. Not only will this format send signals to the search engine crawlers, breaking the text into sections makes for a better user experience.
4. Page copy
It is essential that your page copy is written well and is readable to make it easy for the Google crawlers to read through. Your copy should include certain keywords however make sure you don’t overuse them as this will just result in poor quality copy which could actually have the opposite effect by damaging the site’s ranking. Make sure you double-check your copy before you publish a page.
5. URL structure
Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) provide another way to display your keywords to search engines. Make sure that they are included as part of the URL which comes after the domain name or /. Alternatively make sure they are included in the resource path. It is best to use all lowercase text and hyphens to separate words when utilising URLs . An example of this would be: www.bizdaq.co.uk/knowledge/10-tips-success-new-business-owner.
6. Meta descriptions
A meta description sounds a bit intimidating however it is just the name for the two lines of copy which appear in the result pages of search engines. It is the text found under the clickable link and URL. It is important to provide Google with a meta description otherwise it will just display random text from your page which could mean nothing to the user. Although meta descriptions no longer have any impact on search engine rankings, they can help to encourage users to visit your website. This is normally done by providing a preview of what your business offers or a preview of what is in store. It is normally advisable to keep the text under 155 characters and include a call to action for engagement purposes.
Search engine crawlers use the coding behind images to understand what is being displayed and gather the information from the filename, alt tag and image title.
This is the name applied to an image when it is saved. Make sure you take time to ensure the name is descriptive, uses lowercase text and words are separated using hyphens.
Alt tag text
This is copy displayed in the place of an image if it has failed to load or can’t be displayed. It is also used for people who are either visually impaired or use a screen reader. The alt tag text should provide the user with a brief explanation of the image.
This is the text which appears as the mouse hovers over the image. This copy should build upon the description which the alt tag provides. It is best to think of it as an image caption.
Create an SEO strategy
It is important that once you have optimised your website for search engines, you create an ongoing SEO strategy. Devoting time and energy to creating an efficient SEO strategy is what will separate you from your competitors and see the results you are aiming for.
What does great content look like?
Any text which provides the user with valuable information and is accessible for engine crawlers to search is regarded as content.
The key to creating great content is producing descriptive copy which is original, innovative and relevant. This is vital as the Google algorithm places a lot of weight on the quality of the content on websites.
1. Be original
Your aim should always be to produce content which no other site provides. If other sites do provide similar information, try and present it in a different way. You should never just copy and paste text from one website to your own.
2. Produce content which is relevant
The content you produce should be related to your business sector and your website. If you digress off topic, it can confuse the search engine crawlers and potential visitors to your site.
3. Frequently publish content
You should publish content as frequently as you can to show Google that your website is still active. Old content can go off quickly which is dangerous if it’s placed in a prominent area of your site.
Be visible to your locals
If you’re trying to increase local footfall into your store, make sure you tailor your site to appeal to those close to you. This is known as local SEO.
Make sure you include your business location into your main keywords and sign up for a Google My Business account. This will ensure that your business contact information is the same across Google search, Maps and Google + as well as the added bonus of giving your business a greater presence in search results.
The role of inbound links
Inbound links play an important role for obtaining high search engine rankings. These are links on other websites which point people back to yours. Other sites are basically endorsing the content of your site.
However, not all inbound links hold the same value according to Google. A link from a major website such as bbc.co.uk will hold the value of several links from less popular sites.
It is therefore obvious that producing great content and obtaining inbound links are both essential to creating an effective SEO strategy. Producing good quality content will not only influence Google crawlers but will impress visitors to your website who will then want to share your site on either their own website or via social media.
A SEO strategy will undoubtedly help your website become a success. Ensuring that you are constantly striving to produce great content and improve your site will increase your chances of achieving higher rankings on search engine results than your competitors. It’s as simple as that.