What is SEO and why does your website need it so much?
In this post, we’ll go into the basics of SEO. It’ll be quite a chunky read but it’s the bread and butter for website marketing.
A website needs to be nurtured in order to get those leads and sales in. Unfortunately it doesn’t sit in the faces of your audience once it’s gone live, unless you put the after-work in.
Our other posts contain a lot of information about online marketing – but here we’ll discuss the importance of SEO and getting in the eyes of an audience who aren’t your friends, family or Facebook list.
If done well (and you make the time to maintain it) then SEO can really help you muscle up against the competitors – from big brands to small local businesses; without paying in any additional costs to services such as PPC or buying advertised space from other external websites.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.
Search engines such as Google or Bing, take keywords entered into their search bar to retrieve website results based on your keyword input.
Google is the biggest player in the game. We even use their search engine when we shout to our smart devices “Hey Google, what’s the time?”
If your website is very limited on keywords or pages in general – you won’t get found organically. This basically means you’ve been naturally found by keyword searches, and you haven’t paid into services such as PPC or were clicked as a backlink from somebody else’s website.
The better optimised your website content, the more pages with unique content; the more your rankings, traffic and leads will increase. You must ensure you remain relevant and credible to get there.
Google loves to find fresh content as it ‘does it’s rounds’ scouring the web for the most up to date search results.
There’s lots of factors to consider when you’re working on your SEO.
You know your own business and you’ve likely researched your competitors – local and further out. So you know there is a lot of competition for these keywords.
If you haven’t chosen your focus keywords or planned out your long tailed keywords yet – then you should start with this post first.
If you want your website to climb the ranks and get above your competitors; your copy content should be influenced by these factors:
- Location based keywords, e.g. Coventry, Birmingham, Redditch, Midlands.
Users are often typing in keywords to find products and services in their area, even more so now with the urge to support local businesses since the pandemic.
- Keywords that are used well means that they have not been spammed throughout the webpage. A repetitive word isn’t nice to read in a flowing story, and search engines such as Google; know this. So although you need to ensure the keyword is visible, don’t overkill it.
- With the above in mind, Google also hates it when you copy paste content from one page to another. They class this as cheating, trying to beat the system – but Google are way smarter then that.
- Ensure your copy isn’t blocks and blocks of text. Google as a machine, will read your website like a human. Separate your content into nicely flowing paragraphs, separate it out with imagery and don’t forget to include your heading tags.
When you’re writing up your content – the important elements need header tags. When writing this up in code it looks like < h1 >. Though when using WordPress blog posts, you can just highlight the content and select your tag preference from a drop down menu, rather than writing everything out in html.
The reason for the importance of heading tags, is that search engines look more favourably at content with heading tags over the rest of your body content. So be sure your heading tags include your keywords.
Also, by breaking up your content, it makes your copy far more digestible for the reader. This in turn, also helps with your search engine ranking as Google is reading it as a human would. Therefore large chunks of texts in one giant block is a negative factor for SEO.
H1 = Your ONE time use title per page – the most important tag on the page
H2 and H3 = Used for sub headers – can be used more frequently to break up content sections
H4, H5 and H6 = Informational additions or important buzz words
Your developer can code your heading tags so that the font sizes and colours are consistent. For example, our header tags are in red, with H1 tags being the largest font and H2 being the second largest.
You’ll need to keep up with using heading tags right through to your blog posts, where all of your key word rich information is expanded upon.
Blog posts and educational articles
Once you’ve filled out your web pages with keyword rich content – move onto your blog posts and keep these up to date.
Now these posts don’t have to be a ‘blog’ like a personal diary where only company updates published. They can be posts like ours at Reddy, which provide education to the reader.
You can of course include company updates, to let people know of your recent awards, the growing team or a charity you are supporting. Though it’s recommend to separate these posts into a category options, so your readers can better filter out the content they’re searching for.
However if your posts are only about your company growth – only your team mates are likely to read them.
Hoarding your knowledge and being unwilling to share free support and guidance will a) not instil much confidence to your audience and b) hinder your chances of obtaining organic leads and c) prevent you from climbing the ranks in search engine listings.
