Before we get stuck in to the reasons why you should include SEO as part of your digital strategy, it is important to first explain what SEO actually is.
What is SEO
SEO stand’s for Search Engine Optimisation. It is a process used to optimise your website in order to ensure you are getting organic (un-paid) traffic from search engine result pages (SERP’s) such as Google. The process involves several steps and techniques, from making sure your website is easy to scan for high quality and relevant content, utilising the space given for page titles & meta descriptions, to creating quality backlinks through client or partner websites, directories or news articles & blogs. These are just some of the ways to ensure your web pages are found, easy to read, easy to navigate and seen as a relevant source of information. The aim is to have the likes of Google approve of your website’s quality by pushing it up to the top of their results pages.
While SEO can seem like quite a complex process, at the end of the day it all boils down to having good quality content on your website & making it easy to find. Search engines want to provide their users with the best answers and results. So, if your websites content is relevant to users then it will have a better chance of ranking higher on results pages. Blogs such as this are often a great way to improve your sites SEO performance. Other content ideas include:
News Articles | FAQ Section’s | Downloads | Videos & Webinars | Infographics | Podcasts
How does SEO work?
Search engines will crawl your website’s URL’s and the content on each page to see what it is you do, checking relevancy and how easy the site is to navigate. The more user friendly the site, the better chance it has of ranking higher on search engines. Once search engines have crawled your site, they will then show this content to users they feel it is most relevant to, depending on the keywords or phrases mentioned on your site. Here at IMS we put a strong emphasis on keyword research for all our clients to ensure their sites content is relevant to what users are searching for. Consistency is key however and the regular posting of fresh content is a massive advantage to ranking higher on results pages. For a breakdown of some key SEO terminology check out our blog here.
There are three areas to focus on when discussing SEO.
There are several areas that are examined as part of a websites on page SEO. This includes the insertion of alt text on images, title tags, meta descriptions & URL title. Internal linking is also a part of on-page SEO.
The title tag and meta description are what the user will see when your website appears on a results page, so it needs to have a clear message or call to action to grab users attention. This is where the keyword research comes in to play. If you know what your users are searching for, you can try to ensure they find the key pages of your site easily by strategically inserting keywords across the page titles, meta description and the pages content itself. Title tags and meta descriptions are important elements to get right as they can help to improve the Click Through Rate (CTR- See below for explanation) to your website. A well written meta description that incorporates the correct keywords and phrases alongside an effective title will inevitably appeal more to the end user, leading them to click on your website over a competitor. This then has a positive impact, as the more traffic that goes to a website the greater chance it has of gaining an improved rank position on Google. For those of you wondering what exactly CTR is, simply put, it is a performance metric. It measures the number of times a link is clicked over the number of people that have seen or viewed the link. It is often used to establish the effectiveness of a campaign, but in this instance, it would measure the performance of your metadata (Titles & Descriptions).
Alt text is needed in order for search engines to index your images. This will come in useful when users search for a certain keyword or phrase. If you have inserted a relevant keyword into the alt text it will help search engines to know when to show it to interested users. Internal linking can help search engines learn more about your site by knowing what content is relatable, thus, how to navigate easily throughout the site. It is also a great way to help guide users around the website. However, it is important not to over optimize your sites content. If you are plugging the most relevant keywords to your business over and over again on every page, this will inevitably result in your site dropping off the top results. Google and other search engines will penalise you if you attempt to use keywords excessively throughout a websites content. Making your content relevant to the user by using one or two specific keywords for each page or article will help to form the rest of the content and is a far better strategy to follow.
While you have direct control over the on-page SEO, you can not control the off-page SEO.
There are certain page ranking factors that you have little to no control over, but there are ways of trying to get these factors to work in your favour. The main off-page factors for you to consider are backlinks, social media and guest blogging. Influencer marketing is also considered a part of off-page SEO but this can be a tricky area to get right, great research and consideration would be needed before paying an influencer to represent your brand.
Backlinking is an extremely effective strategy to work on but will only work effectively when your sites content is of a high standard. Not entirely sure what backlinking is? Essentially it is the creation of a link to your website from another website. See an example here where IMS Marketing’s website was linked on the bottom of the page.
Backlinking is quite a time-consuming process and results are not always guaranteed but it is definitely an area worth working on. Time is needed firstly to research where your site has been mentioned, noting relevant & high-quality website links. After initial research you will need to look for other backlinking opportunities, trying to find industry relevant directories, review sites or other areas to list your website. Then, you must take the time to get in touch with each of these relevant sites to see if they will insert a link to your website. Often, we find that it can be a tricky task with few websites responding to backlinking inquiries, some websites will even ask to be paid in order to insert a link.
