SEO is perhaps the most common three letters on the lips of any marketer who knows a thing or two about how online marketing works. It stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it refers to the methods used to boost a website’s position in search engine results.
A good SEO strategy can build awareness for your business, growing your online exposure and ultimately increasing your customer base and bottom line. But that’s all in theory. When we start putting our money where our mouths are, people tend to make a lot of mistakes that jeopardize their search engine rankings instead of helping them.
But, let’s take it one step at a time. Let’s try to understand first the value good SEO practices can bring to your business and how you can leverage them.
The Goal of SEO and Why You Need It
If you sell products or services to customers online, or if you’ve taken your business to the digital world, then SEO should be an essential component of your online marketing strategy. And, we’re not encouraging you to optimize your website just to get a favourable position in Google search. SEO can also enable you to provide better services to your potential customers, target them more effectively, and ensure that they will return to your site.
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Keep in mind, though that improving your rankings doesn’t happen overnight. SEO is a meticulous method that takes time, hard work, and time to show results. So, if you’re looking for a quick way to generate leads and boost your revenue, then you should consider spending a few dollars on AdWords. However, it’s worth mentioning that even paid advertising won’t work to its full potential unless your website meets a couple of conditions.
Here are other aspects that you should consider:
- When you compare it to other marketing strategies, such as Pay-Per-Click advertising, social media marketing, and so on, SEO is the most cost-effective option. We’re not saying that you should ignore them, but keep in mind that SEO won’t put a damper on your budget to get results.
- Search engines are still dominating the market. The majority of your potential customers will look up a business online before making a purchase, looking for reviews or more information on the company. A good SEO strategy in place ensures they have quicker access to that information.
- You’ve heard it times and times again: mobile is rising. Well, until someone invents a new technology to replace mobile devices, this statement continues to stay true and influence the SEO industry. In fact, mobile searches have already surpassed desktop ones, and Google is already adapting to this new user behaviour.
- Here’s a simple truth: your business can take a major hit if you ignore search engine optimization. Sure, the rules change almost every year, but if you follow a few basic practices you increase your chances at dominating the search engines: create quality content that users want to consume, don’t stuff your blog posts with keywords, provide an excellent user experience, and build links only from authoritative sites.
- Your competition will get ahead of you. It’s simple: optimization is, by definition, a process that allows your business to move forward and improve. If you don’t do it, then there’s a high chance that your potential customers won’t even know that your business exists. That means an advantage for your competitors, and they won’t think twice before taking it.
Why Can’t Search Engines Understand a Site without SEO?
Search engines need a few pointers to figure out what a website is all about. They use bots that crawl the web, collecting data and indexing it. A sophisticated algorithm analyzes the data and determines the position of your website based on a variety of ranking factors.
It’s a complex process, but there’s a limit to how well search engines can complete it. Crawlers can’t collect information they don’t understand. And, if they can’t collect it, they won’t index it either. Search engine optimization enables you to translate your website to the crawlers and help them understand the information it contains.
Don’t assume that you can optimize your website once and then forget about it for the next few years. As user behaviour and needs change so do the search engines. As such, you need to keep pace with the algorithm updates and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly if you want to remain relevant in Google’s eyes.
What Search Engines Are Looking for
- Relevant Results
In the most basic sense, the primary goal of a search engine is to give people what they want. If someone looks up the word “trumpet,” they expect content related to trumpets. Of course, users can write vague queries or be extremely specific about what they’re looking for online. But regardless of what and how people search, the search engines should be able to match the query with relevant results.
But here’s the thing: you’re the one establishing relevance by setting up tags and descriptions that represent your site, its content, and its goals.
- Quality Content
Do you have a section on your site where you regularly publish articles or other forms of content? And are those articles of interest to your audience and other potential customers? Great, then you’re doing fine!
If you’re not doing that, you should begin focusing on content creation as soon as possible. High-quality content is a crucial ranking factor that can give you a competitive advantage. Prospects want useful information that educates and helps them solve their problems, so make sure to offer them just that.
If writing is not up to your alley, consider hiring a few content marketers that can help you devise an efficient strategy.
- User Experience
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: SEO won’t just help you get a better search engine ranking. It also forces you to look at how your visitors are interacting with your websites and consider new ways of improving user experience. We’re talking about things like easy navigation, relevant internal linking, tagging and searching that can make the time users spend on your website more enjoyable. And, if visitors have a good time while exploring your pages, then they are more likely to return.
- Loading Speed
Internet users are extremely impatient and get frustrated if a page takes too much to load (and by “too much” we mean more than three seconds.) As such, search engines consider loading speed when ranking websites and place the slow ones at the bottom of the barrel.