Our blog posts are rich with keywords, internal links and backlinks. We’ve also removed the published dates so that our readers don’t focus on the date we last updated content. Particularly as we recycle the content and tweak it slightly, to keep it fresh.
Landing pages simply put – is a page you land on after clicking a link. Commonly referred to as the homepage, a landing page can also to refer to pages you are sending traffic to, perhaps from an ad campaign for a competition; to a page that may not even be located in your navigation.
Landing pages are also useful for targeting geographical location keywords. For example here is one of ours targeting Coventry. It doesn’t look or read to the human eye all that much different to the content we have elsewhere on the site; but it helps with our organic searches.
Of course you are targeting a much smaller audience in this method, though it will help you build up a loyal customer base, especially if you are just getting started. If your business depends on local trade, you really should spend some time on landing pages like this.
Landing pages can also be used as sales page – for example to promote joining an online membership club or tickets to a one time event. Sales pages are recommended to be fairly lengthy in content, as you need to sell the benefits all in one page.
To help keep the users attention focused on this sales page, you can remove the navigation from it so that the user is less distracted, and your likelihood of gaining a lead is increased.
Of course as there is a lot of content on these sales page – they also aid in your SEO.
You can make as many of these pages as you like, as long as your copy isn’t exactly copy pasted word for word from another existing page; as Google doesn’t like this – it knows you are cheating by just duplicating content to different page links.
All of the above copywriting does seem daunting. But you don’t have to start again each time with your content or by writing additional, repetitive blog posts. Refreshing your content also does the trick, like sprucing up your wardrobe.
- Go back over your blog posts and see if any of the links to other sites you mention could be updated with links to other websites, perhaps ones that are doing well in getting traffic / are being talked about in your industry of late.
- Could your posts be expanded upon with updates since your last publish? Perhaps you learnt something new?
- Could your FAQs be updated since you’ve received feedback, and you want to clear up those frequent customer emails on questions that would be better answered on the website FAQs?
- Perhaps a new header image promoting a different product or service, which also helps catch the eye of returning customers?
- Are you able to update new case studies that you gathered recent before and after photos from, and just haven’t done an update to the website of them in a while? Geographical case studies will contain further keywords!
- If your home page shows static blog post content, or perhaps a mish mash of random / most recent posts – then give them a refresh if they’re not performing to your expectations. Highlight new or higher performing posts to push more people toward specific content that you know works better.
Alt tags and imagery
We’ve spoken quite a bit about copy content – now it’s time to consider your imagery. Did you know that an image has readable information behind it?
Alt tags or alt text, essentially means ‘alternative’ – an alternative way to digest the content of an image.
From a bot perspective; alt tags per image in your WordPress media library play a vital role in your organic lead growth.
I’m sure you’ve gone into Google and typed in a keyword in their ‘Images’ tab to pull back a list of results. Well, this is how your SEO comes into play.
You want your alt tags to be descriptive and around 125 characters max. Never use single words as this is too wishy washy. Write them as you would a descriptive sentence, to a friend who can’t see the image in front of you.
Don’t go overboard with these and stuff keywords you want to be found for on your image, such as your company name or location over and over again. This is duplicate content and harmful toward your SEO efforts.
Here’s an example.
Instead of ‘Grey Greyhound’, you expand on this further. Such as ‘Grey Greyhound female puppy sitting in Coventry Memorial park with a pink lead.’
Essentially you need to describe the content of the image without over analysing it too much.
To learn more about getting it ‘just right’, then this post from WPEngine which really packs a punch.
Alt tags are incredibly important for ecommerce websites – as many customers use descriptive words when visually looking for specific products. They then use this to compare colours, differing qualities, shipping countries and costs to make their decision.
My Mrs used Google images quite a bit when researching ‘Herringbone wood vinyl flooring’ for our new house. It came up with lots of helpful results from the leading competitors like Carpetright, through to the local independents in our area. Which is also proof that small businesses can compete with the likes of corporate giants!
As an added bonus – your alt tags will support those with visual impairments by being able to read out what is happening in the image via what you set on your alt tag. It’s important to be inclusive and accessible.
If you’d like more insight on how to better your alt tags – take a read of our how to article here.
Maintain your urls or set up redirects
If you have a page that is proving to be working well – do not change it’s url. Google now knows it well and so do your customers.
