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An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As the owner of a digital agency, the most frequently asked questions I hear are, “How do I drive traffic to a website?”, “How do I get my website on the first page of Google?” or “How do I improve my search engine ranking?”

Why do clients want to do that? Normally because they want more visitors to their website and generally more sales and leads.

In a nutshell, the answer to that question is to make use of a process called Search Engine Optimization, (or SEO as it is more commonly known). Essentially this means fine-tuning your website so that it looks highly relevant to Google for your particular topic.

This blog acts as an introduction to what is SEO and digital marketing, here we will give you the initial tools and know how to use SEO and improve your website performance. It’s never going to be a skim read, so grab a coffee or save for your commute home!

SEO is not about trickery. Google tells you the secret – it’s all about good content

Google has become the world’s leading search engine by being the fastest way to get answers on any subject you may care to think about. It is the ‘go to’ place on the Internet to find out what you want to know about pretty much anything. The way that Google has done this is to index the Internet by relevance. Your job is to prove to Google that your site is the most relevant one for the topic which is being looked up – if it is, you will be on page one for that search.

The way to do this is to have lots of great content on your website relevant to the topic at hand and to make sure that the most important websites in your subject area are linked to you. That way Google knows you are important.

What are your website visitors seeking?

To successfully tune your website you must know what your visitors are searching – this is the meaning of ‘keywords’.  Keywords are an important part of the 2, 3, 4, or longer words or phrases that Google users type into the search box. In reality, they should really be called Keyword Phrases. An example might be ‘Inbound Marketing Agency London’ or ‘web development agency in London’.

Choose your keywords

How do you decide on the keywords for which you want your site to rank highly?  How do you know what visitors are typing into Google? Well you can guess, and if you are lucky, and attuned to your users, you may get it right. But the simple answer again is in the search engines. Google and other search engines know exactly what users are typing in, and they make this information available to you to research. Sign up for a free Google Adwords account and use the Google Keyword planner to research. Try analysing your site, or competitors site, or just enter topic areas, and Google will tell you the most frequently searched keyword phrases, with the average number of visits per month.

Follow the Long Tail

Popular short keyword phrases such as ‘Website Design’ or ‘Digital Agency’ are very competitive and unlikely to deliver the visitors you want.  Instead try to come up with longer more focused keywords, known as the long tail, such as ‘website design for membership organisations’ ‘ or ‘Digital Agency in London specializing in finance’, which will focus in on your visitors’ specific needs.

Deploy your keywords

For visitors to find your site using these keywords you need them in your pages, and in a very particular formula. In order of importance, they need to be in

  1. Your page title
  2. The URL or link to your website
  3. Your page heading (H1)
  4. The Meta Description of your website
  5. The body of the page
  6. Internal links on your site
  7. External links to your site

Add a meta description which will encourage the viewer to click through to your site. The page title is what appears as the Google link, the meta description is the text below it…

 Links within your site

Internal links between pages on your site are important.  They tell Google how your site is connected together and what the most important parts of your site are. Make sure that your keywords are included in menu links, footer links and others which connect your pages together.

External links – linking to your site

External links also tell Google how important your site is – a few good links for highly rated sites (by Google) are worth more than 100’s of links from poor sites.

How do you get these external links? Here are a few ideas:

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Make it mobile friendly

It is now essential from an SEO point of view that you have a mobile-friendly website.  On average over 48% of all website visits are from mobiles and even more in some markets. From the Spring of 2015 Google actively penalises you and pushes your website down the lists if your site is not optimised for mobile devices. So make sure your mobile website design is up to scratch.

Importance of your domain name

An important factor in ranking your site is how long your domain name has been registered, and how long until it expires. So don’t keep changing your domain name, and make sure it is registered for the next few years.

Regular updates – keep a Blog

Google likes a regularly updated website – there nothing worse than the website which doesn’t change from month to month (the ‘brochure site’).  The easiest way to do this is to have a blog and publish informative search engine optimised articles. Start with 2-3 month and try to get to 2-3 week eventually. Make sure your keywords are included in your Blog titles and content. If you only do one thing to improve your SEO, start blogging!

Measure your results

Test, test and then test again. To improve your results it is essential that you measure progress and find out what works and what doesn’t. To do this there are free tools and paid tools.

The simplest tool is Google itself – type phrases into it, and use it to see your ranking. Google Analytics, the most widely used tool for measuring your website performance, is free. Alexa is another free site which will give you valuable insights into your performance.

If you want to check your current ranking for multiple keyword phrases or overall website SEO performance, try these free tools:

There are paid for tools of which the leader is Hubspot, which has over 40 integrated tools to measure and improve your website performance.

Do it regularly, every week, or every month, be consistent

In the words of the song, “Do it Again”. SEO is a process, not a one-off activity, and for best results, you have to be constantly active and adding to and modifying your site.

If you follow our advice your website ranking should improve over the next 3-6 months. Good luck!

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