If you do business in the 21st century and have an online presence of any sort, the term Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is likely familiar to you. SEO does exactly what it says on the tin. When a user query has need of a product or service that you provide in your location, it’s all about ensuring that your search entry is more readily visible than that of your competitors. In an era where your competitors have access to all of the same digital marketing tools as you, SEO can make all the difference when it comes to whether your prospective customers choose your business.. Or your competitors’ businesses.
But SEO is a beast with many faces. Many businesses assume that if they post content regularly and sprinkle in a few well considered keywords that they’re “doing” SEO. But in order to position yourself head and shoulders above the competition in the eyes of search engines and achieve the market dominance that your brand deserves, it’s important to address its many facets. Here we’ll go over the importance of this multifaceted discipline, what determines a page’s search engine rankings and the many ways in which you can influence the SEO your online presence.
Is SEO still that important?
In a rapidly changing technological landscape, it’s easy to dismiss SEO as one of those techno-jargon buzzwords that rises to prominence and fades into obscurity in a few short years. But the simple truth is that SEO is actually getting more important with each passing year. SEO is in a constant state of growth and evolution as more businesses bring their online presences to bear on the digital market and search engines themselves grow and adapt in what they value in online content. However, many businesses throw money at SEO without ever really understanding it properly, slaughtering cash cows to the capricious digital gods. So, let’s take a look at what really influences search engine rankings…
What determines a page’s SEO?
While not every search engine has the same priorities as Google, as the world’s most popular search engine, it’s the best example to use as a template. Currently, the following are key factors in determining a search page’s influence to the search engine.
- Security- Google is particularly concerned with making the internet a safer place in which to do do business, and has recently taken punitive measures against brands that don’t have the same priorities. Google has always prioritised secure web pages (those with an https:// suffix rather than http://. Recently, however, Google has begun issuing warning messages when users alight on a non secure page. This can be a black eye for your business which will cause users to think twice before engaging with your brand.
- Keywords- Keywords are words that are included in common search engine queries. These should be as specific as possible while avoiding jargon which could bottleneck searches. For example “signs of skin cancer” will solicit far more searches than “signs of melanoma”.
- Freshness- It’s common knowledge that sites which post new content several times a day are far more visible to search engines than sites which post less often. This isn’t to say, however, that quality of content should be sacrificed for quantity, as we’ll discuss later.
- Site architecture- Your website’s user experience (UX) is also a key factor. Pages with higher bounce rates are
lowerpriority to search engines but if you can get your users to stay on pageand really immerse themselves in your site, this is SEO gold!
- Responsiveness- In an era where most content is now viewed through mobile devices, responsive websites (those with good mobile optimisation) are far more of a priority for search engines.
- Title tags- Search engines didn’t get the memo about not judging a book by its cover. They need title tags to identify the subject matter of your content. Therefore your page titles need to be succinct and accurate, making use of keywords to ensure that your content reaches the eyes of those who need it.
So, how can you boost your SEO rankings to get yourself ahead of the competition?
Remember… Not all SEO is digital!
While many will think of SEO as a purely digital endeavor, this broad discipline spills out into the real world too. There are a number of ways in which you can boost your SEO without even needing to sit at a computer. The analogue world offers almost as many opportunities for link building and brand promotion as the digital realm. Many of them involve some sort of overhead cost but this does not mean that they are dispensable if you are to take an holistic approach to building your brand’s search engine visibility.
Trade shows offer a wealth of brand building opportunities that could send users flooding to your online presence who wouldn’t necessarily think to find you on a search engine. A beautiful bespoke exhibition stand is the perfect vehicle to make your brand shine at an industry event. Functions and events also opportunities for public speaking. This can be a great way to make your voice heard, establish yourself as a knowledgeable authority in your chosen field and create a sense of genuine interest and buzz around your business which can be difficult to recapture in the digital realm. Show people that your business has a social and ethical conscience. Advocate for local and charitable causes and sponsor those who do inspiring things to promote them.
Not only will these activities help to build a steady flow of traffic to your brand, they’ll create the kind of meaningful, quality engagements that search engines prize. Anything that drives traffic to your website, whether it’s a piece of paper passed to a stranger on the street, your logo on a coffee mug or a handshake at a trade show could be considered SEO.
PPC- An opening salvo
Many nascent brands consider paid social media marketing on a pay-per-click basis (PPC) an admission of defeat. They’ve heard that organic SEO is best and won’t consider any form of paid promotion. The trouble is that cultivating enough of a following to boost your SEO organically can take a very long time. Thus PPC advertising is a useful opening salvo. It can be delivered with laser focus to your target audience and help you to hit the ground running. By using PPC as an opening salvo you’re well placed to follow through with more organic means of boosting your search engine rankings, such as…
Content Marketing- It’s so much more than just a blog
Many brands build a blog into their website which they update twice a week and assume that they’re “doing” content marketing. But there’s far more to content marketing than blogging. Sure, blogging may be the bread and butter of your content strategy but even blog posts can be tweaked to make them more appealing to search engine crawlers. A plugin like Yoast can help you to make your content more search engine friendly without impinging upon your editorial style. If you don’t have the time to post regular, engaging and informative content daily you need to seriously consider investing in a digital marketing specialist who can help you.
You should also consider cornerstone content like white papers of e-books. These can be a great way to establish your knowledge and authority and build value in your brand.
In an era where more people consume their content on the go through mobile devices and in short if you’re not creating video content… You really ought to be! Video production requires time, expertise and the allocation of money and resources and so it’s understandable that some smaller businesses may be dubious about embracing it in their content strategy. Nonetheless, video is unquestionably the future. Video lends itself to mobile consumption and can convey the same amount of information in just a minute or two as a 1,000 word blog post. Thus, while it may not be the most convenient medium from the point of view of businesses, it’s most certainly the most convenient form for users to consume. It’s estimated that by 2021 video content will account for 80% of the world’s online traffic. Though you may be loath to jump on the video bandwagon, your competitors may not be.
Remember that it’s not enough to post regular content, you also have to post quality content. Outsourcing your content to low cost, low quality content farms will not only besmirch your brand, it can also do more harm than good to your SEO. Quality user engagement is more valuable to search engines than users clicking off your page after 10 seconds because they recognise that the content they see is garbage.
The power of link building
Search engines like sites that are linked to often. This is because it implies that they are trustworthy and credible sources that merit citation. Thus, you should invest in strategies like blogger outreach to generate links to your content. You should also view this as an opportunity to reach out to other local businesses to discuss opportunities for reciprocal link building. Remember, however, that not all backlinks are created equal. Links to your site from authoritative pages that receive large volumes of regular traffic have much higher value to search engines than from those that receive a handful of clicks per day.
When you have an holistic and comprehensive view of SEO’s many faces, the world is your brand’s oyster!