Whether you are a well-established company that’s been around for decades, an SME ready to grow or a hotshot start-up, you’ll need to make your business visible online.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as praying to the Google gods for a top-ranking site.
Creating a presence online for your business is not just about creating a website or having some social profiles. It’s about making sure your customers can find it and any relevant information they might be searching for.
Getting your business visible online plays a significant role in determining your business’s reliability and credibility, 75% of users judge a business’s credibility by its website.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a tool that can help your business’ visibility online. So, what is SEM? It’s a form of digital marketing, which allows you to increase the visibility of your site on Search Engine Result Pages, by utilising two key pillars: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click).
In this article, we are going to focus on SEO – the first step to improving your business’ presence online.
How do search engines rank websites?
Google, Bing and other search engines process millions of websites every day. In very simple terms, to make sure they provide the most relevant and the highest quality results to the users, the search engines rank websites by ‘indexing’ and ‘crawling’. ‘Indexing’ is the process of recording web pages into the search engines database. Meanwhile, they ‘crawl’ through the websites and collect information about the quality of your website and then add this information to the index. After combing through all the websites, they will rank the websites from the highest to lowest quality, giving you the final search engine result page.
Where your website appears in the SERPs (Search Engine Rank Position) is not a static element; with the competition jostling for top spots and with the Google Algorithm constantly being updated (3,200 updates alone in 2018). SEO is something that requires continual attention or else your rank is going to slide down to the darkness of page 02 and beyond.
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search Engines are mainly Google, Bing and Yahoo. They are something we use every day, to look up an answer to a question, to search for the nearest pizza place or find some other supplier of a product or service by entering keywords (the words and phrases we type into the search field).
Search engine optimisation is the process of growing website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website on the search result page – well, preferably the first page because 95% of web traffic goes to search results on the first page.
How does SEO work?
To optimize your website for SEO is like raising a kid, except the kid is your website. It is centred on getting your website ranked as high as possible whenever someone searches for a relevant query to your business on search engines.
Search Engines consider hundreds (if not thousands) of metrics when deciding which websites to rank for specific keyword searches. The challenge for the SEO experts is to understand the weighting and correlation between all these on-site and off-site ranking factors.
One of the drawbacks for new brands is that SEO results are not immediate. You will usually start seeing your site goes up in ranking in 3-6 months, if you are doing the right things, that is. However, the benefits that SEO bring to your business is long lasting. Don’t sit back and relax even if you’ve reached the top, you need to continuously feed content to your website, or else your ranking will drop as other websites’ rankings improves.
To help improve your site’s ranking on Google you need to focus on both on-site and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO is about the content of your website, while off-site SEO focusses on how credible and trustworthy your page is based on the number of third party (trustworthy) websites link to it.
All searches start with a few words or a sentence – we call these ‘keywords’. The search engines rank websites according to how relevant the keywords are on your website to those that the users are searching for. For instance, this blog contains keywords such as SEO, SEM, so it will show up to search queries that contain these keywords.
Your content and meta data should contain keywords that are relevant to your business. Meta data refers to meta title; the title of your webpage showed on SERP, and meta descriptions; the caption below the meta title.
There are two types of keywords: short-tail and long-tail keywords. The former refers to general keywords, such as ‘digital marketing agency’. While long-tail keywords are usually longer and more specific, such as ‘The best digital marketing agency in London’.
While the more keywords your website have is better, keyword stuffing is not recommended, it means listing all the keywords into a website’s title and descriptions, like so:
Meta description: SEO, Search Engine, building link, what is SEO, SEO company, SEO services, google ads, SEM, Google optimize, online marketing, digital agency, digital
The search engines could identify this as having ‘irrelevant keywords’ and rank your webpage lower! The key is to use keywords naturally and contextually within the page content – from headlines and subheadings to paragraph text. As long as you are writing original, trustworthy and accurate (true) content – you’re onto a winner. This is often referred to as ‘White Cap’ SEO, as opposed to “black Cap’ SEO techniques that try to cheat the algorithms with keyword stuffing and copying other people’s content.
Here are the tools you can use to find your keywords:
b) Content Quality
‘Thin content’ is one of the biggest epidemics for SEO, search engines targets pages with thin content and rank them lower, it refers to content that has no value and resolves nothing for the users. In addition, plagiarised, irrelevant, untrustworthy, repetitive, and ill-researched content are also big no-nos.
To check for plagiarism, you can use this free tool, Copyscape.
- Your websites’ User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI)
They are essentially how user-friendly your website is and how your website looks. The two things that makes good SEO are:
- Headings: These are the different styles of the titles and subtitles on a webpage that help users to follow the content easily, namely <h1> , <h2> etc. Not only do they make a page easier to read, but search engines will also see that this page has a good structure and it’s user-friendly.
- Site Structure: Not only does your content needs to have a clear hierarchy and flow, but also the overall UI site structure has to be clear and easy to use, that means you need a great UX that provides a smooth user journey.
a) Link Building:
Internal links and backlinks are extremely useful.
Internal links are the links that direct visitors to another page on your website. Like this: check out our blog about the
By including internal links in your blog and your website, you’ll have a higher click-through rate and longer visit sessions that would benefit your SEO.
Backlinks are links from external sources directed to your website. For example, see below that we linked Statistica, then that means they got a backlink from us (You’re welcome, Statistica).
What’s more, the higher amount and better quality of backlinks your site has, the higher your ranking will be.
This means that the ‘who’ matters when referring to who is linking back to your site. The more credible the webpage is, the higher quality the backlink is. For instance sites with high ranking and quality score, like the BBC or The Guardian, will help you move up more on SERPs than a backlink from a spammy website. In fact, back links from spammy websites are very damaging and should be disavowed for you by your SEO provider.
Building up a positive backlink profile is often why some companies publish blogs as guests on other websites or pay news agencies such as Forbes and Bloomberg to publish their press releases or surveys so they can have more high-profile backlinks and added publicity. This increases the domain authority of the website and makes it more trustworthy (and can deliver more referral traffic and customers of course!).
b) Is it mobile friendly?
Did you know that up to 70% of the web traffic comes from a mobile device?
Mobile-friendly refers to the websites that are easy to use on a mobile, in which case the users don’t have to pinch and zoom just to tap a button. Here is a counter-example:
Search engines tend to rank non-mobile-friendly websites lower than those who are. In fact, Google announced in May 2019 that they will be indexing websites depending on whether they are mobile-friendly or not.
c) Time Spent on site
If users spend more than 2-3 minutes on your website, it means that your website is credible so it’s worth spending time on. In turn, you’ll have a higher rank on SERP.
You can find out how long they spend on your website via Google Analytics – ‘session duration’.
Seeing credibility and trust being the two most crucial assets to any business, SEO is worth investing in. Yes, it takes time and effort to master but it will give you an everlasting positive effect on your business. In addition to SEO, PPC is also an effective way of creating brand awareness for your business, read all about it here.