Search Engine Optimisation. Three little words that send most small business owners into a technical tailspin. Everyone knows they should be ‘doing SEO’ but few know exactly what that means or how they would even go about it if they did. The result of this is that they either a) do nothing; or b) throw their hard-earned dollars at some random SEO company who dangle magical traffic increase carrots in front of them and promise an ROI that has them seeing glittery dollar signs. Just so you know, I don’t recommend doing either.
What is SEO?
SEO is the work you do behind the scenes of your website to ensure that when people are searching for your business or services online, your website ranks among the top searches. While I admit that it is a specialist area of online marketing and good SEO consultants are worth their weight in gold (I don’t pretend to be one, and if SEO is going to be a major marketing channel for you, you should definitely do some research and hire one of these magical unicorns), there are a few basics that anyone can master that will, over time, increase your traffic and help you market your services. Ready?
Know your niche
This might sound a little obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t tailor all of their website content to their niche. It’s super important for SEO to ensure that all content on your website is centred around your niche, because Google’s algorithm will rank you based on how much of a ‘specialist’ it considers you to be. It’s sneaky back-end programming will do a sweep of your content and if it sees that all of your content & blog posts are based around a similar topic, it will consider you a specialist in that area and rank you higher. If, however, you have an online clothing shop with a page about your favourite holiday destinations, blog posts about your cat, and your ‘About Me’ is all about your previous life as a teacher, you will appear fractured & non-specific. Do yourself a favour and FOCUS.
Be strategic about your keywords and then sprinkle them like fairy dust
If you haven’t got across Google’s free Keyword Planner tool, get on that immediately. It will show you the exact terms people have been searching for, the average monthly searches per term, and give you suggestions on which keywords to use. Invaluable, I tell you.
Now you know about that, consider what your content is trying to say in broad terms. Are you writing a product description on organic skincare? Try entering ‘organic skincare’ into the Keyword Planner, and have a look at what terms around this topic people are searching for. Or maybe you want to write a blog post on using accessories to update your bedroom – maybe try ‘bedroom styling’ and see what results it returns. There’s a little bit more to understanding your Keyword Planner results, and I might go into this in another blog post (you should sign up to the newsletter to keep in the loop!).
Ok, now you’ve got your keywords, where should you put them? There are a few places. Like so:
- Your post / product title (a no-brainer)
- Your post / product URL (you should be able to change this in your website settings)
- Your content headings (throughout the blog post or product description, ensure your keyword/s is / are recognized as an H1 or H2 heading, i.e. bigger font than body text, not just bolded)
- Your image name (you should be able to rename these when you’re uploading them)
- The alt-text of your image
- Throughout your content (bear in mind it doesn’t need to be identical to your post title)
Get other people talking about you
Google loooooves when there are links to your website from other sites. It tells the algorithm that what you’re doing must be pretty good, or other people wouldn’t be recommending you. Guest blogging on other sites is a brilliant way of establishing specialist credibility and get links to your website out there on the internet-o-sphere.
Other things you can do is share your content all over your social media platforms, on sites such as Medium (if you blog regularly, this is a must-do), and collaborate with like-minded businesses or influencers who will link to you from their websites.
Update your website regularly
It is crucial that your website is updated with new information on a regular basis, as Google is more likely to recommend sites that it sees as active and relevant. You can update your site regularly through adding new products and / or descriptions, or having a blog that you add to often.
HOT TIP: If you have a service-based business, having a blog is absolutely essential to your SEO efforts.
You should aim to update your website at least every 2-4 weeks with new content to optimize for SEO.
Optimize for speed
Search engines like Google want to be seen to only be recommending content that is relevant to a user’s search AND provide a great experience once that user lands on the site. That’s why the speed of your site is super-important. Make sure that you resize ALL your images before you upload them so that browsers don’t have to spend time trying to download them, ensure you keep your website software up to date, and minimize your plugins & apps to keep your site agile & secure.
Of course, there’s a LOT more to having a great SEO strategy, like meta-data, categories, site security, etc. and as I said before if this forms a key part of your online marketing, you should think about investing in someone with in-depth knowledge in this area. But if you’re just getting started or looking for easy ways you can DIY your way to increased web traffic, make sure you implement these 5 key tactics and start optimizing your way to a successful online business!
Special note: SEO takes time, it's not an overnight fix. If you implement these tactics consistently, you will see an effect, but don't be disheartened if it doesn't work immediately.