Consistently posting good quality social media posts that link back to your website will help to improve engagement levels, hence boosting SEO. This is a long-term strategy rather than a quick fix. Therefore, we often suggest that our clients implement a Social Media Content Calendar to help create structure in their posting schedule. You can put several ideas into the content calendar, write out the post, note any links or imagery you would like to use and you can then use a free tool to schedule these posts weeks in advance. Scheduling tools that we use in house and recommend to our clients include: Buffer, Hootsuite & the scheduling tools on Facebook and Twitter.
Guest Blogging has shown to be an effective way to build links for any business. However, quality over quantity is of great importance here. Research will need to be done on where is best for you to write a guest blog. When you have found the right space to guest blog, time will need to be spent on writing the post, submitting the post and waiting for confirmation that it has been accepted and will be published. The best approach to take for guest blogging is to only blog when you have an original insight to share on a topic you are very knowledgeable in. If this is done correctly you will build your authority and influence around that topic. Likewise, if using an influencer, research will help you find a top blogger in your industry that could also write a piece on your business.
Technical SEO is the lesser known or talked about element of SEO. It is essentially to do with the backend of a website, how it is structured and the coding used. Technical SEO ensures that the ‘spiders’ can crawl and index your website effectively. Search engines will give preference to sites with good technical SEO, elements of which include:
- Gaining an SSL certificate
This is essentially a padlock for your website, it allows for secure connections from a web server to a browser.
- Mobile friendly site
Google now use the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking purposes, so it is of great importance that your site is mobile friendly in order to gain approval from Google and rank well in search results.
- Fast loading time
This is now an important ranking factor for Google, with the recommended loading speed being under 3 seconds. Research has shown that users will begin to get frustrated and are likely to click on a competitor’s website if your site has a slow loading speed.
- Responsive website
The design and development of your website should respond to a user’s screen size, whether they are on a desktop, mobile or tablet device.
- No duplicate content
Duplicate content is content that appears in more than one place on your site. It can make it difficult for search engines to know which version of this duplicate content is more relevant to users. Therefore, negatively impacting your ranking on Google.
- Display an XML sitemap
A sitemap makes it easier for search engines to find your sites pages, giving you a better chance of ranking well on search results pages.
- Register with Google Search Console or Bing Webmasters Tools
These free tools give you direct insight from search engines offering tips and advice on how to optimise your site as well as highlighting errors across your website and its pages.
Why SEO Needs To Be Included in Your Digital Strategy
SEO needs to be included in your digital strategy for several reasons.
- It can help to build better visibility of a brand (Brand Awareness) & its product or service offering. Good content alongside utilising page titles and meta descriptions allows you to make a statement, insert a call to action or a fact on why a user should choose you over a competitor. While there are some restrictions on the word limits here, your keyword research will help you to piece together content to appeal to the end user.
- User’s want to know they can trust a site. So by ranking high on search engines, it shows users that your site is relevant, it has good quality content and has something to offer the user.
- Potential customers or clients will always do some research before making their decision. Appearing on the first page of a search engine such as google, answering their question or query with high quality content will definitely give you the edge over competitors.
- Implementing a strategic keyword focus throughout your sites content will help to ensure that only the relevant target audience see’s your website. Therefore, increasing the chance of them getting in touch with you, requesting a demo or making a purchase, whatever it is you want your end users to do.
- Guest blogging can help to raise your business profile and its influence, leading to further opportunities to blog or even speak at events.
- SEO has now become a pivotal part of the success of paid advertising as well, the two go hand in hand to maximise the potential of reaching and engaging with your target audience.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? Create engaging content that has a strategic keyword focus in order to drive the right traffic to your site. However, it may take time to get right. Certain pages on a website may instantly rank higher, while other pages need to be assessed and tweaked regularly to push them up the results pages. Setting out and following a clear SEO strategy by creating quality content will help to improve traffic on your site. You can even repurpose old content by updating key facts and figures as well as re-wording parts where necessary. When following an SEO strategy, the most important thing to remember is to track all changes you make. If you are updating page titles and meta descriptions, create a spreadsheet and track all changes. That way if traffic dips or performs really well on search results, it may help you to answer why that was the case.
Lastly, SEO is not a once off or short-term task. SEO is without a doubt a long term strategy, it is never ending and should be checked and amended on a regular basis in order to meet your business objectives. Depending on the competitiveness of the industry you operate in, SEO campaigns can take time before results are evident. Repeatedly starting and stopping your SEO efforts can confuse search engines and upset their algorithms. It is important to remember that SEO is always changing, with Google suggesting it could take anything from 4-12 months to see ‘tangible results’ from SEO.
Setting out a clear digital strategy will help to guide this process and ensure your business page has the best chance of staying on the top of search result pages.