An introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

“SEO is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or
a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results
– often referred to as ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘earned’ results.” 

Wikipedia

If you mange or promote any online content, such as a website or blog, then it’s important to know about Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, this is how your content gets recognised and found by search engines, such as Google or Bing.

How will I know if I can be found?

That’s easy…simply type in your business name or your website URL into google search and see what comes up. If your website or links to your business show in the results, you are in the Google index.

What if nothing shows?

If the results don’t find you, then your site is not in the Google index. Google crawls billions of pages so I guess that sometimes it will miss a site, but if nothing shows it’s often for one of the following reasons…

  • You might only just have launched your website, so if that’s the case, Google hasn’t yet had time to find it – so try again in a few weeks
  • Your site design may make it difficult for Google to crawl the content easily
  • Google may have received an error when attempting to crawl your site
  • Your site isn’t very well connected from other sites on the web

How to get your site on Google and Bing

It’s free and very easy to register your business and be included in search engines.

How to rank higher on search engines

Keyword test

keywords-letters-2041816_640OK, so you’ve tested whether you can be found, you’ve registered your business to make it easier to be found in search engines. Now you need to look at your website and ensure you have the right keywords and phrases in place.

  • It’s time to do some brainstorming – put yourself in your customers’ shoes – if you were looking for your services, what would you type into the search bar? Make a note of three or four things you’d type in – ask your friends and family what they’d search for and make a note of those too. The chances are some will be the same or similar and you’ll quickly see which words or phrases are most likely to be searched for.
  • Now, type those phrases into a search engine and find out where your website comes in the results. If you can’t find it after 10 pages, no one else will either. If you can, note down other sites that come up on the first page of each query/keyword or phrase. Are they similar to your business? Are they competitors? Are they local to you or national businesses?
  • Now it’s time to pick your top keywords/phrases…be realistic about these words as some will be very competitive and there will be loads of other businesses using the same keywords/phrases to keep their website at the top of the list.
  • Next, ensure your homepage contains those keywords/phrases. For small businesses who generally have one main page, add a couple of sentences that naturally describes what you do and weave in those keywords or phrases…but make sure it still makes sense. You don’t want an overload of keywords which don’t mean anything to your customers.
  • Then, wait for a couple of weeks and go back and search again on those keywords/phrases and see if your ranking has got nearer the top.

Page or blog post

  • In order to show your customers you know all about the products or services they are interested in, write a new page or a blog post about that subject, again weaving in the keywords. This doesn’t have to be long…just a short 200-300 words. Keep the text straight forward and easy to read and don’t use the keywords more than two or three times.I used to work in a big office and when I had to explain something, I’d always think, ‘how would I explain this to a friend over a drink in a pub?’ I still do this and find it easier to write.
  • Then use your social media sites to post links to your new page or blog post. This serves two purposes; search engines will track these links back to your website, so improve your rankings; it’s a great way to let your customers and friends involved in your business
  • Ask your friends or any contacts you have to post something about you on their website – ideally using your keywords – you can do the same for them. This is known as a ‘link exchange’. It is not ethical to do it loads of times, but as long as it is relevant and provides value to your or your friend/customers business, it will work to help your rankings.
  • Search engines like sites with external links sending them to other sources or websites.

 Don’t get consumed with SEO!

composing-2391005_640

  • Although SEO is important in helping you get your website recognised on search engines, don’t let it overtake everything you do, so that your content becomes just a bunch of words. You still want pages, articles or blogs to be interesting to read, so you still need to keep your reader at the heart of what you write. This is what content marketing is all about; writing for your audience, but being aware of keywords. It’s also good to write content that has a long sell-by date – something that doesn’t ‘get old’ too quickly.
  • Also, keep an eye on those competitor’s sites that you identified and see what they do on their site and on blogs etc. to keep their rankings high.
  • Use internal links too. For example if you’re writing a new blog or article that includes a reference to something you’ve written about before, include an internal link to that previous blog or article. This not only helps rankings but also helps your readers find more useful or related content.
  • Use images and ensure that your images have labels or tags, which include your keywords

Finally, have fun with your website and don’t get too obsessed with SEO. It is something that takes time, it’s not something that gives instant results. It’s a long term strategy that you can keep chipping away at. And never rely totally on search engines to get business…what would happen if search engines were abolished? Would your business still be able to operate? Things are always moving forward and changing, and whilst SEO is important, don’t get too obsessed with it and still have fun with your website and enjoy your writing.

8 reasons why every business needs a website

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If I want to find out how to do something or where to buy something, the first thing I do is look online. Most transactions these days take place online and therefore some of the traditional marketing techniques have been replaced with online strategies. However, a surprising number of small businesses do not have a website.

