When you’re starting a brand new business, most of your clients or customers tend to be people you know. And then the people you know tell the people they know, and you get another wave of people a little while later. Sometimes after that happens, you can start to wonder where your next clients might come from! You’ve got your word-of-mouth crowd going, and you’re networking all over the place, but you kind of want to start reaching strangers off the internet. You need to increase your ‘organic search traffic’.
Here is an extremely quick guide to SEO.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, means making sure your web page shows up as highly as possible in the organic (un-paid) search results for a particular search term, like ‘strength training’ or ‘florist edinburgh’.
Your organic search traffic is the number of people who ran a search, found your page, and clicked through to your website.
Most people don’t look past the first page of results when they do a search, so businesses use SEO to get a good ‘ranking’ in the search engine, i.e. to come up high in the results, which increases their organic search traffic, because people see their website listed on the first page.
Here are the three most important things you need to do to improve your rankings in popular search engines like Google and Bing.
Ask all of your customers to review you online. This has two main aims – one is to increase the visibility of your pages directly because of those reviews. The other is to provide a stream of content you can use to update your website regularly (more on that later).
To get Google Reviews, Google needs to recognise you as a business. Head to google.co.uk/business to get registered if you aren’t already, and link your website to your profile. This alone is likely to improve your ranking. It also means a useful info box will appear to the right when customers search directly on your business name. You can do the same in Bing at bingplaces.com although they don’t currently have a review function.
Once you are registered, people can review you by clicking the ‘Write a review’ button. However, if you want to directly ask people to write you a Google review, you can send them a link. Check out this post from Superb on How to Ask Your Clients for Google Reviews for more details and a step by step.
Reviews on Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and so on will also be of use. Search engines can pull those reviews together and link them to your business profile. The pages with those reviews on will also be boosted in search results, so you may push competing sites down or even off the front page of results, if your SEO is strong on each review site profile.
You need to update your website as often as possible to keep coming high up in search rankings.
The more often you update it, the more often the search engine will check for further updates. And the more recent your content is, the higher it will rank.
Both of these things mean you should space content out as evenly as possible over time. It does not mean, you may be glad to hear, that you have to write a new blog post every single week, although you certainly can if you’d like to. There are other forms of content which you can use to update your website, and frequency of posts depends on the time you have to spend creating them.
First, types of content. If you have a blog, you should indeed be posting on it at regular intervals. Some big companies post several times a day, whilst other smaller business might only post once a month or 4 times a year.
Other than a blog, you might also have a reviews page, an online shop, an image gallery, or an events page. Each of these things lends itself to regular updates, and the quantity of content required in each case can be as much or as little as you have time for.
Other pages on your site are probably mostly static – your services, your bio, affiliates, case studies, and so on. These static pages can still be checked and updated a little bit every now and then. For example your ‘About’ page might talk about an achievement you’re working towards, which can be updated when you achieve it. Your case studies can be updated a few times a year as you pick out the best examples of your work. Your service descriptions can be tweaked as you refine your offering or expand your skills.
Smaller changes like these can take just 10 minutes, so its easier to squeeze them in regularly.
The frequency of your updates will depend on your access to scheduling tools and how often you’re able to batch-produce content. Small updates can be done on the fly, but longer offerings like blog posts and downloads, or even series of social media posts, need more dedicated attention. It’s often easier to block off a day, or a half-day here and there to focus on producing quality material. If you can produce three good blog posts in an afternoon, then you would only need to set aside an afternoon every three or six weeks to produce content. Or you could write new posts every two weeks and build up a backlog to get your through a busier period coming up. There are lots of ways to fit it into your schedule without stealing too much time away from client projects or creating products.
In contrast to content updates, keywords basically only need to be done once. This involves making sure that the areas of your site which have the most impact on your search rankings have your keywords in them for the search engine to find. The four key places are your site title and description, your in-page headings, and your alternative image text. You can check how your site measures up using an SEO analysis tool. There are lots to choose from – I like SEO Site Check Up. It gives a score, highlights where you’re missing keywords, and shows you which words appear most on your page.
The site title and description are meta tags, which are reached differently depending on the platform you’re using for your website. If you need to edit the code directly, you’ll find meta tags in the header section. If you’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin comes highly recommended, and makes this much easier. For others, see the list below.
- Meta tags in WordPress (no plugin required)
- Customise page and site titles in Squarespace
- Meta Tags in Wix
- SEO Basics in Weebly (covers other kinds of SEO as well as site title and description)
If the platform you use isn’t listed here, comment below and we’ll be happy to add yours too.
Heading keywords are simple. When you give your blog post or new page a title, make sure key search terms are included. The headings on your page should also be meaningful, and related to your keywords. This helps people read and understand your article quickly, as well as improving rankings.
Images should always be set with alternative text, and a descriptive file name. For the file name, make sure you change it on your computer from IMG109839.jpg to something useful like ‘box-of-frogs.jpg’ so that keywords are included there. In the image settings, add ‘Alt text’ which describes what is in the image. The search engine can’t see the pictures, so you need to add the text for it to know what’s in them.
If you’ve used an SEO checker, you’ll probably see that there are lots of other things you can do to set up your SEO keywords correctly. Site maps, favicons, and a robot.txt file will all be of great benefit as well.
A note on backlinks
Creating backlinks has been a key SEO strategy for a long time. Search engines would look at how many other websites linked to yours, as a form of social proof. More links to your site meant higher rankings. Recent changes to the Google algorithm in particular mean that backlinks now have a much lower impact on your ranking, so they aren’t included in this guide. However, getting other websites to link to yours, and having lots of social media shares, will still increase your audience and drive traffic towards your site. Strategies like guest posting are still useful to that end, but will be discussed in another article.
Do you have any other suggestions for types of content you can regularly update? Or any questions about SEO? What’s your favourite SEO tool?