A relatively new phenomenon, SEO is now a very popular marketing tool. Traditional marketing methods such as print advertising are on the slide, whilst online marketing techniques such as SEO are now being adopted by businesses of all sizes – from small start-ups to large scale organisations.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation (more commonly referred to as SEO) is the process of altering a website in order to improve its search engine results page (SERP) rankings in relation to relevant key phrases.
When determining SERP rankings, search engines look for particular things on the actual website (onsite), as well as ‘mentions’ of your site elsewhere on the internet (offsite). Effective SEO needs to address these two aspects in order to achieve the best possible results.
Search engines such as Google use complicated algorithms, which are basically mathematical formulas that compare and balance different aspects of a site. These algorithms determine how a site will rank in relation to certain key search terms – in short, they can either make or break your website. At the end of the day, search engines strive to provide searchers with the very best user experience possible. This means providing them with search results which accurately address their query. Algorithms are the way they achieve this.
In a nutshell, the SEO process aims to increase your web presence by ensuring your website appears front and centre when potential clients search for the goods and/or services that you offer. By placing your site in front of those who are actively searching, it’s possible to increase website traffic, conversions and therefore leads and sales.
Major search engines such as Google continually change their algorithms, ensuring those searching are provided with results which accurately reflect their query. While SEO techniques and strategies are always evolving, the basic principles are as follows:
- Website structure/sitemap – this allows search engine bots to crawl a site effectively
- On-page content – this needs to be in depth, and should include any keywords relevant to the page
- Internal content links – by creating links between internal pages, it’s possible to boost a site’s authority
- Title tags – these should be optimised to include relevant key phrases
- Canonicalisation – by addressing internal duplication issues, bots are able to read your site as intended
- Quality back links – these should be placed on authoritative sites that are relevant to your business
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) – by linking an active social media page to your site, it’s possible to boost authority
- Offsite citations – in addition to actual links, mentions of a site (such as directory listings) are also effective
SEO is all about implementing the right strategies, and making use of the right techniques. This being said, some aspects are out of your control. Major search engine such as Google adjust their algorithms hundreds of times each year, and while most changes are subtle updates, some actually force SEO companies to make considerable changes to their processes.
These search engines take into account more than 200 different ‘signals’ when they crawl a site, and it’s therefore important to make sure each and every aspect is taken care of. It’s critical that your SEO company takes all of these aspects into account, whilst also ensuring their strategies are up to date with all of the latest algorithm changes.
In terms of key phrase selection, it’s important to choose phrases that are relevant to your business and also generate lots of website traffic. These phrases generally deliver a better return on investment.
More than a quarter of search queries on any given day have never been seen before, and therefore it’s very important to make sure thorough keyword research is carried out. When selecting keywords, it is common practice to create keyword clusters around particular ‘core’ key phrases – e.g. plumbing Sydney may be expanded to include plumbing company Sydney, professional plumbing service and other closely related terms that overlap.
When it comes to a website, what you can’t see is just as important as what you can see – especially when it comes to SEO.
Pages need to be correctly indexed, and any canonicalisation issues need to be addressed. Working on these areas of your site ensures that search engine bots can actually read your site as intended. The sitemap also needs to be correctly structured and easy to follow – simply put, the sitemap is a set of road signs that help bots to navigate a site.
You’ve probably heard it all before – content is king. With this being the case, content needs to be in depth and relevant.
In most cases, any core key phrases are matched to the site’s homepage, with other key phrases being matched to relevant pages accordingly. For example, if there are keywords surrounding a specific product or service, these would normally be added to the specific page.
Thanks to recent algorithm updates such as Panda 4.0, it has become very important to make sure content is not over-optimised. In short, writers need to avoid overusing key phrases or particular words. Instead of boosting your site’s rankings, over-optimised content can actually work in reverse – potentially, it could even contribute to your site being penalised.
Back links are essentially a ‘vote of confidence’, as they show that your site is ‘being talked about’ elsewhere on the net. If other authoritative sites have links to your website, it increases the authority of your site as well – which is great news when it comes to increasing SERP rankings.
The quality of back links is very important, and this has been compounded due to recent changes in search engine algorithms.
Back links should be:
- Placed on authoritative sites (no spammy sites)
- Placed on websites that are actually relevant to your specific industry
- Incorporated using natural-looking anchor text– think ‘visit this page’, rather than ‘buy dress Melbourne’
Social media is an umbrella term for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and a range of other websites.
It’s also important to remember that social media can greatly enhance an SEO campaign. By linking an active social media page to your website, it’s possible to boost the site’s authority and build trust with visitors.
A strong offsite citation profile is an important component of an SEO campaign. Offsite citations are a mention of your business on another website, without an actual link. These citations can often include directory listings, where the name, physical address, website address and phone number are posted. These types of listings are very useful when it comes to Google Maps and other search result listings that are based on location.
Achieve a Great ROI with SEO
The SEO process is complicated, and many different components are involved. The key is to ensure that these components work in unison, as this delivers the best possible results.
When carried out effectively, an SEO campaign can greatly increase SERP rankings. In many cases, higher rankings lead to an increase in website traffic, which opens up a range of opportunities for businesses.
At the end of the day, an increase in website traffic can lead to an increase in leads, sales and your bottom line. An excellent ROI is what marketing is all about – and SEO has the ability to deliver fantastic results!