The following information is a guide to help you begin a search engine optimisation program on your website. It assumes that you at least have an understanding of what SEO is. If you don’t – just call Search Internet Marketing on 01793 752771 and we can help you.
A critical requirement in creating an effective Internet marketing strategy built around Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a clear understanding of your target market a.k.a. your target audience. Once you know what your target audience is looking for you can be so much more effective in reaching those users.
At Search Internet Marketing we constantly say “focus on the site visitors not search engines.” If your website is delivering a bad user experience to your site visitors – maybe they are having trouble finding the answers they are searching for or the site is not allowing then to accomplish a task easily – then this typically signals poor search engine performance too.
On the other hand, when users are happy with your website, a positive experience is created, both with the search engine and the site users and we usually see that site doing much better in the search engine rankings.
How do Internet users Search?
Fundamentally there are three types of search queries users generally perform:
- “Do” These are Transactional Queries – they are Action queries such as buying something downloading something or subscribing to something
- “Know” These are Informational Queries – here the user is searching for information or researching before making decisions
- “Go” These are Navigation Queries – they are Search queries that seek a particular online destination. Typically the user types in the url of the website they want or a puts in a search that gets them to where they want to be quickly e.g. BBC Sports, National Rail Enquiries
Remember what the role of the search engines really is at this point. Their first and most important responsibility is to serve the best, most relevant, most appropriate results to their users. So when visitors use a search engine and land on your website, how satisfied will they be with what they find there? This is the critical question the search engines need to solve in order to rank your site correctly in the search returns listings.
It all starts with that first search query
Keyword research is a critical activity for successful in Internet marketing. Getting onto page one of Google with the “right” keywords for your business can dramatically boost your business.
But it’s not just about getting new visitors to your website, it’s all about getting the right kind of visitors.
1) Do your Keyword Research
The benefits of conducting effective keyword research cannot be overstated. Do this correctly and you will find that you can
- predict shifts in demand,
- respond to changing market conditions, and
- produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are already actively seeking.
In the history of marketing, there has never been such a low barrier to entry in understanding the motivations of consumers in virtually every niche.
At Search Internet Marketing this is the absolute start point when we take on an SEO project. It has to be, because if you do not have a clear view of what keywords/phrases you want to be found for then you are heading off on an SEO journey without a map!
It is therefore critical to the future success of your SEO campaign that you understand which words/phrases you need to target and what their value is to your business (how much traffic will they drive to your website and will it convert?) and how competitive are the terms you have selected (i.e. does your website stand a chance of ranking highly with them?)
With so much riding on getting the keyword selection process right here are some pointers for identifying the most effective keywords for your business.
How to start your Keyword Research
If you already have a website and you have access to the site statistics (usually provided via your hosting company) or maybe you have set up your own using Google Analytics. These stats are a good place to start. Amongst other things they’ll tell you what keywords or phrases searchers used to find your site. These can often make interesting reading. But be aware only phrases that are already in your website will be displayed, this is because you will not be found for any phrases that your website is not indexed for. So the bottom line here is that you will not see any search phrases that you are not already familiar with. (Stay with me it gets easier!)
Arrange a brainstorm session or sessions with colleagues/employees in your business and come up with a list of keyword phrases that you think people would use to find your business online.
If you are a sole trader you could ask other businesses associated with yours to help you with this exercise – suppliers or partners for example. If you belong to a business networking group why not ask the members to assist you and, unless you are particularly unfortunate, there are always family and friends around.
The really important thing to remember here is to try and put yourself in the position of a prospective client who wants the products or services that you offer but who does not know you exist. What would they type into the search engines? Be aware that these days people are using phrases of three four or even more words to try and get the most relevant search results.
Also avoid using industry jargon and buzz words that are not commonly used by your target audience. The daily jargon and acronyms that you might happily use with your colleagues inside the business may not be known or used by your target audience outside.
