For many people, the task of search engine optimisation (SEO) can seem quite intimidating. It’s tempting to either ignore it, or spend money getting an ‘expert’ in to do it for you. But as this short guide will show you, getting the basics right is really pretty straightforward.
It’s absolutely vital to address SEO as part of your web strategy, if you want people to find the site that you’ve worked so hard on to promote your business. But how can you make sure your website gets a look in, among all those big corporations with their huge budgets and expertise?
Follow these four steps and you’ll be well on your way to cracking SEO in-house, without spending any money at all (just a bit of time).
1. Fine tune your website
First of all, you need to make sure your site is working as well as it possibly can. For example, it should have a strong domain name, load quickly, use clean code, be easy to navigate, have clear headings and typo-free content. It should also be optimised for mobile (you can check this using Google’s free testing tool).
It’s very important to have good quality incoming links to your site – this is one of Google’s key assessment criteria. This will be an ongoing job, making connections with partners, suppliers, associations, trade bodies, listings sites and so on. Which sites link to your competitors?
Draw up a list of keywords that your target audience might type into Google to find you (there are several free online tools to help with this). Use these as naturally as possible in your content, particularly in headings. Don’t be tempted to ‘stuff’ your pages with keywords – this once-common practice is really frowned upon these days.
If you haven’t already done so, install Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and use these to find out what’s working well on your site, and which bits might need some tweaking. Try to keep an eye on SEO trends.
2. Play to your strengths
Presuming that yours is a local business, use this to your advantage. Set up a Google+ Local page and make sure you use local keywords throughout your site – this will bring it up in a search by local users. Put your contact details on every page and make sure they are consistent wherever they appear online – on your site as well as on social media and external sites.
If your business (or an aspect of it) is very specialised, your content should reflect this, with a strong focus on your unique expertise/products. This will help boost your search rankings even against much larger competitors.
3. Use free tools to drive traffic to your site
Allocate as much time as you can to social media, and use it to lead people back to your website. You shouldn’t just be selling or promoting though – social media is most effective when you engage with your followers by offering help, expertise and shareable content.
Experiment with different platforms to see which ones best fit your business – and your target audience. Always use your business name for your social media accounts, and make sure you are consistent with your contact details and profile descriptions (use keywords).
4. Keep it fresh
Google places great emphasis on good quality, new content. As well as regularly reviewing your static web content, it’s really worth thinking about adding a blog to your site – even if it’s made up of short news snippets rather than full-blown articles (it can include both, of course). Remember, you are an expert in your field – why not share some of your knowledge?
A regularly updated blog doesn’t just keep Google happy; it can help build your credibility and brand awareness, as well as extending your reach (don’t forget to add share buttons to all of your posts).
Jenny Brindley is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in working with SMEs to enhance their web presence. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.