Not so many years ago, search engine optimisation (SEO) was all about finding the best keywords for your target market, and building links from good quality websites. These are still important but there’s a whole new set of parameters to consider now. Changes in what the search engines are looking for mean that you now have to consider quality of content, user experience and how much your site integrates with social media like Facebook and Twitter. You increasingly hear umbrellas terms like search engine marketing or internet marketing which suggest that SEO on it’s own is no longer enough.
That’s not to say that SEO is less important than it was. 49% of internet users use a search engine every day and an amazing 80% of high street purchases start with research on the internet. So what’s new in SEO and what do we need to do differently? Here is my list of five key tasks based on the new SEO I think you should carry out in an SEO and internet marketing campaign.
Most of the tasks can be carried out by anyone – you may need your web designer for the second one but if your site has a good content management system like WordPress you can do much of this yourself as well. I have chosen just five tasks because effective SEO is time consuming. There are many more good techniques but I believe that concentrating on these five will get your site right up there in search engine results.
1. Good quality content
Well-written content is central to the new SEO and is key to your success in improving the visibility of your site. It is essentially about writing interesting and engaging content which encourages users not only to stay on your site but to link back to it. Good content is directly relevant to many of the other SEO tasks listed here as well. It’s about writing good content not just for your website but your social media articles, and is central to the skill of inserting your top keywords into natural sounding content which engages readers. A blog is a great way to keep your website content fresh which will help your search engine rankings. Ideally have a blog as part of your website but if not it’s easy to set up a blog for your business at Blogger or WordPress.com Whole books are written about copywriting but these brief articles By Nick Usborne (and check out the rest of his site!) and David Ogilvy have some great tips to get you going.
2. On-page SEO: keywords and site structure
Finding and using the words that people type into search engines to find your services is still an essential part of SEO work. Research your keywords for free at https://adwords.google.com and make a list of the most effective for your business. The skill is now to incorporate these keywords seamlessly into your site content. Three or four instances of the keyword in normal content on the relevant page will be fine, but you should also aim to get them into meta tags like your site title, your page URL, headings and sub-headings and even the file names of images. Site structure is also important so aim for good navigation and usability with a hierarchical structure: home page → main category pages→ sub-category pages. There are hundreds of useful tips and techniques out there but this is a useful summary and is fairly up to date. http://onlineincometeacher.com/traffic/on-page-seo-techniques/
3. Link building: directories
The new SEO emphasises building links naturally and organically, and avoiding out-of-date techniques like exchanging and buying low quality links. However, submitting your site to high quality internet directories is a direct link-building method which is still effective and which will quickly get your site noticed by the search engines. The once essential and free Open Directory has sadly lost its way and most of the other top directories now charge a fee. However this is likely to be a good investment if you can afford it, and if you can’t there are three very good directories which have the option of submitting for free:
- Joe Ant Well organised directory with volunteer editors. One-off fee of $39.99 or register as a volunteer editor and submit it for free. http://www.joeant.com/
- Skaffe High quality professionally edited directory. One-off fee of $44.99 or free submission at weekends. http://www.skaffe.com/
- Wow Regional and local focus. One-off express fee of $43.00 or free submission at weekends. http://www.wowdirectory.com/
Also submit your site to trade associations covering your business (try http://www.taforum.org/Members) and to a few of the better UK business directories (try http://www.directorycritic.com/uk-directory-list.html).
4. Social media
You will be well aware by now of the advice that having one or more social media accounts is pretty much essential to promote your business, but what may be less obvious is how important social media is to SEO. Google and Bing have both explicitly stated recently that links shared through Twitter and Facebook have a direct impact on their rankings. Your social media page will be found by search engines, and the more your tweets and posts are shared (retweeted, liked, commented on etc) the better the search engines like it.
- Get a Twitter account for your business and follow leaders in your area of business and your competitors. You’ll need to Tweet every day giving tips and useful suggestions and the odd self-promotion. Here are 20 useful Twitter business tips.
- Set up a Facebook business page and post at least once a week (you can combine this with your blog posts), and comment on posts related to your business. Here are 10 useful Facebook business tips and a great list of Facebook resources for business.
- Set up a Google+ account. It’s a bit early to assess the impact of Google’s new social media site but they do intend to make it a feature of their search results and for this reason alone it’s probably worth setting up an account for your business. These excellent articles on Google+ will get you going.
- Also think about joining LinkedIn, which is great for business networking and making new contacts; creating a YouTube channel because videos, and especially ‘how to’ videos are enormously popular; Pinterest, because it’s colourful, it’s expanding rapidly, and it’s great if your business offers can be displayed as an image.
5. Local seo
This is especially useful if most of your customers come from your local area. It is a technique for bringing your website high up on the results page in searches by local people.
- Add your business to Google Places and Bing Local. Local people searching for certain search terms will find you in a list of local providers which appears near the top of search results.
- Put your address, local phone number (with area code) and postcode on every page of your site.
- Put a Google map on your contact page.
I’ll be looking at each of the five tasks in more detail in future articles. All these tasks are about ensuring that people find your website on search engines and visit it. The art of turning your new visitors into customers who actually buy your products or services is called conversion and requires a whole new set of techniques. I’ll be looking at conversion in future articles as well.