Running a business goes hand in hand with having a website. A website shows that you are up-to-date and it also inspires trust in (potential) customers. Even if it is only a very simple one with the key information for (potential) customers. However, the best website is worthless if it is lost in the vastness of the internet. You want to make sure that your website is found and that new customers come to your store or that your existing customers can find information about you easily. Let me tell you about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Why Do You Need SEO?
Let’s use an example: Image you just opened a clothing store in a town called Fashionville. You also have a website for this store.
A website is like running a store in a small village in a remote area. Your customers need to know about you. They only know about you if they can find you. If they do not find you via word-of-mouth, you need to somehow attract their attention. When I was a kid, we used the Yellow Pages, a company directory, to find the service we were looking for.
Nowadays, we do not search physical catalogues but Google. And you want to make sure that if somebody enters “clothing store in Fashionville” or “best place to by fashionable clothes” that your store is on the first page of Google – and makes it to the top three search results.
This is why you need SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
What Is SEO?
According to Moz this is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results”. What does that mean?
The “quality of traffic” refers to who clicks on your page. It is about having the right people visit your site. In our clothing store case, we want people who are genuinely interested in clothes not just people who want to shop for groceries. The “quantity of traffic” then means how much traffic you get from the right target group. “Organic results” refers to non-paid content. SEO does not take into account paid advertisements.
SEO applies to most big search engines but for the sake of simplicity, this article focuses on Google. So how does Google actually come up with the results when you type in “clothing store in Fashionville”? Google uses a so-called “crawler”, an internet bot (ie. internet robot) searching the internet for information to index pages. The index is then part of Google’s algorithm.
To make your website rank at the top of the search results, you need to know what this algorithm takes into account. SEO is a wide topic – it is not done by one simple “quick fix”. It involves various dimensions and it keeps changing over time. Nevertheless, SEO is really useful and the best part is that it is for free. Therefore, I think it really is worth the effort.
What Can You Do to Successfully Carry out SEO?
The aforementioned traffic has a big influence on your ranking. The more traffic the better. And do not forget, it means quality traffic. But what if you just started and your traffic is quite low? What else can you do?
Measures to Get Started
Keywords make it possible for people to find your website online. In our example, your website’s keywords should involve “clothing store” and “Fashionville”, amongst others. The algorithm will search for those sites who use full or partial keywords of the search. These keywords can be included in your website by using them in the headings, the text or they can be incorporated via plugins. There are also different types of keywords which I will cover in another article soon.
Content-related factors such as the length of your content and its uniqueness can boost your search engine result. Have you every thought why so many brands now use their own blogs in addition to their products? This has a practical reason: blog posts mean content, content length and relevance for their readers. Even if you think blog posts are not relevant in your field, think about it if some additional information on your website about your products would be interesting for your customers? It will have the positive side-effect of moving your ranking up.
Another factor which you can influence quite easily is the loading speed of your website. Try to optimise it, as it will not only improve the usability and experience of your site but also positively affect your ranking.
Social media shares also positively affect your ranking. I like to compare it to the talk of town. If a lot of people tag your business, reshare/retweet your posts, they spread the word about you. The more people spread the word, the higher your ranking.
Similarly, search engines also take into account any mentions of your brand by the press or media.
The social media shares and mentions of your brand name work like the traditional public relations (PR) – the more the better.
There are two important dimensions which you are long-term measures to boost your SEO. However, they are useful to know from the start to be able to take them into account and incorporate them into your content as early as possible. These two dimensions look at the domain- and the page-level.
The domain-level is your domain as a whole. The algorithm searches how many pages link to your domain. Similar to the traffic, it is not only about quantity of the links but also about their quality and relevance. Furthermore, it is also important how trustworthy these links are. To compare this to the offline world: it is good if a lot of people refer to your shop. But the most important referrals are from people who are considered as opinion leaders. For example, if a local fashion icon raves about your store, people trust her opinion and, therefore, may trust you and stop by. However, this also means that if you only get links from sites which are deemed not trustworthy, it can affect your ranking badly. Therefore, try to find quality partners online to produce content together or who will write about you and then link to your website. If your domain ranks high, all your pages of that domain have a higher chance of ranking higher.
The page-level concerns single pages and is similar to what I mentioned about keywords and content above. In addition, it involves how many quality sites link to the specific page in question.
SEO does not happen over night. It will evolve depending on how your website grows. It may seem like a lot of work at first but it is definitely worth the effort. The majority of measures are for free but ranking on the first page of Google or even among the top three search results will have a huge impact on your business.
Do you have experience with SEO? What is your advice? Did it help your business?