Look at your competitors sites
Take a look at the keywords your competitors are using on their sites. Have they come up with anything you missed? If you go to your competitors website and from your toolbar select “page” and then from the drop down menu select “view source” this should allow you to see the keywords they have used for that particular page of the website. Look for the keywords tag;
><meta id=”MetaKeywords” name=”KEYWORDS” content=”Web design Swindon Business Websites online Marketing Increase traffic web design” /
Ask Your Customers
Often we don’t use our customers as much as we could for help and advice on how to develop our businesses. Information from your existing customers on the keywords and phrases that they themselves would use to find your business online could prove invaluable. After all they are exactly the kind of people you want to reach.
Selecting the most Valuable Keywords
The exercises described above will generate a lot of keyword information. Now you need to sort the wheat from the chaff and to do that you need to determine which of these keywords and phrases are going to be most valuable to your business.
This next stage is critical because if you make the wrong selections at this point you could waste a lot of time and effort optimising your site for keywords/phrases that are either rarely, or even never
searched for or are so competitive that you stand no earthly chance of getting onto the top pages of search returns.
So how do you determine which keywords to focus on? You will really need to use some online tools to help you here. There are a large number of tools to choose form. For a free tool that you can easily use try the Google Adwords Keyword Tool – enter the keywords you want to check and this will give you some top level search information amongst other things you’ll get the number of searches made on that phrase in the past month.
The Google Adwords Keyword tool will give you an indication of the competitiveness of your selected phrases, though do bear in mind it is skewed towards the paid search environment.
It is important to know this because you could be wasting your time trying to compete in a hugely competitive space with certain keywords that you will never be found for without a huge amount of effort and investment because the competition is so fierce. To compete effectively in highly competitive markets you need to find niche keywords or focus on long tail keywords that are less strongly competed for.
If you have some budget available then I would recommend that you set up a short term Google Adwords Pay Per Click campaign to test your keywords in a real live situation. But do make sure that you set up the campaign correctly or you will not get meaningful results. Your campaign does not to need to run for too long and the results you get back will be invaluable.
By this point you should be in good shape to make final decisions on the keywords you want to optimise your site around. So make your choices – prioritise them and go to the next stage which is all about Content.
2. Content is King they say…and they’d be right!
Once you have established what your target keywords are going to be you need to focus on your website content.
Content is critical to the success of your website. This is pretty self-evident, but often we don’t give it the right attention it needs. Google reminded everyone of the importance of creating good quality original web content with their changes to the way they ranked websites in 2012. (Unless you follow what happens in the world of SEO you probably will not have heard of the Google Penguin updates but they have had a big impact learn more here Penguin shakes up SE.
Typically smaller businesses simply do not spend enough time and effort on developing their website’s content. If you are spending out time and money to have a website built you really do need to make sure that populate it with properly developed content and then have a well structured plan to continuously develop that content. Have a look here Developing a Winning Content Strategy for more information on this. Not to have any content development plan will doom your website to obscurity. It will never be found by anyone who does not already have your website address.
Content is crucial therefore for two main reasons;
1) From an SEO point of view having properly developed content will significantly help you to improve your search engine rankings and get your website found by your target audience and pulling new visitors to your website.
2) Your content will determine whether your site visitors will stay on your website long enough to do the things you want them to do. Buy something, subscribe, fill in an enquiry form, call you for more information etc.
If your content is poorly developed, doesn’t give them the information they require, is difficult to read and not properly structured then they will not stay on your site for long and your website will quickly become just another cost instead of an investment that pays back.
So what does great website content look like?
Google offers the following advice specifically on content creation (taken from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines)
- Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
- Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
OK so it’s pretty short and to the point but in there are all the guiding principles to creating great content.
When we work with our SEO clients we advise them to think of each page as a theme and your content for that page should support and develop that theme throughout. Don’t be tempted to develop too many themes on one page – keep the theme as tightly focussed as possible. If you feel it is getting too big and unwieldy then break it down into sections and if appropriate make these extra pages.
I know we are focussing more on SEO aspects here but bear in mind no search engine will ever buy anything from you. So do make sure that what you are writing appeals to your target audience. For good information have a look at building effective Landing Pages
Also be aware that when we talk about pages on a website there are effectively two elements to the Page;
- the visible content – what the human visitor sees
- the tagging information which is what the search engine read. They also read the visible content too of course.
