Your Friendly (and helpful) Guide to SEO
Ah, the humble Google™ search page. Answering life’s most awkward questions and gatekeeper to the most exotic… of recipes. But seriously, where would we be without our search engines?
We review products, book holidays, locate venues and research information until our brains can take no more. So yes, they are valuable and yes, as a consumer we’re pretty much alright jack.
But then there is the flipside; being the business that is on the end of that search (or more importantly not on the end of that search).
Now that once useful tool doesn’t seem quite so helpful as it used to be. And your brand new website, the one you have put so much hard work into? Well it happens to be relegated to page 16, and let’s be honest; who even looks at page 2 of the search results these days?
So what gives!? You have a great website! You have tweeted about it so much that even your own mother unfollowed you. So why, I hear you ask, are the visitors so few and far between?
Well if you are anything like me, you returned to the scene of the crime and ‘googled’ your concerns. And the answer that you were confronted by included three little letters. SEO.
So you ‘googled’ that too.
Is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) really the answer?
Here’s a simple truth.
When people want to find something on the internet they use a search engine. But more specifically, they use the very top-ranking results returned by that search engine.
That’s the basics of SEO; improving your website’s position in search engine results.
So how can SEO get your website in the top-ranking results and increase opportunities for people to visit? Well, I’d love to say it’s simple…
But it’s not. The reason is that search engines themselves aren’t simple. No behind that seemingly plain and innocent homepage are mysteriously intricate algorithms and processes, constantly changing and designed to provide the searcher just what they need from over 60 trillion web pages. Phew!
Don’t despair though. Effective SEO is possible! To understand how we first need to take a super quick look at how search engines view your website.
Crawling Spiders and Neon Lights
So what is your website subjected to when it is submitted online? Well here’s a quick (and by no means in-depth) look at how Google™ works:
- Aptly named spiders (or bots) crawl from site to site, link to link, identifying pages which they send to be indexed. But before you start conjuring up images of microscopic transformer type nanobots crawling their way through connections, you may like to know that they are in fact just names given to the software process. Which is a pity. Because that would be pretty cool.
- Next, we have the index, where information and keywords from your website are stored. The index is massive and used for returning information from searches rather than having to revisit every single page again for the information. Definitely not your average rolodex™
- Ranking; how good is your website? Well, that’s what ranking is about. Your website is scored on its quality, context, security, popularity freshness and many other factors to make sure it is just the right information for the person at the end of the search.
Results for searches are delivered in real-time from a list of relevant web pages that have been found, indexed and ranked. How impressive is that?
So before your website can be returned as a top-ranking result. It has to be optimised for each of those fancy processes.
This is what SEO does. It puts everything in place so when the time comes for the spider to re-visit and for the ranking to take place – your website is effectively wearing a great neon flashing sign saying searchers welcome here!
Let’s talk optimisation
If only SEO was just as simple as installing a big neon flashing sign to your website. It’s obviously a lot more complex, requiring some clever (and ethical) strategies but the results are worth it (more on that later).
There are a huge number of factors involved when optimising your site for searches, some complex and some basic. But for now, I thought it worth looking at three points of optimisation that most SEO specialists will agree to need careful implementation:
- Keyword Research; It’s obviously super important to know what words and phrases your customer is using in their searches.
So if they are searching for say, romantic restaurants in Birmingham and your business happens to be a romantic restaurant in Birmingham – then making sure those keywords are in the right places is only going to improve your chances to be found.
SEO agencies have access to the right tools and research techniques to nail this every time.
- Quality Content; Search engines are lovely and all, but they can’t do much to help if people just don’t find your website interesting or useful.
Engaging content that people want to see and read is a necessity! Especially because people tend to share information they like (also important). Good SEO specialists can arrange for quality content to be written and produced in such a way that it is a search engine and people-friendly.
- Links (done the right way); If a search engine notices that other influential websites are linking to yours and vice-versa then it assumes that your website has a decent reputation. Be warned though! Search engines don’t like cheaters.
So if you are buying links, or even inadvertently linking to spam – your website could risk being penalised. The best type of SEO specialist helps create links naturally by developing relationships with website owners who already have high domain authority sites.
As you can see, these 3 points are just a snippet of the sheer level of work that goes into effective SEO management. Let’s not forget how the algorithms of search engines change. Then there’s usability, URL structure, accurate titles, tags… and well, if I go on I risk losing you to despair and boredom. So let’s shove the elephant in the room into action, shall we?
Is it worth spending money on an SEO specialist for your website?
If you want to increase visitors to your website, then yes. Using a professional SEO webmaster is the way to go.
Of course, you can take on the challenge of SEO yourself. However, it’s important to weigh up the cost and time in learning this technical discipline, as well as the risk to damaging your online reputation (which sadly can, and does happen).
In the end, however, SEO isn’t solely about your position in searches. It’s about brand awareness and people associating quality with your business - something you can’t create overnight.
Fortunately, professional SEO marketers have something that a lot of us don’t have when it comes to optimising your site, and that’s time.
It takes patience and skill over a period of time to run a campaign and optimise a site. More importantly, it takes effort to monitor the effectiveness of what has been implemented so that tweaks and improvements can continually be made. Not a job that can be rushed and one best left to a professional.
SEO professionals also have access to specialist tools that give them that extra edge in strategy and analytics. These come at a price though. Sometimes £1000’s per license.
As you see, getting into the SEO biz isn’t cheap, but it does mean that these experienced SEO agencies have the skills and tools available to provide you with a good chance of getting higher returns on your investment.
So what figures are we looking at here? Well, I thought it may help to provide an example.
SEO Return on Investment- A Random Scenario
Say you are a shoe retailer and you want to get people purchasing your trendy quality shoes at a reasonable price of say, £45. If you spent £350 a month on SEO, this could enable you to generate more interest and sell a further 20 pairs a month. That’s £900. And as your brand grows, so does your customer base. Meaning even more profit.
I can tell you are impressed by my amazingly scientific and fact-filled theory there. I’ll admit it’s just an example but SEO is an investment and you can benefit from it. If not from selling shoes, then from;
- opportunities for people to find your website online
- targeted traffic of people who have a high intent to purchase (no one searches for ‘trendy shoes’ if they want to buy washing machines)
- increasing brand awareness – your business, on people’s minds and in their social networks
These are just a few benefits, but I’m sure as a shrewd business person you are already considering the effects and benefits of SEO for your site.
Where to start with SEO
Specialist SEO agencies, like Cocoonfxmedia Ltd have a list of successful SEO campaigns to their name and have picked up a ton of knowledge, tips, tricks and tools to make sure your website comes out on top. Including competitor analysis.
Best of all, Cocoonfxmedia have a totally helpful (trust me on this) jargon-free and transparent approach meaning you won’t be left confused about what to expect or how much it will cost.
So now you know a little about how search engines work and what processes are needed to optimise your site. So whether you are in the process of creating a website, or have an existing one that is just not getting noticed - why not contact James or Glen at Cocoonfxmedia to discuss your budget or any questions you may have on SEO.
Google Inc (2014): https://www.google.co.uk/insidesearch/howsearchworks/thestory/