FOR ANY BUSINESS pursuing a digital marketing strategy, ranking highly in relevant search results is essential.
This kind of visibility can drive significant traffic to your website, raise brand awareness and ultimately drive sales. Some 44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the combination of creative content and more technical elements, including keywords and tags. Effectively executed SEO has the ability to make your business easy to find, so you can generate leads efficiently and effectively.
While it’s a specialised digital marketing discipline, there are some simple steps you can implement yourself as a solid starting point to ensure your company website is optimised:
1. Structure your site around keywords
Keywords are the phrases your target audience will be searching for. Conducting keyword research will help you to determine what these phrases are, so you can include them in your website’s content.
Planning tools such as the Google AdWords keyword planner can help you develop a deeper understanding of the most effective keywords and generate recommendations that you might not have thought of.
An easy way to think of it is to structure each webpage of your site so it targets one main keyword or search term, as well a couple of more detailed secondary keywords. These keywords should be as relevant and specific to the webpage as possible.
For example, if it’s a product page selling an acoustic guitar, keep in mind the kind of terms a user would enter into a search engine to find this page.
Primary keywords: ‘acoustic guitar’
Secondary keywords: ‘nylon-stringed acoustic guitar’
2. Concentrate on content
Content is an essential on-page SEO factor to guarantee your website will rank highly. You need to think about incorporating educational, engaging content that will attract and engage visitors. If you can demonstrate your business’s value through informative content, it’s more likely other authoritative websites will link to yours, which will significantly enhance your search visibility.
Your consideration of content should extend to headings, subheadings and relevant links – preferably to other pages within your website. You should include your target keywords in this content, but only occasionally and strategically.
Too many ill-fitting search terms within a webpage is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and can lead to a penalty from search engines such as Google, which can detect this and frowns upon the practice as it doesn’t genuine provide value to a user.
When creating your website content, always bear in mind your target audience’s needs and preferences. Try to anticipate any questions or problems they might have and showcase your business’s unique selling point – search engines will reward this utility!
3. Get technical
Don’t be intimidated by the more technical aspects of SEO; not only are they relatively simple to understand, the insights below are easy to action and will help you to preserve a high ranking and avoid penalties:
- Having a mobile-friendly website is key to ranking well in search engines, as they take into account the fact that mobile search queries have overtaken those conducted on a desktop.
- Back-links are links from other websites that send users to your own. If these websites aren’t very credible or relevant, this can negatively affect your SEO.
- Use an SEO crawling tool to check for technical errors that could negatively impact your ranking, such as page errors and duplicate content.
- Site speed is an important ranking factor. A slow website is considered a major drawback for both search engines and potential site visitors, who won’t be interested in waiting if a page takes longer than a few seconds to load. You can check this with a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
- Make sure to add a complete sitemap that includes the URL of every webpage within your site. This makes it easier for search engines to assess your website, which can massively boost its ranking.
4. Identify metrics that matter
Using tools to measure key metrics is essential to your SEO success and understanding how you can enhance your effectiveness. These are some important indicators you can track:
Keyword performance: You can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to measure the performance of your chosen keywords. Based on this data you can decide if you need to refine your selection, or if you’ve found a winning formula.
Organic search traffic: If your SEO is successful, you should notice a high percentage of your website traffic coming from organic search. That means people are searching for the keywords you’ve included in your website’s content, your site is ranking well for them in search engines and people are clicking through to it.
You can use analytics to drill deeper into how website visitors behave on your website to see if its content is resonating with them by checking metrics such as ‘average session duration’ (how long they spent on your site) and ‘bounce rate’ (the percentage of visitors who left after viewing only one page).
Conversion rate: Never forget that the quality of your site traffic is equally if not more important than the volume. Identify your best sources of conversion, be it an email newsletter, an AdWords campaign or onsite content, and determine how you can increase traffic by leveraging these sources.
SEO is often a slow-burning, lengthy process and it can take time to generate a return on your investment, but by following these simple steps, you can start to lay the foundations for a solid strategy that can be refined to help you to achieve your goals.
Sophie Elizabeth Smith is a content marketer at the Digital Marketing Institute, which currently offers the most widely taught digital certification standard in the world. It is based in Dublin.
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