Search engine optimization or SEO: the practice of organically improving your rank position in search engine results pages, without the need for paid advertising. Why is it important? Not only is it a cost effective way to promote your business, but it is also a crucial part of any long-term digital marketing strategy.
Although the majority of businesses appreciate the value of SEO, many are unsure how to implement it effectively. To help you get started, here are 8 essential SEO tactics you can apply to your website to begin boosting your online visibility.
1. Audit your existing website
Look at your site from a user perspective and be critical. Search engines favour sites which are well-structured, fast to load and full of relevant, error free content. Therefore, if your site falls short on any of these counts, it is likely to be positioned lower by the robots or ‘spiders’ search engines deploy to rank it.
Google Search Console is a useful tool you can use to help you carry out your audit. Not only does it show you how your website is currently being analysed and indexed by Google – the building blocks of ranking – but it also identifies key areas for improvement.
2. Choose the right keywords
Keywords – the words people type into a search box when looking for your products or services – are a crucial part of SEO. If the right keywords are not found on your website, search engines will not deem your website relevant to a particular search query and will rank you poorly.
Identifying keywords for your business is not a difficult task; identifying the right ones is trickier. Brainstorm, do your competitor research – try SpyFu – and use a keyword tool such as Google Keyword Planner. The more relevant and specific your keywords are to your business, the better.
Best practice is to go with long-tail keywords i.e. two, three or four word phrases that sum up your USPs. For example, instead of cafe, opt for organic cafe Melbourne. This will drive less traffic but traffic more likely to convert.
3. Create quality content
Simple, right? Well, only if you know what constitutes quality content. Content encompasses everything from text and images to video, audio and other file formats. When Google analyses your website content for indexing, it looks at a wide range of criteria to determine quality – much of this is based on its credibility and accessibility.
To rank well, ensure that your website content is easy to navigate, your text is digestible with clear headings, short paragraphs, subheads and bullets and the information you provide demonstrates your expertise and focuses on the solution your products or services offer. Include good quality images, with descriptions, and other media to add value and interest.
4. Apply your keywords effectively
Where and how you add your keywords on your website is crucial to SEO success. If you are creating quality content your keywords should appear naturally, but there are a number of key places you should be applying them to help improve your ranking:
- Your business heading and description that appears on search engine results pages
- The main heading and subheads on each page
- The floating description over your images
- The URLs on each page
- Throughout your copy
It is important that you use your keywords intelligently. Too many and you might be penalized by the search engines for keyword stuffing, too few and you might not rank. In addition, choosing specific keyword phrases for each page will help clarify which should appear for certain queries.
5. Start or invest in a business blog
As well as favouring quality content, rich in keywords, search engines also favour websites with fresh, timely content. Whilst much of your website content may stay the same for extended periods, a company blog added to regularly – approximately 2-3 times a week – continually gives ‘spiders’ something new to index.
Getting your blog topics correct is vital. The more useful, relevant and entertaining each blog is to your customers the more it will add to the quality of your site.
To generate new blog topics you need to do your research. What are other similar companies writing about? What’s new in your business or industry? What questions do your existing customers frequently ask?
6. Instigate good quality backlinks
Backlinks are incoming hyperlinks from another website to yours. Having good quality backlinks to your site is important as it gives search engines a way of measuring trust and determining authority. Put simply, if people are willing to link to your website you must have something valuable to say or offer.
Link building is an important SEO tactic, however it can also be one of the most challenging. How do you get people to link to you? This requires both clever thinking and subtle persuasion.
Some suggestions include: emailing key bloggers in your industry; submitting your website to local online directories – e.g. Google MyBusiness; asking your loyal customers or partners to link to you; and being newsworthy – i.e. offering something for free.
7. Increase your interaction with social media
How your website interacts with social media has become another important factor in SEO. High interaction has been thought to help demonstrate your relevance and popularity to search engines and therefore boost your indexing and ranking.
If you don’t have any social media sites, now’s the time to create them. Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Choose one that works for your business.
Once up and running, add links from your social media sites to your website. In addition, incorporate social media widgets to encourage ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. Finally, when you create new content, be sure to publish it on your social media pages.
8. Optimize your website for mobile
Google is beginning to favour websites that are mobile-friendly – that have the functionality to expand and contract to different screen sizes. Why? Because mobile optimized sites improve the user experience. If a person has to squint, zoom or wait for a page to load they are likely to get impatient and leave.
You can check the mobile-friendliness of your web pages using Google’s mobile-friendly tool. If your website design falls short, optimization is the next step. As this is a complicated backend process it is often best outsourcing to a professional.
Successful website SEO requires continuous effort – it is not a quick fix nor does it offer immediate results. Every tactic you employ should be carefully monitored and analysed to determine its effectiveness. If something is not working, adapt and refine it so it performs better.
The end goal? More clicks and more conversions for your business.