SEO can be an indispensable tool in helping potential customers on the internet find your business. In this next instalment of our on-going BQ Expert Series, Jonathan Saunders speaks with James Lane, Co-Founder and Training Director of digital marketing & social media training provider, Hypestar, about how you can use SEO correctly.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is optimising a website to appear higher on search engine results or to make a site easier to be found.
When a user searches in Google or any other search engine, you want your website to ideally appear on the first page. Broadly speaking, that would make your site the most relevant site to the problem being experienced.
SEO is the process of best aligning your website so search engines can understand what problems you can solve for the user.
What cost is associated with SEO?
None. There is nothing within SEO that you have to pay for. If you were to bring in a consultant there will be a cost for that person’s time and experience.
An SEO consultant will not do anything you cannot do yourself. However, they will be able to do it quicker and may be able to focus better on the task.
SEO is not a difficult task, but it is time consuming. This also depends on the type of business you are, whether or not you have built the website yourself and optimised along the way or how many pages your website holds as every page needs to be optimised individually.
It’s like anything. The more you do something the quicker you get at doing it.
How can SEO help a drive a business forward?
I suppose this will sound a little pedantic, but it won’t. All SEO will do is drive people to your website. If you have nothing to convert on your website, SEO will not make a blind bit of difference to you or your business.
SEO is just the first step of a sales process. I would argue that the majority of transactions would start with a search and SEO helps bridge the gap. After this step, it becomes a sales issue.
SEO simply gets customers to your site and it won’t change your business unless everything else is in place and it only optimises on the basis that people are searching for what your business offers.
SEO is reactive. It requires a person to be hunting for something in a search engine. If that isn’t happening, then it won’t make a difference. This is why choosing the right words is so important.
If you want to be found, you really need to think of what a user’s search term will be and using simple English keywords.
The two things you need to ask yourself if you want to drive your business forward are: is someone searching for the thing my website is optimised for and is my website set up to do something useful to my business?
Every business should have SEO on its radar assuming those things are in place.
What steps should someone take when developing an SEO strategy?
You should start usually with something called Google Keyword Planner. It’s a relatively easy tool to use which essentially interrogates Google to see if anyone is searching for your keywords.
You would then check the volume of searches of what you think may be right and Google will confirm if you are.
The other part of this tool gives you keyword ideas on something which is called semantic search. This gives you similar keywords to the terms you used.
This helps you by not worrying about what word you’ve used on your website. Whether you’ve included Middlesbrough or the Tees Valley for example as semantically we understand these two places to be the same.
The keyword idea generator will look into those semantics and give you other ways for how you could word your terms and then give you the volume of searches for that specific term.
I personally would gravitate toward the higher search volume terms if it was significantly different from my original terms.
After this, you would track your results position using SERP (Search Engine Results Page) tracking and tweak your terms.
What is the most important factor in an SEO campaign?
If there is one thing that sits at the core of a campaign is the keyword. You need to understand that every page of your website needs to be optimised using these keywords.
Many people only optimise their home page which is a big issue. If you’re writing a blog or a product page you have to think to yourself ‘Why is someone going to visit this page?’ and avoid duplication.
If you don’t do this, you are literally creating competition with yourself.
You also need to ensure that you write in everyday English (or any language you may speak). I once heard someone say we’ve reached the point now where we need to write for machines, and I couldn’t disagree more.
Write in a clear style, don’t try to shoehorn a keyword into what you write and always ensure that any images on your site have alt text included as this is the text that is displayed when the image can’t be seen.
My advice is to forget about SEO when creating content. Simply focus on creating good quality content which is optimised for everyone. Make it clear and friendly for all and search engines will have a field day absorbing that content.
Write for people, write good quality content and make sure Google can see your site. That will get you a long way.
Without content, you have nothing to optimise.
Finally, what are your top tips?
My ultimate tip would be to understand what your customer is searching for.
Do the leg work, invest your time and plan.
Think about every page of your website that you want to optimise. You don’t have to optimise every page but your home page, product page, service page should be.
Understanding what your customer will be searching for will help you to optimise those pages and always make sure your website works properly on all devices.
Finally, track your performance and check if what you’re doing is having a positive effect. It will be dividends in the long run.
Hypestar is a digital skills training agency based in Middlesbrough which teaches people to undertake their own online marketing and develop their digital skills through one to ones and workshops.