Every second, more than 20 million people are looking on the internet, on their mobile devices or PCs, buying everything you can think of….from books to houses, from kitchen gadgets to garden tools. If you, as a business owner don’t have a website, you are missing a trick as your business won’t be found, so you are missing out on potential sales.

I did it myself and I hear many people saying, “I don’t have a website, I’ve been meaning to sort it out, but just haven’t had the time,” or “It’s too expensive to have a website.” Unless you do it yourself, of course there is a cost involved. So, if you are still hesitating, here are 8 good reasons why you should go for it in 2016…

Promote your business 24/7

ID-100213463As the title suggests, having an online presence means that your business is ‘open’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….even when you are asleep. Information about your business, your services, what you sell, are there at your customers’ and potential customers’ fingertips. People are always looking online – they research products before they buy and if you have an online presence, and you happen to sell what they want, you could make a sale. If you don’t have a website, you are invisible….and in this day and age, you can’t afford to be.

Building reputation and credibility

A website gives you the chance to showcase your abilities, your products and services for the world to see – they can see the quality and price, and if you have an online shop, they can buy directly from you. If you don’t have a website, your potential customers will go to a competitor.

ID-100302355Through your website, you can be seen as an expert in your field, and through the recommendations and comments from satisfied customers, you can be seen to be reliable, trustworthy and that your products are top notch.

When you give out your business card, it will tell potential customers a little about your business. If you’ve given them your card because they’ve seen your stall at a local market, they will assume that they can log onto your website when they get home and see more of your products. Imagine their disappointment if they get home to find no website details…and of course, this will lose potential sales.

First impression

ID-100178914Not only does having a website make you more credible, it also shows that your business is established and that you are experienced at what you do. Even if your competitors are stronger than you, a well-built, mobile friendly website can entice customers to choose you instead. You might operate your business from the tiniest desk space in the corner of your dining room, or make your products in your tiny spare bedroom, but when you have a website, your customers don’t see this. All they see is the power of your brand – size doesn’t matter!

Advertise your business

Your website is your ultimate advertising tool. For a relatively small investment in the cost of setting up your website, you can reach millions of people. It is that one brochure that the whole world has access to – no printing and re-printing when you have new ID-100360651products – you just add them online at the click of a button. You can include tons more information and images than you could afford to put into a brochure.

Of course, there is a place in business for brochures and flyers and also advertising in local magazines or newspapers, but your online presence is always available, not just for the limited time that you can afford, or until your product set changes. It’s a fantastic marketing tool that is constantly relevant and up to date.

Save you time

Your website can tell people who you are, where you are and what you do. Without a ID-100291979website, you may spend endless wasted time on the telephone or email giving people directions to where you are, giving details of the products you sell or the services you offer. Your website gives all these details in one, easy to access space, available 24/7. Not only does it give these basic details, it also gives more detailed information about your products. Then, when people do contact you, it’s generally about something more specific or to actually buy from you or use your services.

Reach a wider audience

ID-10080142Advertising in your local paper, putting out your business cards and attending markets, conventions and networking events, are all brilliant ways of getting your products and brand out to a wider audience. However, with a website you literally have a worldwide audience. Business often comes from word of mouth and this is a great way to get local business, but in order to expand and reach customers that don’t know you, the internet is the way forward.

Beat your competition

If you have a business, you only have to look on Facebook or on the internet to know that you have hundreds of competitors who do the same as you. If your competitors have a ID-100160542website, then why shouldn’t you have one? The joy of having a website is that it doesn’t matter how big or how small your business is, it will help you reach more people and increase your sales. Through your website, you can gather information about your customers. You can use your website to host an online survey to find out what your customers want and online forms can be used to easily contact you to request a quote or ask for further information. When you know what your customers want, you can develop products or services to solve their problems or meet their needs.

Customer Service

Your customers are the most important part of your business. You can improve the service you give them by including FAQs and a Contact Us page. Customers can not only leave comments and recommendations, they can also ask questions. You can collect your ID-10069301customers email addresses, and with their permission, can send them regular updates about new products. This makes them feel valued and valued customers will come back to you time after time.

I hope that I have helped you to see the benefits of having a website. You may have thought that a website is a waste of money, but it is the exact opposite. You may have to invest a little to get your website written and built professionally, but you will soon get your investment back when new customers find you and start buying from you.

 

Images courtesy of  1) 2) 3) 4) Stuart Miles, 5) hywards, 6) Danilo Razzuti, 7) mapichai 8) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net