SEO, search engine optimisation, is the application of a combination of strategies in order to rank a website higher in the organic search results.
The objective? To drive more organic traffic to your website and achieve the goals of your site which, in your case, will most likely be new customers.
If you want to increase your brand visibility and have long term, consistent traffic to your site, you should invest in SEO.
I have been ranking websites since 2003 and a freelance SEO consultant since 2010.
Get in touch if you are interested in my SEO audit services or my SEO consulting services.
I am not accepting new monthly SEO clients at this time.
SEO in a little more detail
Before I delve a little deeper into the processes involved in an SEO campaign, I want to talk a little about trust.
Google wants to provide their users with a good experience. They don’t want anyone to say Google showed horrible results for their search, recommended spammy websites which did not meet their needs and Bing is sooo much better.
If their users are happy, they will come back again and again, maybe click some ads and they make more money.
Therefore, they will rank websites they “trust” higher on the page.
This trust can be built by:
Creating relevant, unique content on your site.
Structuring your website to achieve the best experience for your visitor.
Ensuring that people in your industry and related industries acknowledge your site’s high value by linking to it.
Getting people to talk about you on social media.
Yes, some of these trust signals can be manipulated. But, if you are a business that is serious about their long term visibility online, I do not recommend it.
Professional keyword research is essential to the success of your SEO campaign. Targeting the right keyphrases makes or breaks your site’s online visibility.
Keywords are placed in your title, meta description and directs the content on your page. Keywords are also considered when building links to your site. Without these words, Google will not be able to accurately decide what your site should rank for.
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the words or phrases to target.
Does the keyphrase receive sufficient search volume? Obviously, you want your site to rank for phrases which will bring a good amount of traffic to your site.
Does it have informational (example “how to” keyphrases) or transactional (eg “buy x online”) intent?
What is the competition on the search results page? Attempting to rank a site on a results page dominated by big brands like Amazon will, most of the time, be vastly more difficult than one with brands similar to your own.
Do you have the budget or time to commit to these terms?
Are your competitors ranking for these terms? Analysing your competition can provide keyword opportunities you had not considered.
There are a number of free and paid tools available for keyword research. I like to use Google Keyword Planner (obviously), Google’s related searches, SEMRush and sometimes Ubersuggest.
I also like to visit industry related forums and check out Quora and Reddit for inspiration. Doing this allows me to see the words the target audience uses when talking about the product or topic.
On Page Factors
As a freelance SEO consultant, I start every SEO project with a site audit. The main purpose of the audit is to uncover technical issues with the website which might be compromising its visibility.
Optimising the on site or on page factors of your website is absolutely crucial to your success. If your site is not technically optimised, it is very unlikely that you will rank well for any competitive terms.
Here is a brief checklist of some of the elements you need to optimise:
Keyword in your title tag – not stuffed but constructed to both include the keyword and encourage the click through by the user
Keyword and synonyms of the keyword in the content of the page – Again not stuffed. It is recommended that they are in the first 100 words of your content and then sprinkled naturally throughout the page.
H1 tag – not as powerful as it used to be but still worthwhile to include the keyword and/or synonyms here if it makes sense to do so.
Friendly URLs – keep URLs short and include the keyword. No underscores or weird parameters.
The list above is very straightforward but so many business websites make errors with the basics.
Now onto your content. Thin pages are generally a signal of a low quality page and website. This is a big mistake I see on the products and services pages of many small business websites.
Very brief content which does not address the needs of the visitor at all or copy taken from manufacturer’s specifications.
Long form content (over 2000 words) does seem to earn higher rankings in the search engines. However, I encourage you to write as much as you need to in order to answer your customer’s questions.
Don’t inflate your content (or keyword stuff) if you don’t have anything valuable to say.
Add pictures and videos to your content wherever possible.
I recommend analysing your competition and building a better content strategy.
And last but not least, consider your user’s experience on your site.
Keep your page speed at 2 seconds or less.
Ensure your navigation is simple and clear.
Ensure the mobile version of your site is also optimised according to best practices.
Adjust your site to increase conversions. Your website should be frequently evolving.
Off Page Factors
The most important off page component of the SEO process is links. Links are still a huge ranking factor for Google. Links from trustworthy, related sites tell Google that your site is valuable and can be trusted.
For this reason, link building will continue to be on the most important parts of your SEO campaign. Get this wrong and your site might never see the first page for any useful search queries.
I don’t like to talk much about white hat vs black hat link building because the rules are always changing. Of course, there are some black hat practices, like hacking, which will always be black hat. However, the lines of white hat and grey hat can be blurry.
My advice is to create a backlink profile that could pass inspection from a member of the Google webspam team. Avoid the Penguin penalty by building links with natural anchor text.
Earn links from other sites by creating valuable content on your site and then promote the heck of it.
There are tons of ways you can build links. A strategy backed by solid content creation is the most futureproof method.
Some Questions I Receive Regularly From Business Owners
Can I do SEO on my own?
The answer is yes.
In industries that are not very competitive, you can do most of the work yourself. If you are willing to invest the time to learn the material, make the technical changes to your site, create content and link build, go for it.
If you have a micro business and you do not have a marketing budget, then you can trade your time and hopefully get results.
Remember, you will need to keep fairly up to date with SEO trends and continue learning. It’s not impossible.
However, most business owners need to focus on other parts of running their business and should not invest the time it takes to learn and implement SEO. Hiring a freelance SEO consultant or agency is the better option.
Is SEO (or SEO providers) dodgy?
SEO is part of online marketing. A very important part for many businesses who might not be able to manage long term paid campaigns.
Ideally, it should be part of an entire digital marketing strategy including paid advertising, social and email marketing.
Because it is crucial for most businesses to promote themselves online in order to gain new leads and business, the SEO industry is huge.
And, in any large industry, there will be less than reputable service providers.
SEO done the right way, by the right people, will increase the visitors to your website and increase your opportunity to make more sales.
Can you guarantee first page rankings for specific keywords?
It is not advisable to provide any guarantees with SEO. The search engines are a third party which are not under any provider’s control. Tomorrow, Google could remove all their organic results and there is nothing anyone could do about it.