What is SEO? And do I need it?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of helping your website (or a particular page) show up in search results. When someone types into a search bar (such as Google) a term or phrase (this is called a keyword) that relates to your business then those search results will show a link to your website (or a specific page) if the search engine deems your site relevant.

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Search engine optimisation is a broad field which ultimately aims to make you show up in search results for the best keywords. Below are the main steps for SEO activity, and by no means are the exhaustive:

  1. Keyword research – we need to know what words, phrases and terms people are using when searching for a business like yours. This process helps us to identify the most popular words, which will generally result in the most relevant traffic to your website.
  2. Domain Names and URLs – if you don’t have a domain name yet (www.domainname.com) then it would be wise to chose one now that targets a valuable keyword. www.bestplumbersydney.com is likely going to get you more relevant search engine traffic than www.tonytheplumber.com. But don’t work if you have a domain name already as it will still work and be valuable. We can use page names to help build the URL, for example: www.tonytheplumber.com/best-sydney-plumber
  3. Content – This is the words, images and videos on your website. The reason that the search engines show your page when someone searches for a given keyword is because your page is relevant. This means that there is information on the page that someone wants. It does not mean that your are the best in your category, or have the cheapest prices or best product. Creating targeted content can be an incredibly fruitful activity when part of a broader marketing strategy. Search engines are recording all kinds of data points to determine this “relevance score”:
    • How many times does the Keyword appear on the page (be careful as more is not always best).
    • Where does the keyword appear on the page.
    • How long do people usually stay on the page.
    • Does this page have links from other pages (both your website and external websites). Don’t pay someone to create back-links for you.
    • Plus many many more metrics
  4. Code Optimisation – Just like the content, the search engines read the hidden code behind what you see as a user. Code optimisation is all about this hidden stuff and making sure that it’s contributing to your score and ranking for those keywords. This can be as simple as ensuring that there are no spelling mistakes in your image alt-text, all the way to specialised scripts that optimise page loads times (another thing that the search engines track).
  5. Monitoring and Setup – Now you need to monitor the traffic. This is done with an analytics tool. Google Analytics is very popular but there are others. You’ll also need to ensure that the search engines can browse your pages (or the ones that you select) by editing your robots.txt file.
  6. Evolve – possibly the most important part. If you’re hard work is not resulting in good traffic then you need to try a new approach. This is where the real online marketing wizards earn their money. A constant cycle of research, test, analyse, evolve. And even if you nail it, it’s likely only temporary as the search engines and your competitors (for those keywords) will be evolving too.

Key points to remember:

  • Not all traffic is equal. If you were a plumbing business and managed to rank number 1 for “best florist” then that traffic is probably worth very little to your bottom line. You need relevant traffic.
  • Traffic does not equal paying customers. Even with good, relevant web traffic to your site you still need them to call you or click the ‘Buy Now’ button. Traffic conversion is a whole field in it’s own right, but not something that should be overlooked.
  • It takes time. This is not a quick win strategy, it takes time. I would expect to a minimum of four weeks before you see results and up to three months in many cases.
  • It’s not set and forget. Reiterating point 6 above. You’ll want to review this occasionally. How often will depend on the word and your competition.
  • Don’t buy back-links. We haven’t covered this much, but back-links will generally do more harm than good. Once upon a time you could create links form external websites and the search engines would boost your ranking. Needless to say the search engines are smarter now and this actually penalises your site. Unfortunately many “agencies” still offer this service.

And you’re still wondering – do I need SEO? The short answer is yes, no and maybe.

  • YES – because basic SEO for any website is going to be a good thing.
  • NO – because depending on your business you may not need a full-time SEO manager as part of you marketing strategy.
  • MAYBE – because you’ll need some aspects of SEO at a minimum.

There are a lot of good resources on the internet relating to SEO, and there are a lot of good tools out there to hep you. It will take time to find them, learn the process and do the research but it will likely boost your website traffic in the long run.

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