Three years ago, I would have described SEO as ‘a dirty word’
SEO was once considered ‘unethical’, ‘a blunt weapon’ and ‘black hat’ (that is, a practice meant to trick google and other search engines into favouring your website).
Today, SEO is considered a legitimate and accepted practice, and arguably, one of the most important strategic tools for any business or brand to have in their toolkit.
If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, let me explain what it is and why you should care.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of enhancing your website’s digital presence in order to improve your rankings on search engines (like Google).
In simple terms, SEO optimises your website so that it appears higher in the search engine results for relevant keywords.
SEO is largely about getting your website “ready” for search engines — ensuring that each page is structured with relevant and authoritative content.
Every business, no matter how small, needs to have a website, so this is one area where every business can and should be optimising.
Why should you care about SEO?
Well, SEO is essentially free traffic, right?
If you have a website, you need to be doing SEO.
Why? Well, you might not want to miss out on potential customers who are searching for your products or services online.
A whopping 91% of American adults now use the internet, compared to just 67% in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
And what are they doing online?
They’re searching for products and services, looking for information and connecting with others.
So if you want to grow your business, you should be doing SEO.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all websites need to be perfect. Far from it!
In fact, imperfection is an important part of the process.
According to digital marketing agency, HubSpot, “The more you can do to help the search engine understand what your website is about, the more you can help it present the right information to those searching for your products or services.”
Why? Because Google doesn’t want to show you websites with random, annoying ads or low-quality content that’ll turn off potential customers.
How Do I Start Optimising my Website?
So you’ve decided that you want to start optimising your website. Great!
Before you start hammering away at your keyboard, there are a few things you need to consider.
The first step is to conduct a little research.
If you’re looking for a complete course on SEO, you can find a lot of material online, but if your goal is simply to see how to start optimising your website, then there are numerous tools you can use to get inspired.
The second step is to pick a keyword or phrase that is both relevant to your business but also appears frequently in the search engine results alongside other websites’ content.
This is called ‘keyword research’ and you can use free tools like Google Keyword Planner or KeywordTool.io to easily find the most popular keywords and phrases related to your niche.
The final step is to write your own unique content that focuses on these keywords and phrases. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can read some of the best SEO blogs or websites to see how others are creating content for their own websites.
Once you’ve got your content, it’s time to publish your work. Before you do, you should test out the material in both words and in action.
This means that you want to do a few test searches online to see how your content, as written, performs.
If you are using tools like Google Analytics to track the traffic to your site, you can easily set up ‘conversion’ searches to see how well your content is converting into leads and sales.
If you’re using wordpress, you can use the built-in SEO tools to see how SEO-ready your content is.
What is the Difference between On-site and Off-site SEO?
On-site SEO is optimising your website content (e.g. keyword research, meta tags, heading structure) so that it appears as high up in the search results as possible for your chosen keyword.
Off-site SEO is taking other steps to drive traffic to your website, including gaining brand authority in your sector, building an online community and generating press coverage.
Broadly speaking, off-site SEO is about getting your website ‘out there’ and onto the radar screens of search engines like Google.
On-site SEO is about getting ‘in there’ and making sure that your content appears high in the organic results of search engines.
Each step of the SEO process is important, so don’t stop at one point and think that a single task will get you there. Instead, look at each stage as a building block and know that throughout the process, you’re making your website better.
How Do I Measure the Success of My Optimisation Efforts?
Ah, this is the tricky part.
Luckily, you don’t need to.
Just because your website is optimised for a particular keyword or phrase, this does not mean that all of a sudden, customers will flock to you in droves.
Instead, it simply means that when someone is searching for a product or service related to your niche, your website will appear in the top results of their search.
To truly understand the success of your SEO efforts, you need to look at traffic and conversions.
Why? Because when you’re starting out, it can be difficult to tell whether or not your efforts are paying off.
If you’re looking for a quick way to tell, use tools like Google Analytics to track your traffic and then set up automated email notifications when a certain threshold is reached.
For example, you can set up a notification when your daily traffic reaches 100 visits and another when it reaches 1,000.
The truth is, you will never know if SEO is working for you until you try it out and see higher rankings and an increase in traffic. Once you know that SEO is providing you with good results, you can build upon this foundation to take your marketing to the next level.
So, are you ready to start boosting your SEO?
It may be a little overwhelming to think about doing SEO for your website, but the benefits, as I’ve said, are well worth it.
Along with other inbound marketing efforts, like PR and content marketing, SEO can help you to gain trust and authority in your niche, attract and retain relevant qualified traffic and leads, and turn these into customers.
If this sounds like something your business could benefit from, get inspired by the work of others and start implementing today!