Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the term used to explain the process by which one strives to improve the search engine ranking results for specific keyword search terms – in other words, it is the means by which one raises the visibility of one’s website to algorithmically-driven ‘robots’ in order to appear on the first page of Google.
Search engine optimisation
There are a number of search engines in the marketplace when it comes to search engine optimisation, but the one that counts is Google, because it accounts for about 90% of total UK traffic. Not only that, but if you get it right here, the others (Bing 7% and Yahoo 3%) will be sure to follow. Getting the strategy right is the first crucial stage in the process of implementing an SEO plan. The great news is that, assuming you get it right, you will be able to compete on the same (or much better) terms with other companies who are much larger or more established than you might be, and who are very probably not doing it very well if at all. The internet has levelled the playing field when it comes to sales growth and business expansion through the use of various digital marketing techniques.
SEO success factors
There is a great tool for general guidance on the various factors to consider when putting together an effective strategy – it is called the periodic table of SEO success factors by Search Engine Land – this table explains the most important factors you need to consider when putting your SEO plan together both onsite and offsite. Google has produced its own useful SEO starter guide – this lays out the various actions you need to take to make sure your website is optimised, predominately from an onsite perspective. Search engine optimisation should not be thought of as dark magic with sinister potential – it is much more to do with rewarding technical practices that are devoted to authenticity, integrity, and credibility – not to forget hard work, patience and consistency of effort. These days, it is a mainstream digital marketing activity that rewards companies who do a good job of making their websites easy to find, simple to navigate, and full of high quality and up-to-date content that is relevant to its site visitors. It is useful to remember that all that Google is in business to do is to assist its customers (i.e. people who are looking for relevant information on the internet) to find websites that are relevant to their needs – as quickly, accurately and easily as possible.
The most important thing of all when creating an effective SEO strategy is to identify the best keyword search terms for your business, and to establish which ones you are going to target – and which ones you are not going to prioritise to begin with. To do this properly requires an investment in time, effort and skill (about five days for most start-ups and SME businesses) – you would be well advised to commission a consultant to assist you with this crucial part in the process. It involves internal brainstorming to establish a starter list of desirable keywords (a keyword can be one, two or more words in length and should perhaps be more accurately thought of as a keyword phrase – e.g. ‘marketing agencies London’ is one of our most important keywords), followed by a technical assessment and a manual review of competitor websites. You will then need to use a data analysis tool such as SEMrush which will identify (with some manual effort) the amount of search engine traffic that each keyword phrase will generate every month in the UK (or globally), the relative competitiveness of the keyword (from an advertising perspective which you can use to infer SEO challenges), and the degree of its use across both competitor and non-competitor websites. From this analysis, you can shortlist those keywords it is worth targeting, with mid- and low- priority keywords to look at again perhaps in future. We attribute a score to each keyword measured in terms of volume of traffic and the relative ease of achieving ‘first page status’ – and this will in turn enable you to work out how much time you need to invest in SEO support each month, and how long it is likely to take to achieve first page status for each of them (some will be easy, some moderate, and some tough). As a rough rule of thumb, you should be looking at between 2-6 days per month of SEO support, and a 9-12 month period to achieve first page status (depending on your business model and marketplace, how long you have been in business, etc.).
Social media marketing and content marketing
You will also need to invest in social media marketing and content marketing – somewhere in the region of 2-6 days per month in total for these two elements would be about right as a starting point for most start-up businesses and SMEs (so between 4 -12 days in total for SEO, social media, and content marketing). And we strongly advise you to bring in an expert to get yourself up and running, and to deliver the support for you in year 1, with a view to delivering all or most of these activities internally within a 24- to 36- month period of starting the process. SEO is an exciting opportunity for forward-thinking organisations to stand out from the crowd. If you do it well, you will be hugely rewarded. These days, social media and content marketing are hugely important elements when it comes to SEO – social media means Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google +, Pinterest, SlideShare, Instagram, and so on. Whichever ones are relevant to your business. And content marketing is all about generating materials in a wide range of media (such as blogs, infographics, presentations and videos) to host on social media platforms and other websites. We would go as far as to say that an SEO strategy that does not include social media and content marketing will not work very effectively at all.
One more crucial thing to consider – before you start spending money on SEO, make sure that your website is in order and ‘fit for purpose’. There’s no point attracting potential customers to your website if the experience they enjoy when they get there is a bad one. Website design is crucial to ensuring a good user experience for your customers.
Google has launched a number of major algorithmic updates over the last few years that have heavily penalised companies using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques to artificially improve the ranking of their websites. The most recent updates reward websites that are mobile-responsive (and penalise those that are not). Responsiveness generally means that a website displays properly on non-desktop devices such as mobile phones and tablets – you can check your website for its ‘mobile-friendliness’ on Google’s mobile-friendly test page.
SEO – onsite and offsite
SEO comes in two primary forms – ‘onsite’ and ‘offsite’. Onsite is all about the website infrastructure itself – content, architecture and HTML. The most important factors here are page titles, meta descriptions, headers, load speeds, structure, and content. Offsite is all about external links from other reputable websites, the aim of which is to feed relevant traffic back to the website. The key words to focus on here are ‘reputable’ and ‘relevant’ when it comes to good quality search engine optimisation. Reputable, because links have to be meaningful (quality over quantity), to be valued by Google. Relevant, because you only wish to attract traffic that is interested in the products and services you provide. This is measured through Google Analytics (and Google Webmaster Tools is another free service that helps you to monitor and maintain your site’s presence and performance) in a number of different ways – bounce rate, time spent on site, and pages per visit to name but three. All of these things are important to analyse, as they enable Google to measure the credibility of your website for the keywords you are using to drive traffic to your website. Not only that, but you need to know this information as a business. If these statistics indicate site traffic is not interested in your website, then you will need to take some form of appropriate remedial action. This is another important point to remember – SEO is measurable. It goes without saying that all marketing activities associated with creating sales opportunities should be quantifiable in terms of the impact they have versus the cost of the activity involved – in terms of both time and money. That is, after all, the implication of what a marketing strategy is.
Search engine optimisation
We hope that this article has provided you with some useful tips when it comes to developing a search engine optimisation strategy for your business, and that you now have a better idea of the steps you need to take. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Stephen Brown, our head of strategy and planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 7795 8175. We would of course be happy to discuss your requirements in more detail on the phone or by email, or meet up for a free two-hour consultation at a venue of your choice.