We’ll start with the use of keywords in the visible content section of the page. Here it is very important to put your keywords in the following places and use them in the following ways;
Headings and sub headings – get your most important keywords into the heading and lesser keywords into the sub headings.
Use bold text – to highlight keywords but only where it looks right to do so. Bolding words gives them emphasis from an SEO point of view but use this sparingly. Bolding all your keywords may make the page look like a cheap mailshot and you could well lose your visitor as a result.
Body Text – this is the content that comes after the headings. You need to be using your selected keywords and phrases throughout the body text. Ideally get some in the opening paragraph and again in the closing paragraph. Do not overdo it though! You do not want to get penalised for “keyword stuffing”. Once again when your content has been written review it from the human visitor point of view, never lose sight of the fact that you are writing for them.
Links – if you have links in your content either to other websites or to other pages on your website – and you really should have – try to use a meaningful keyword in the link see the example below:
You should make the links meaningful to the visitor. Don’t always use the same keyword for the link – this is not good practise – vary the keywords used in the anchor text. Just make sure that your links add value to the site visitor – in-text links should enhance the user experience – giving them access to additional relevant information should they choose to follow it.
Keyword Density – Keyword Density relates to the number of times you use your keyword phrases in the content relative to the total amount of content on the page. There is no exact rule governing keyword density we would suggest a figure of between 2 and 4% so a page with 500 words on it should feature the keyword phrase between 10 and 20 times. But please remember this is a guideline only. If, when you read back what you have written, you feel that 12 is too many then cut it back because after all you are writing this content for human visitors not SEO spiders.
Theme – When writing the page content you will have a specific keyword phrase as a target for that page. This will have been selected following your keyword research. However we would advise that you also work other closely related keywords and phrases into the content. In simple terms the content will have a logical “theme” not just be a relentless ‘battering’ of the primary keyword phrase. The reasoning behind this is to make the page content read naturally and be more ‘rounded’ and relevant for audience. The search engine will also pick up the context of the page and this will help it to set the page into context in its index.
These are the key areas where you need to use your keywords in the visible content part of the page. Now we should consider the other part of the page which the human visitors don’t see and we’ll call this the Tagging element.
We now need to turn our attention to the page tags themselves and we will look at the following four main tags;
- Title tag
- Description tag
- Keywords tag
- Alt tag
Title Tag – the title tag is very important as this is what the search engine displays in its listed search returns see example below which appears on page 1 of Google based on a search for “ retail security company ”
This is a website we are currently working with. We have targeted several keyword phrases “Retail Security Company” is one of those phrases. We are pleased to say that we are getting our client found on page one of Google.
Make sure that your title tag is meaningful and that it carries at least one of your top key words.
Another point to note; you have limited characters including spaces in this title tag. Our rule here is to keep below 60 characters.
Description Tag – equally as important as the title tag is the description tag, not so much for SEO purposes but because Google often uses this tag when displaying the search returns.
You should carefully craft the description tags for each important page in your site, work the keywords into the description and make the description as compelling and appealing as possible. Treat it like a minimised advert – because when it is displayed in the search returns with the other 9 search results you need to make the searcher click through onto your website and your description is what they will more than likely base their decision on.
Our rule in terms of available characters to use here is do not exceed 155 (including spaces). You don’t want your description to be truncated and end with…
so keeping under 155 will avoid that.
Keywords Tag – Oh yes – the famous keywords tag! Now this may come as a surprise to you but the keywords tag is not used by Google for SEO purposes. This is what they said in a blog post;
“Our web search …disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present.” Sep 21, 2009
Neither does Bing support the tag and Yahoo! also claimed to have stopped using this tag too.
We do continue to populate the tag if only because it is a logical place to put all your keywords used on that page if you need to refer to them!
