We’ve covered this before, but it’s really important to make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for. So just what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation is the art of making sure a web page has the appropriate keywords and content to make it readable and relevant for the search engines to index and rank against those keywords.
It’s usually done as a one-off exercise per page when a website is first created or as part of a marketing campaign to increase the site content and attract more visitors.
What SEO Is Not
Search Engine Optimisation will not get your website a higher website ranking, at least not on it’s own. You’ll need a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign for that, which SEO is part of.
Why Go Over This Again, It’s Getting Old?
Well, we do get a lot of people asking how much SEO costs, which is a fair enough question.
However, what they usually mean is how much does it cost to get their website higher in the rankings without paying a monthly fee as quoted by other companies.
Unfortunately, this is SEM work, not SEO.
Build It And They Will Come. Won’t They?
Consider this analogy.
Imagine you have recently bought a bar in a busy city centre but you’re not getting the footfall that your competitors are so you decide to refurbish the place.
You get new furniture, paint and decorate the inside, get a great new bar menu and a heap of popular beers on tap and finally white-wash the exterior.
Sitting back, you relax and wait for the hordes to stampede in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen.
Sure you get the odd person walking past who sees the white-wash and pops in but where are the rest of the punters?
This is SEO.
Without any advertising, nobody knows you refurbished. They are none the wiser of what’s changed and that’s why you need to advertise your business and in this case, your website.
The Website Refurb – SEO Techniques For Existing Content
Here are the types of SEO things a web designer would do with your website and web pages, assuming you’ve already got a good amount of content on the web site.
Identify What Your Website Is Trying To Achieve
This is vital. The web designer needs to know what you’re trying to achieve by attracting visitors to your website.
You may want to increase on-line sales of particular products or services.
You may want to increase the sign-up numbers for your newsletter.
You may even want to drive more customers to your physical business building, shop or complex.
Research The Target Audience
After identifying the above, your web developer will need to research the target audience you are trying to attract to the website.
This involves looking into their on-line habits. Which related websites do they visit? What are those website’s top keywords? Do they use and engage in social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter?
Other areas of research would include age-grouping, geolocation (are your visitors all local, national, international?), sector (students, business people, families) etc.
The more research data that can be gathered on your target audience, the better chance you have of optimising the web page to generate maximum interest. e.g. there would be little point of inserting grungy cartoon images and writing in a teen-gen-style format on a web page if you were trying to attract senior business people to it.
Similarly, niche technical jargon and details would likely go over the heads of a middle-aged audience you were perhaps trying to attract to a general on-line shop.
Research The Best Keywords
Part of Search Engine Optimisation is that there has to be some research into what keywords people are using in order to find particular web pages.
Sometimes the top keywords, the ones used in the most searches, are not necessarily the best ones to use as the competition can just be too large to compete with.
For example, if you were a local car dealership trying to promote your summer car sales.
Keywords such as “UK car sales” or “Edinburgh summer car deals” may be the ones used the most, however, consider just how many top-brand car manufacturers are already using these keywords and how large their marketing budget is. It would be a waste of time and money to try and compete with these big brand names on that level.
So we need to research the keyword options and perhaps find a middle tier where the search numbers aren’t as high, but the competition is a lot less therefore you should be getting better value for money and have a greater chance of ranking high against the competition at that level.
Getting The Job Done
Once you have your target audience researched and a bundle of great keyword phrases, the next step is to do the optimising work.
This is split into two parts; the plain-text content and the HTML code.
Optimising The Content – Copywriting
This is the final web page as the visitor would see it. It likely contains a title, various levels of headers, paragraphs of text and some media (images/video/audio).
You may already have existing content on a web page that is to be optimised and it is very likely this will need to be tweaked or rewritten to achieve the best results.
This part is technically called copywriting and it’s a professional skill that is more suited to people with keen journalistic talents.
The better the copy (article) the more interest it will generate with your target audience.
The style of the article should match as closely as possible to the largest audience you are trying to attract. e.g. professional for business, light-hearted for general, technical for niche etc.
The topic of the article should be relevant to the result you’re trying to achieve and this is where you would use the keywords and key phrases you had found, by placing them strategically but in the context of the overall article.
Optimising the Code
Once the article has been written, the code at the back end is just as important.
The code is made up of HTML tags and these tags are wrapped around bits of your article to perhaps make it bold or use it as a headline or insert an image.
Headlines are important to optimisation as their importance decreases with their level. A level 1 headline is more important than a level 6 headline but less important than the article title and the search engines take all this into account. Even text that is CAPITALISED or in bold will have a small effect on the overall optimisation result of the web page.
You may have seen email newsletters in your inbox with all the images missing because they have been blocked by the email client. The code allows for web designers to put alternative text in there that will show when an image isn’t available and this too is read and measured by the search engines to contribute to the overall web page ranking.
Optimising Meta Tags
Meta tags are again bits of the HTML code that you are probably not even aware of and perhaps unable to change directly on your web page.
Meta tags allow you to pass very specific keywords and a description of the web page directly to a search engine, almost like a summary of what the page should contain.
Having the best keywords here can really help to allow the search engines read your page and score them highly. Of course, having weak and irrelevant keywords can be very damaging!
What No Content?
The amount of relevant content is really key to getting your overall website ranked highly against your competitors.
If you have a three page site, then it’s unlikely to rank high against others who have hundreds of pages or blog posts.
In this case, no amount of SEO work will help and you need to run a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign which would likely include a plan to create a new batch of good relevant content for your site; perhaps in the form of articles, white paper or a blog.
How Hard Can It Be?
“After all, there are only 10 websites on the first page.”
We’ve been asked this question quite a few times.
Yes, there are only 10 web sites on the first page of a search engine results page (SERP), however, they are the top 10 out of millions of other pages trying to compete with this top-spot.
After searching, have a look just under the search box. This will tell you the approximate relevant web pages that are competing to get on that first page. In the above image example, the keyword “photography edinburgh” returned about 2.7 million possible relevant pages (results highlighted in the red box).
If this was one of your keyword phrases then your web pages and hence website would be ranked accordingly against those 2.7 million results, not just those lucky top 10.
Your web pages need to be properly optimised for your target audience and best keyword choices to help the search engines to rank those pages against all the others on the web.
Although it will improve your existing web pages, SEO alone is unlikely to draw substantially more visitors to your website and hence is unlikely to significantly increase your SERP ranking.
To increase a website’s overall traffic SEO is best practiced in conjunction with a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign.