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A quick guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Until a few years ago, businesses launched websites all the time without paying attention to optimization. Today, the Internet is a virtual jungle and your site will be forever lost if you don’t provide a clear map for the search engines. 

So what is search engine optimisation? It is the process of developing your website to increase its visibility on search engines for search queries relevant to your business.

Read this valuable beginners guide to SEO

This is the natural or organic listings (sometimes called rankings) in the search engine results pages.

These attract 65-70%* of the clicks for a given results page, but unlike paid for listings (PPC), you are not charged when searchers click through to your site, so the business benefits of ranking well in the organic listings are clear. 

Websites that appear in the top three places of a search engine’s results attract, on average, 78% of all traffic on the web*.  People rarely look at page 2 or beyond.

Quite how Google arrives at its list of most relevant sites is a well kept secret.  It is based on algorithms that are constantly tweaked. But at its simplest, relevancy is determined by content, and by the numbers of sites that link to yours.

If your primary objective is to improve your local search rankings use this simple guide on how to get your business to the top of Google's local business listings.

See the benefits of SEO

* Quoted online as being figures from Google itself (2010).

Your 5-steps to SEO

  1. Use good quality content in your website.

    Do not copy content from other websites.  Google can instantly spot this and will penalise you (by pushing your site down the rankings, or even banning your site for up to three years) 

    Make your content relevant, valuable and rich in keywords and/or key phrases.

    Talk to an experienced copywriter about how to do this effectively.

    Talk to your web development team about how best to use tags.

  2. Gain quality in-bound links to your site.

    Get other well-regarded sites to mention and link to your website.

    Start by creating Facebook and LinkedIn pages and a Twitter account for your business that link to your site.

    Write a regular blog, which people can follow and link to.

    Having preferred partner special offers on your website will give you lots of (reciprocal) inbound links.

    Request links from trade associations or local community websites.

    Run PR campaigns with local media, and gain links that way.

  3. Find a niche

    Finding a niche for your business will help your website to stand out.

    Use keywords to attract relevant online searchers.

  4. Use a descriptive name

    Ideally give your website, and by extension your business, a name that describes what you do.

    So a cake maker will gain better SEO with than with

    Doing this will encourage Google to rate the site more highly – and make it easier for potential customers to find.

    Even better, if she called it then she would also be helping to create her brand.

  5. Now use Google's free Webmaster tool to check the success of your work to date, and show you what other improvements you could make.

Watch our 2017 webinar on SEO for more guidance on this.

Being realistic

Whatever you do, you need to be realistic about your chances of being listed on the first page for the most popular keywords’.  The competition is huge, the marketing budget needed is almost as large and Google may still rank larger firms as being more relevant. 

Focus instead on achieving top ranking for localised services.  This should prove to be much easier to achieve.

Also boosting your natural ranking on Google is time consuming and will not happen overnight.  It may take a business between three and nine months for its SEO efforts to pay off in the shape of improved ranking (or longer if you use a new business name, as new websites are automatically given a lower rating by Google than established ones).

To counter this you should, in the short term at least, put some budget behind paid-search/AdWords in order to drive traffic to your site, while you wait for the natural-search ranking to catch up.

See also this extended guide to Search Engine Optimisation.