Search engines have a special place in their rank for responsive websites. Platforms that are compatible across different types of devices, operating systems, and browsers have overall better traffic than those that don’t. Not everyone accesses the internet in the same way, and if you don’t want to lose potential customers just because they are not looking at your site from the right device, it’s time to start looking for SEO companies that can help you build a responsive platform.
- Internal Linking
Let’s say you currently have two articles on your website on subjects that are connected to each other. Instead of hoping a user will find the second related material on their own, you could link it right in the body. That way the user can click on the link if they want to find out more about the topic.
Internal link building is a form of easing users’ navigation and making sure they get what they came for. Not only that, but this practice can also help you reduce your bounce rate by encouraging visitors to spend more time on your site and explore your content.
Other possible advantages:
o Helps improve rankings of specific keywords;
o Audiences get a better experience;
o It helps search engines index a page;
With the right SEO strategy in place, you can improve prospects’ perception of your site and build your online authority. By providing constant, quality content to your audience, you will establish yourself as the go-to source for your industry. Not only that this position will get more traffic, but it can also help with your link building efforts.
- Meta Descriptions and Tags
It’s the oldest SEO strategy in the book, and one of the first places crawlers look to understand what’s going on with your website.
The meta description is that short paragraph that appears below a page’s URL in search results. Users need those descriptions to figure out which of the site on the result page is closer to what they need.
What You Can Do
Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO is and what search engines are looking for, it’s finally time to go into what measures you can take to improve your website.
- Use Keywords Strategically
If you sell handmade earrings, you may think that targeting the terms “handmade,” “earrings” and “jewelry” should be enough.
Well, that’s not always the case.
In reality, it pays to do a bit of research before implementing your keyword strategy. After all, if they’re not worthwhile, then all other methods might fall short.
Here’s the thing: vague terms like “earrings” don’t have a lot of SEO value. Sure, some people might still use this keyword, but their intent isn’t to buy earrings but to look for information about this jewelry type. That’s a crucial difference that can affect your website’s rankings.
Instead, you should focus on the keywords that will target prospects that already have an intent to purchase. For example, “buy handmade earrings” is a much better option than “earrings.”
Make sure that your keywords are as specific as possible, and representative of what your business is offering. If you’re unsure, think of what you type when you want to buy something online. You don’t want a wiki page with the history of the desired product, right? You just want a website where you can make a purchase. So leverage long-tail keywords and location keywords as best as possible to target buying customers.
- Avoid Duplicate Content
Search engines focus on providing internet users with relevant results and flawless experience. If two or more websites have the same content, then that might affect user experience. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that search engines penalize this practice. Not only that duplicating content can affect your ranking, but it’s also unethical. Just think about it: you wouldn’t be too happy if someone used your content without your permission and benefited from your hard work.
- Strategic Navigation
The navigational structure of your site plays a prominent role in how search engines are going to rank it. In a nutshell, the easier it is for users to browse around and find what they’re looking for, the higher the ranking.
- Improve Website Speed
Internet users are quick to abandon a website if it takes too long to load. So, check your site and do something about its speed if you notice that it doesn’t perform optimally.
Compress the images on your site to make them load faster and keep their quality. Switch from a shared server to a VPN and enable browser cookies. Remove all the unnecessary bells and whistles that slow down your website. Focus on functionality rather than the aesthetics of your pages.
- Earn Your Links
Backlinks are a vital ranking factor that can have a major influence on your position in search engine results. However, acquiring quality backlinks from authoritative sources can be difficult and time-consuming. But, that should be no excuse for buying links or engaging in shady link exchange practices. Instead, focus on creating quality content that people will want to link to on their sites.
- Don’t Stuff Keywords
Let’s say you did your homework and you’re ready to put everything you’ve learned about SEO into practice. Before you do that, you need to know that not every practice you’ve read about will apply to your business. Forcing a particular tactic may do more damage than good to your website.
For instance, pushing a keyword into an article just because you know it’s a highly-valued term can affect your ranking. So, review your content carefully, and if it doesn’t come off as natural, then you should change it. Remove the words that you used for the sole purpose of getting picked up by crawlers unless they genuinely belong in the body of the text. Keyword stuffing is frown upon by search engines so make sure to stray away from this practice.
SEO Is an Investment for the Long Run
Most people look at SEO as a means to an end. They hope that if they get it right, they will see an increase in their traffic and, consequently, their revenue. It’s okay to think like that, though it might not be the right mindset.
People respond better to businesses they feel they can trust. Of course, the best way to earn their trust is by providing excellent products and services, but your website is a part of that equation too. An optimized site that provides relevant content and great user experience will take prospects one step closer to making a purchase.
You definitely won’t see results right away. SEO takes time, and it won’t meet expectations until well down the line, but it’s one of the most trusted ways your business can stay ahead online.
Hiring an SEO consultant can take some of the pressure off your shoulders. At Australian Internet Advertising, we offer comprehensive SEO services that can turn a small business into a six-figure company.