Perhaps this link is also referenced on other websites which is helping you too. (Using Google Analytics tools will help you to see which of your pages perform best).
If you must delete the url link for any reason, perhaps if it references a competition with a date that has passed; then be sure to redirect this historical url to a live page. This means that the page will not show up as a 404 error code with an ‘Oops!’ message attached; which as you guessed, search engines don’t like.
If this url was in frequent use, it could harm your rankings if your pages cease to exist and there is nothing in place to put the user back on the right path with ideally, similar content to what was there previously.
Make use of your 404 pages
Following on from the above, a webpage that is often forgotten about for content is your 404 oops pages. Users will land on them if they mistyped the url, if the page no longer exists or if the website has had ‘an accident’ and something is temporarily broken.
Keep this page simple as it’s purpose must be clear, however make use of it for rich keywords and link the user to an area they were likely looking for, perhaps your services page, shop page or contact form.
You want your website to be the talk of the town – in the web world. In short, a back link is one of your own links, featuring on somebody else’s website – which links back to your website. This is exactly what Google wants, as it shows your websites credibility and that others are willing to vouch for you.
Imagine if somebody found your weblink from a reputable website – it gives you a lot of credibility. If the external website is a big player in your industry then it could also provide you with a great deal of referred traffic.
The more times your domain, web pages and article posts are visible out there; the better.
You could be featured as a back link on an external website via many methods:
- Their carousel of ‘Partners we have worked with’ featuring your logo and link
- Reviews sliders for ‘What our trusted B2B clients say’
- As a case study, reviewing working your business more personally and in detail
- An infographic you have made or feature on
- A blog post where somebody agreed with you or references your original content
Directories are very useful for backlinking – think where your customer base would likely go to research a fix for their solution. Perhaps it is on Mumsnet, maybe Check a Trade or even forums such as Money Saving Expert.
Also not to forget the bread and butter of social media – such as Facebook community groups or Reddit posts.
Getting your website featured on external places means that you’ll need to maintain your urls and redirects (as explained above) and make sure that the information they have on you is up to date. For example if you have had a rebrand with new logo, you’ve changed address or no longer offer a service originally advertised.
If you’d like to read more technically into backlinking, we recommend taking a nose through MonsterInsights, who are a big player in the online marketing and SEO world, providing quality, free how to content.
When writing your content, particularly on your blog posts – add links through to other area’s of your own site. For example on the Reddy website, we reference many other blog posts on each individual post, to guide users to finding further content they may be trying to research on.
This helps provide the user with easily accessible content
Google is smart. It has it’s own tool called Google Bot which lands on your homepage then follows the content, link by link. This allows it to better understand your content and the relationship between the different links and the content each one houses. Therefore, it can prioritise the most important pages in it’s search engine over lesser important pages to your audience. Smart eh?!
If you’d like to learn more about creating a strategy plan for your internal linking set up, with some optional bells and whistles to help you exceed even further, we recommend reading this article by Yoast SEO.
The more people going to your site the better. Getting 5 visitors a week won’t really help your position on search engines however 500 visitors is much much better. Consider the ways that traffic could be directed to your website, on top of keyword optimisation.
Aside from the obvious methods of setting up social media accounts. (Have a read of our post The power of free social media) and getting your friends to like and share your posts; here are a few more ideas on getting creative with increasing your traffic:
- Promote your website on social media. Encourage it further with a competition, for example – if your users fill in the form for the competition on your webpage. This way they have to visit your website in order to to be in with a chance.
- Tying into the above bullet point, create a sense of urgency with your campaign. By telling readers that it’s now or never, especially with competitions, they’re more likely to visit your site quickly and fill in your form (whilst also parting with their personal data) rather than thinking “Meh I’ll do it later” and forgetting all about it.
- If you have opted in customers on an email marketing list – use them! In your marketing emails, reference posts on your website worth reading into, service updates, information on new products, a persuasive case study, charitable works you have recently been part of etc.
- Promote your blog posts yourself or ask your readers to do it for you – you’ve spent all this time writing insightful content that readers would benefit from, so why let it sit there and get dusty.
