A website opens your business to the world. But people have to find you first among the other hundreds of millions of sites. If they can’t, much of your effort is wasted.
Search engines can be a major source of traffic to your website, provided you use search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure people can find you.
A better ranking increases the chances of people finding your website. The top three results get the most clicks. After that, the number of clicks falls rapidly.
"The best SEO strategies are highly targeted."
SEO in a nutshell
The best SEO strategies are highly targeted. Your goal is to rank highly when people enter search terms that are relevant to your business. To succeed, you need to identify and then target very specific search terms that people interested in your business would use in a search.
- Brainstorm with staff a list of relevant key words. Include product types and names or words that relate to your target market.
- Narrow down your list and assign a priority to each search term.
Use online tools
Use online tools to identify the search terms with highest volumes, such as Keyword Discovery, Wordtracker and the Google keyword tool. These tools display the number of times a chosen search term has been used.
- Record the volume of searches for each key word or phrase in a spreadsheet. High-volume search terms often have many websites competing for the top rankings. This can make it difficult for smaller or newer websites to get near the top.
- Cross-check results by entering the exact search term into search engines that highlight key words in the results. As a general rule, if most of the results on the first two pages contain the exact search term, the competition is high.
- Consider disregarding very competitive search terms. Low-competition, high-volume search terms could be more important to target because they can send significant traffic to your site.
- Take a look at low-volume search terms as well. If the terms are very relevant to what you offer, keep them on your list. A lower number of visitors is fine, as long as more of them buy from you.
- Build your final list of target key words, ordered by priority.
Optimize your site
- Match pages on your website to the key words in your list. Aim to target two or three search terms with each page on your website.
- Get help from a web designer or IT expert to incorporate your target search terms into page meta tags. Page titles and descriptions have a significant influence so try to include your key words in each.
- Ensure the URL of each page includes a target search term because search engines check words in the URL for relevance. For instance, if your page is about men’s coats, you might name the page ‘mens-coats.html’.
- Work the target search terms into the text on your pages. Use the key words in a natural way, so text remains readable.
The value of links
Links can make the biggest difference to your search ranking because search engines like Google regard every link to your website as a vote of confidence in the site. Links from high-ranking websites are worth the most.
- Ask loyal customers, partners and suppliers if they would be willing to link to you.
- Try to make the linked text match the exact search term you are targeting with the linked page.
- Post comments on forums and blogs. Forums and blogs may allow you to link back to your website if you leave a comment or take part in discussions.
- Offer to contribute articles or resources to high-profile websites in return for links.
- Submit your site for inclusion in online directories that act as jumping off points to other websites.
- Run a business blog that contains interesting insights and debates. Including key word-relevant links in your blog posts can make these an easy way to gain links.
- Give people a reason to link to you. The best links are usually the ones that come naturally, because what you offer is of value.
- Ultimately, your website is for customers, not search engines. If your website copy is so key word-heavy that visitors can’t understand it, they will go elsewhere.
- Search engines use advanced methods to identify sites trying to game the system. If a term appears too often, this may actually count against you. Avoid going over the top.
- Link to reputable sites only. In the same way that links from recognized sites count in your favor, links from blacklisted sites count against you.
Keep it in perspective
Regard SEO as just one element of your online marketing strategy and avoid spending too much time tweaking your site. Getting the basics right should be your main priority. If you have an interesting site with good content, then SEO will happen more naturally.
An SEO strategy will take time to show results – your site should climb the rankings gradually as search engines update their indexes. Three months is a reasonable period to measure results over, though new sites with poor rankings may take much longer to show significant improvement.
SEO rewards a long-term approach so be persistent and get help from an SEO expert.
- Meet with staff to brainstorm SEO key words and decide which terms to target.
- Avoid high-competition terms in favor of low-competition terms that will still help you attract relevant visitors.
- Set targets for developing strong links with other sites, then monitor the results using website analytics and keep tweaking your site.
- Don’t expect short-term results but be persistent in learning more about SEO and giving it some time and attention.
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