8 steps to better SEO

Search engine optimisation

1. Know your key phrases

“If I wanted to find my very own company in Google, what would I type in?” is the first question to ask.

Many business owners think that if people type in the name of their company and it comes up first, that this is enough. The reality is that not everyone knows the name of a business and will use keywords around the item or service they are looking for.

Your aim should be to rank among the first positions for non-branded keywords that describe the product or service you are offering.  For example, if you have a clothes store, a valuable keyword can be “buy clothes online”.  This is a very high level description of your business, so in order to make the most out of your SEO efforts, you will also need to drill down into your product or service category. So if you want to sell more jeans from your cloths store online, you would need to think about what keywords people use to find jeans beyond just “buy jeans online”, e.g. “maternity jeans”, “comfortable jeans”, “best-fitting jeans” etc.

2. Find what people are searching for

The Google Keyword Tool will help you understand if people are looking for your products or services. It will show you two main items:

  • the number of search queries for that phrase every month
  • suggestions to add to your list of target keywords. It is advisable to group them by categories, so that all the suggestions given by the tool will be for the same category or range of products.

Remember to change the default settings of the tool to match the country and language that you are targeting.

Point 2

3. Choose the right keywords

It is likely that you will end up with a large list of target keywords but you can’t chase them all. Narrowing them down to phrases that can generate real value for your business is key.

Look at the list and identify the keywords that are too generic. You will be able to recognise them quickly – they usually have a high level of searches and low competition. Why should you remove these? Imagine you sell cars, and you have in your list the word “cars”. If anybody types in that word, are you sure they want to buy a car? The user might be looking for pictures, repair centres or even the Disney film. You should aim for more specific key phrases that are more likely to convert such as “buy car”, or the brand and model of the car.

4. Prepare the meta data for your website

The website’s meta data is the amount of information that is included in the tag of the code. The meta-data can be edited in two ways: from the source code or from the CMS of your website. If you are unsure where it appears in the source code or CMS, then you should ask your developer or agency.

Although not visible when browsing through the website, it is recognised by the search engines and gives them hints about what is inside. Once you have picked the key phrases that you consider most relevant for your business, you will need to:

  • Insert each of them in the title tag of their corresponding page. Place the ones that describe your business best in your homepage and then the ones that refer to a certain product category, or specific product, in the relevant pages.
  • Write the meta- description: When any page appears in Google, below the title, there is always a description. In reality it doesn’t have any SEO value, which means that if you place keywords there it won’t count, but it is important as it will give your potential customers high-level information about what your website contains. This encourages them to click-through to your website. Write a compelling piece of content that describes the product or service inside. Each page description should be unique and have a maximum length of 157 characters.
  • Enter your meta keywords: these don’t have as much relevance as they have previously done but it is still good as a way to give Google hints about the content of the page. Just place a few of the most relevant key phrases for each page.

Point 4

5. Make your company visible locally

Now that your website is optimised with the key phrases that are relevant to your business, let’s make your company visible in your local area with Google Places.

This tool allows you to list your business for free and appear in the first page of the search engine after typing in certain search terms. Due to the high amount of businesses that are submitted to this service, you will need to make yours stand out from the crowd. The way to do that is to work on your profile, submitting a detailed description of your company, choosing the right categories and uploading images of your business. The better your profile, the higher your chances of getting listed every time somebody introduces a related search term.

Reviews also influence search results as they will indicate to Google that your business is delivering a good service. Ask your clients to review your company in Google Places or you can even create promotions around it, giving 10% off the next purchase to those that submit a review.

6. Create a blog

A blog, if the content is good enough will:

  • Help your website rank better
  • Bring traffic to your website as it will offer relevant content to users looking for something related to your industry or product.
  • Help your company build trust and a trusted position in the prospect customers’ eyes
  • Generate links to your website from users that found an article interesting.

In the past, keywords ruled the roost but now content is king. You can no longer stuff  your website with them as the algorithm factors have changed. Keywords are important to help the search engines determine what kind of content your website offers to users but they want to give relevant and important content to users.  Sites with new pieces of relevant content will be valued more.  Designing a website with WordPress is quick and easy to set up, so no excuses!

7. Create relevant links to your website

Once your website is optimised, you need to generate relevant links to it. This is an important but difficult aspect of SEO. Create relevant links to your website by:

  • Looking for business listings. Some are free and others ask users for a fee in order to get their company listed.  Like keywords, their value has diminished over time so only focus on high quality listings.
  • Using your social networking profiles such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.
  • Guest blogging: it is a hard task to do, but it can pay off as it can generate important amounts of traffic to your website, as well as a link for your company. If you have a high level of expertise in a certain area, you can research for blogs on similar topics and get in contact with their owners. If your article is good enough they will be interested as it will be a win-win situation for both of you. The webmaster gets a piece of quality content and you get a link and traffic to your website.
  • Creating valuable and creative content: this is by far the best way to get not only links, but more relevant traffic to your website. There are a number of activities you could do such as creating an infographic or setting up a competition. These will interest people and are easy to share.

When thinking of the approach you are going to follow regarding the link building strategy, be careful. Links have been the focus of many SEO professionals during the past few years. People would create high amounts of links that didn’t have any real value and these tactics are now severely penalised by search engines since they are considered unnatural linking. If your campaign is driven by content rather than by links, you will be safe.

Just a brief note before going to the last point, think about how you are going to promote all that content that you created. Social media is usually a great option but it is also very time consuming.

8. Measure your performance

Since you are working on making your website visible, you need to know how well you are doing, and if all that effort is paying off. For that you will need to track the performance of you website for each of the key phrases that you previously selected by checking the rankings. You can do it manually but this will be time-consuming. Fortunately, there are a number of tools on the market that can help:

  • SEOmoz: it is one of the most complete packages in the market at the moment. It will help you monitor your website for the different keywords, as well as doing many other resource activities such as comparing your website to your competitors’ and identifying problems in your website. It is available from $99 per month.
  • SEO Powersuite: Also a very complete set of programmes that will help you monitor your keyword performance, analyse and give you tips on how to improve the website optimization, and analyse your competitors’ back-link profiles. In this case it has a fixed cost of $249 for the professional version or $99 if you buy only one of its 4 programs. You can also download the free version here and test its features, although you won’t be able to save your project.
  • Advanced Web Rankings: this is one of the best keyword monitoring programmes at the moment. Unlike the other two packages, AWR focuses only on keyword tracking, but it has more features and the user experience is quite good. It is available from $99 dollars in the Standard version. There is also a 30 days free trial.

And let’s not forget Google Analytics! While rankings are important for driving traffic, your real goal is to convert new customers. Google Analytics is key for that and it will help you measure how much traffic you get to your website, where it comes from and more importantly, how they behave in your website. Thanks to this tool you may realise that a certain keyword is driving lots of traffic, but its conversion rate is low, or simply that an article you created in a relevant website is driving lots of relevant traffic for your business.

What happens when I’ve done all this work?

Be patient. It takes time and effort to achieve a good amount of traffic, and you probably won’t see any important results for a few months. Once you start to see results, you can delve further into advanced SEO techniques.

SEO depends on many different factors and that changes every day. Keep tuned to our blog to understand what is going on in the industry!

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