Alt Tags – The search engines cannot read pictures, so if you have images on your pages these need to be labelled so that the search engines can make sense of them. You label your images via the alt tags. When you are using your alt tags make sure that you work the keywords into your labelling as it will assist with SEO.
So we have discussed page content and now we need to say a few words about the page structure. You need to make sure that your page is structured correctly for the web.
People generally read websites in a particular way when they are in the initial search stages looking for the information they require. In these initial stages they will often just skim the page to try and determine quickly if the page is going to be relevant to them. It is important therefore that you can get your key points over in a very short time frame and to do this effectively you need to structure your page for web reading. Some key pointers here are;
- Use headings and sub-headings
- Use short punchy paragraphs
- Make use of bullet points
- Use visuals to reinforce your theme – good quality pictures and graphs/charts
Make sure that you check your spelling and grammar. Do not underestimate the importance of this. Some people will only tolerate one or two typos or grammatical errors before abandoning the page. Bad grammar and spelling errors does annoy people and can quickly destroy your websites credibility. It will pay you to get other people to check over your pages, you will be amazed at how many times you can read a page and still miss spelling errors.
3. Links – improving page rank and SERPs Search Engine Ranking Positions
This is probably one of the less well understood areas of any SEO program.
Creating an effective link building strategy should be a key part of your SEO and on-line marketing plan, but simply generating lots of links is not a strategy and will not help you much, if at all. You need to build quality inbound links.
What are the main benefits of a link building program?
- Drive traffic to your site – links to your site will carry in new visitors
- Boost your Search Engine Rankings – sites with good inbound (and outbound) links will get a higher ranking
- Builds credibility and trust around your site – when important, popular and respected sites link to you this confers status, authority and trust on your site. These links endorse your site.
Be aware that you can’t have a successful link building strategy without good content. Your link building strategy will need to be built on three piers:
- Great content on your site
- In bound links from quality relevant sites
- Outbound links to valuable relevant information/resources
Linking for the sake of linking is of no value to your site, in fact it can be detrimental to your ranking position. A small number of links from popular and relevant sites is worth much more than hundreds of links from sites not relevant to your website.
Before you start your link building strategy make sure you understand your customers and visitors – what do they want to see and get from your site? What is important to them? What keeps them coming back? Once you understand this you can give it to them – that will ensure that you always have a website populated with good content.
How does link building boost your Search Engine Ranking?
In simple terms if someone links to your site you get a credit. If you link to a site they get a credit. But as you know, not all sites have equal standing, therefore not all links carry the same weight (often called “link juice”). For instance a link from a relevant, popular, industry recognised site, with a high page rank will bring much more credit than a link from a zero page ranked, low traffic site.
Page Rank was developed by Google to differentiate a sites “value” or importance. Page Rank is a measure of how valuable Google believes a site to be. Page Rank has a significant effect on link credits. Developing an effective link building strategy is about getting quality links that will drive traffic to your site and boost your Search Engine rankings.
Link Building is not just about SEO
An effective link building strategy will certainly boost your search engine ranking but the net result of any successful link building strategy will be to drive more traffic to your website and increase your conversion rate i.e. you sell more stuff, recruit more subscribers, make your site more valuable to advertisers etc.
So with that as the objective, when new visitors start arriving at your site your content had better be up to scratch or they will just leave without converting. Therefore an effective link building strategy is as much about your content development as it is about building links!
An effective link building strategy will involve providing additional content and resources for your increased visitor traffic. This makes your site more attractive to new links and that further increases traffic. In effect you create a virtuous spiral of traffic, links, more traffic and more links.
Once you achieve this you can congratulate yourself but don’t rest on your laurels because maintaining success will demand an on-going commitment. Once your content starts to go stale your traffic levels will drop and the whole thing could go into reverse!
Make no mistake – link building is a time consuming exercise that will take some time before results show. But if you can develop an effective link building strategy it will pay back – and all the time and effort you put in will be well worth it.
Follow this link to learn more about how to create a Link Building Plan.
If you would like to know more about Search Engine Optimisation or Internet Marketing strategies or website development in general please call us. We’d be delighted to hear from you.