Posted on November 2nd, 2011
It can be frustrating for a digital marketer to hear small and large businesses talk about their websites SEO. It is often assumed to be a simple solution, a quick fix that can be done once and then said website will magically appear at #1 of Google’s search results for every generic term that is loosely attributed to that business.
If we’re using that logic and believe that it is indeed that simple, then at the very least, you will have to deal with your top 3 competitors, in your local area – be it Bondi beach, Sydney or Australia – who also want to be #1 on Google’s search results. Not to mention the other businesses worldwide who also sell a similar product and also want to rank on Page 1 of Google’s search results. Clients forget that the internet is the World Wide Web and for every acquisition strategy they have, there are potentially another few thousand businesses with the same objectives.
Okay, so now that my rant is over, I wanted to break SEO down and explain why it is not that simple and why it takes time and a consistent optimisation strategy to achieve good results. Hopefully this will help advertisers understand the key milestones that must be achieved for a successful SEO campaign.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It can also be called organic search, or natural search.
Search Engine Optimisation is the art, or science, of making numerous large, but mostly small, incremental changes to your website in an effort to have your business listing rank on page 1 of the search result listings for any given search engine. Basically, SEO is about helping search engines find your website information easily.
What are the primary elements that make up an SEO strategy?
As we say in the digital industry, Content is King. The information or content on your website is the most important element to any digital marketing strategy, but is imperative for search. Google wants to deliver the best possible results to their users. So in order for your website to even qualify to rank in Google’s search results, you have to have information on your website that matches the users search query.
Your website content is the most important thing to understand and get right for SEO. But not just any content. Content that is packed with the keywords you expect your intended customers will be typing into a search engine. You can only optimise your website for keywords that are related to your product or brand. If you don’t have information, and lots of it, on your website about any given topic, then you can’t expect to show up in Google’s search results for that term. So if you have a dog grooming business and have a website that talks mostly about specific dog breeds, such as Golden Retrievers or poodles and mentions occasionally a manicur or hair cut, but doesn’t specially say “we perform canine or dog manicures and haircuts and clipping for domestic animals and show dogs”, then chances are you won’t rank for your desired keywords.
Linking is the 2nd most important element you need to plan for a successful SEO strategy. There are three types of links 1) inbound links – hyperlinks that point to your website from another separate website with a different domain 2) internal links – how you direct users within your own website from one page to another and 3) external link – the times that you hyperlink keywords within your website content and send the users to an external site where they can get more relevant information that relates to your product, article or website content.
There are more advanced SEO linking strategies that is called Siloing – this is where you identify the pages on your website that are related to one another (but not necessarily in the same navigation or thematic section of your website) and you make a conscious effort to connect them through internal site linking. When Google comes to your website it follows links around your site so as to categorise the pages and decide your page rank for every keyword based on the depth of your content relating to that term. By creating silos around keyword groups, you can increase your ranking. This also requires some creative use of site maps but again, that’s not basic SEO, but advanced.
Meta data sounds like a confusing, techie word but it really just represents a summary of your page content that Google’s robots can quickly skim and get an idea of what your page is about. Each page requires a Meta title – the information that is listed at the top of your browser window for the page you’re currently viewing. A Meta Description is a short summary of what information the user can expect to find ou the page. Meta keywords identify the primary keywords that are found in the page content, that users may be typing in when looking for the information on your webpage. The Meta title and Meta description are what is shown to users in Google’s search results listings.
Meta data should be unique to each page. Many websites make the mistake of creating meta data and using it across every page on their website – this will only allow you to rank for generic keywords that are found on every page of your site, rather than for specific keywords (which tend to qualify users better and convert to sales or customers) that are unique to the information on each page of your website.
Here is an example of what the meta data source code looks like for a unique page. This page is about the Spotted-tailed Quoll. As you can see, the meta title, description and keywords are all very specific to the page.
Where do I start on my SEO strategy?
There are many other elements that are important to your SEO strategy, such as anchor text (the actual words on a webpage that you choose to hyperlink) and website navigation and URL structure (making sure they are search engine friendly and include keywords that match the page content they’re referring to). But this blog post is about the basic elements of SEO. So if I was recommending a starting point for your business to start getting SEO ready, the 3 key elements to a successful SEO strategy that you need to get right are:
1. Good content brings people and then brings them back again – but it also brings the search engines
2. A well thought out linking strategy is imperative to maximise your SEO potential
3. Unique meta data for every page on your website means that when your site does show up in Google’s search results, the title and description are relevant to the search.
Good luck and remember, SEO is a long term strategy that requires constant refinement and optimisation. It’s not a quick fix but it will be one of the most cost effective online marketing strategies you ever employ – if its done right.