I’m of those people who does a lot of things on instinct.
Like the time I bought my first car.
I was at a friend’s place on a late Saturday afternoon. We were about to sit down and watch the All Blacks play Australia.
With ten minutes to kick-off, I said I’d quickly dash out to grab a bottle of wine.
I ended up buying the car as well on the way back.
I know right, who in the hell does that?
My friend lived just around the corner from the now-defunct Rick Damelion dealership. Just before the shop, there on the pavement with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the windscreen was a blue Holden Barina. I took one look and thought “that’s my car”.
Fifteen minutes later (including a five-minute test drive through peak-hour traffic in a suburb I’d never been before), I was the car’s new owner.
I returned with the wine and drove the car home the next morning.
That’s how I roll people.
The next day I signed up for a car-maintenance course. Because instinct or not, I’m also the kind of person who needs to know what goes on under the bonnet. After that, I did all my own oil and brake changes, could change the globes and fuses – you get the picture.
A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
And it’s the same with SEO.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION
Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on Search Engine Optimisation – far from it. But I’ve made an effort to learn the basics (so I know what’s going on under the bonnet of my business) and it’s paid off.
As a result, my website ranks on page one of Google for a few different keyword terms.
And yours can too if you follow these simple tips. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
When you type a search term into Google, Bing or Duck Duck Go, the search engine ‘crawls’ every page on the internet looking for the ones which most closely match your needs. It then ranks those pages accordingly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). So, the key to getting your website to rank higher means every page on your site needs to be optimised to get priority ranking in the search.
There are specific reasons why some websites rank more highly than others but it can pretty much be boiled down to three key elements:
Now, anyone can advertise their business on Google and as a result, gets priority ranking in the SERP. However, there’s a lot you can do to improve the organic ranking of your site without paying which is even better, right?
Let’s start with the obvious one – go to Google My Business to list your business which will get you off to a flying start. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of SEO.
TECHNICAL SEO KNOW-HOW
First-off. when people come to your website it needs to be a painless experience. In practice, what that means is:
- ensuring it’s logically laid out
- is easy to navigate
- people can find what they need
- your content is useful and answers their questions
Your website developer is responsible for the structure and the copywriter for the words. Both play a role in ensuring your website is Search Engine Optimised.
We’ll get into keywords shortly but essentially the words and phrases you use to describe your product or service, need to be incorporated into the back-end of your site (as well as the content). This means making sure your business descriptions are included in:
- the url
- the page title (with each page having a specific focus)
- the headings (primarily H1 and H2)
- the meta description (written differently for each page)
- the alt-tags (to label images in case they don’t load and/or for the visually impaired)
- the images (so they can be identified by the search engines)
This may not mean a lot to you but will to your web-developer (and your copywriter if they’ve made an effort to get across it – hello!).
That’s a very distilled list but I’d say those are the key things and ticking those boxes is what worked for me. However, there’s much more to know so if you’d like to learn more, check out this Search Engine Watch article on 22 Essentials you need for optimising your site. But I’m warning you, it’s like a rabbit warren which is which is why I’m only covering the basics.
Now, the first thing I want to say about keywords is that they’re not the ‘be all and end all’. At the end of the day, we’re all human and ultimately it’s human relationships and connections which keep our businesses going – not how keyworded your website is.
But that aside, it’s good to know how to search for relevant keywords for your business.
Let’s use the car maintenance example. If I type ‘car maintenance course, Canberra’ into Google – after the paid ads, one place comes up – the Canberra Institute of Technology. CIT runs a number of car maintenance courses so it pretty much dominates the listing. And although targeted at slightly different audiences, they all contain the keywords and phrases of the search.
What this search is really saying, is that CIT is the place to go if you’re looking for a car maintenance course. Imagine if you could get that kind of result for your business?
Of course, as soon as you start typing Google will offer own suggestions (based on what others are searching for) so the auto-suggest function is a useful starting point to think about keyword phrase relevant to your business.
At the bottom of the search page, Google gives you more info about the related searches.
Finding keywords and generating ideas
Keyword planning tools are a useful way of testing keywords and keyword phrases (called Long Tail keywords) to see how many people are searching for those products or services in any given month.
When you understand what people are searching for (relevant to your industry) then you can tweak your website content to target them. Specifically, you should aim to enter your keywords in a number of places in order to improve your website ranking. These include:
- page title
- headers and-subheaders
- in the first sentence
Here are a few keyword planning tools you might want to look at:
Whatever your industry, customers will always have questions about your service or product. A big part of SEO is answering those questions via your website (based on your long tail keyword research).
Imagine if there was a tool which helped you understand what kind of questions people might ask?
Luckily there is.
Answer the Public is an idea generation tool based on a single keyword. It generates ideas by putting a question like ‘who, what, where, why, when’ in front of the keyword.
When I entered the word ‘bookkeeper’ I got 84 questions and this amazing graphic. This could be really helpful for bookkeepers setting up their websites. Whatever your business is – try it out!
Now, there’s no question that easily the most important aspect of SEO, is publishing regular content. In order for your website to rank, search engines have to be able to detect regular activity. If your website appears dormant because you haven’t updated it since you set it up five years ago, then it will rank poorly.
If you have a News section or Blog on your site or you regularly update your content then you’re covered. If you don’t then the search engines won’t know your site is active. You really need to be refreshing/publishing content on a regular basis. And if you’re worried about where to find ideas, here are ten super easy ones to get you started.
Another important aspect of Search Engine Optimisation is through the use of inbound and outbound links, as this too, tells the search engines your site is alive and kicking. If you can link to what are known as high authority sites (because they have a lot of readers or subscribers) then that will also help you.
They rank highly for a reason, and that reason is, they publish really darned useful content, like this. Think of it as kind of piggy-backing on someone else’s kudos – they benefit but so do you from the association and the links which exist between the sites.
Social media of course also plays a role in driving traffic to and from your website and this also helps rankings. However do keep an eye on all the shifting rules of the game the social media giants dictate, as I said in a recent post.
Are you ready for your close up? I hope so because we’re living in the video age and video has become important in website ranking. So, if you’re a maker, creator, builder or baker – think about maybe doing a time-lapse video or some vision of the end result.
If you’re camera-shy, get on the other side of the lens and be the ones asking the questions. You could interview a client or member of your team or answer a customer’s question on video – it’s just another way of showing visitors to your site what you do.
Analytics and plugins
They say if you can’t measure something you can’t understand it. Which is why this is also a critical part of SEO. There are many free plugins out there which can help improve the SEO of your site.
YOAST is a fantastic plugin for SEO, is easy to use, lets you view what your page will look like in a Google Search and also has a traffic light system to rate the content on your site. Only one word of warning on the traffic lights – you can end up tying yourself in knots trying to get the ‘green light’ but remember your content needs to cut through to actual humans, so first – write like one!
There is a plethora of information on the net on optimising SEO and analytics. I won’t go into them all (and because I’m not an expert) but I know someone who is – if you want to delve deeper you should check out MOZ as they wrote the book on SEO.
Finally, there’s no silver bullet and certainly, top rankings don’t happen overnight.
However, if you follow the steps above then I guarantee your website ranking will improve. That’s all I did and over a couple of months, I saw my website move from page four to page one.
The other thing to consider is what I said earlier – business is about building relationships and that comes above all else. Many small business owners are under enough pressure and simply don’t always have the time, money or resources to put into all of these things.
But if any of this resonates with you and it’s inspired you to set up a blog, news tab or re-work your website then get in touch – I can definitely help.