We use a plugin called Sassy Social share which easily allows the user to share the post to their platform of preference. You can also promote these blog posts on social media, printed material and any PDF downloads.
- Get featured on other websites as a backlink as explained above. If you’ve worked with companies who would be happy to advertise your logo (in an obvious spot or fairly hidden) then ask them to attach a link to the logo, back to your website. Also, if they have their own blog posts, a nod to your own website via a referenced hyperlink is also helpful.
- A simple one but often neglected; is your website link in your email signature? Is it easily accessible in your LinkedIn description or Etsy account bio?
Google Business account with reviews
A strong review feed, particularly with Googles own reviews tool will help SEO. Sure, they’re being a bit bias by pushing their own reviews tool to provide secondary benefits of SEO enhancements, though it’s worth considering when your Choosing the right review tool.
Fill in your Google business account with further details about your address (especially on Google maps) your opening hours, website domain, photos and importantly; a to the point description. (See our post on second opinions for writing a clear description.) These elements combined with your Goole business account, will surely help your rankings.
Third party tools and meta data
Plugins for your WordPress website will not only advise you when you could be doing better but they’ll provide recommendations on words to use, based on your content.
At Reddy, we love using Yoast SEO and they provide an easy method to input optimised keywords, such as your meta data.
If you’d like to read more about the particular tools, we’ve broken it down in our post about SEO Tools here.
Get an SSL certificate
This is very important as mentioned in point 7 on our post about website security. Without an SSL, the user will be prompted to agree to visiting your site first, as the data has not been encrypted. As well as looking rather naff and a poor experience, it’s knocks you down for not being considered trustworthy.
You guessed it – no SSL = harmful to your search rankings.
SSL certificates are usually free and just need renewing once per year.
As mentioned in our post ‘Website Speed’; this also plays a strong part in your ranked position on a search engine. If your website is slow, Google would prefer a faster website over yours.
Even if you have the best content on the market but your website takes 10 seconds to completely load a page – it’s a poor user experience and could be considered not worth the wait time.
Here is where you summarise everything you’ve learnt above.
This is a page that you’re never really going to promote but it’s going to be incredibly rich in content and keywords. It will house all of your best content that you want to be found for. Imagine it like your own concise business biography to a reader who knows nothing about you or your industry. It needs backlinks to your own pages and posts, your most read and shared content, tagged up imagery and heaps of copy.
Long text ranks better than short text. We recommend at least 1,000 to 3,000 words at minimum for this page that are NOT just copy pasted from other areas of your website.
Explain how you started your business, where you took any qualifications, the geographical area’s worked in, the tools you purchased to action your work and skills crafted.
Turn it into a story – separate the content with your header tags and alt tagged imagery and explain why XYZ post is a really useful read.
Show off with a few reviews here and there, link this to an external reviews tool if you have one.
Don’t forget to add in outbound links to other websites to back you up and give you credibility; e.g. BBC news websites, accreditation providers or links to studies with data outputs.
Paying for an SEO optimiser company
This is an option if you have the financial resources available but not the time. SEO optimisers will action the work mentioned above, but they will also publish articles on external websites, on your behalf. SEO optimisation is a human job to write original content, so it’s known to be time consuming to write this up.
These external websites aren’t often referenced or read into that much by the common internet user. A lot of them aren’t all that pretty either. Though these particular articles are still published to reputable websites, more so for the purpose of search engines finding fully written articles, back linking to your website – from an external source. Thus supporting you in your credibility and helping you move your way up the search ranking positions for your desired keywords.
An SEO optimiser company will also know of many sites that they can publish your website link to as a reference or as part of a discussion thread – again supporting your backlinks.
So in this way – you’re cheating the system .. ish .. but following the rules set out by Google.
Some of these organisations work from abroad therefore the articles written may not be squeaky clean in English and punctuation. But then again, these articles aren’t commonly read by the average user. It is more for Googles purposes.
You can also find freelancing copywriters and SEO experts providing this service on websites such as Fiverr or Upwork.
Copywriters can also be very helpful if your busy with business and need blog posts or newsletter content creation.
In summary – SEO work boosts your visibility to your audience
SEO work never stops. And don’t be fooled into thinking that suddenly piling a heap of amazing content on your website would immediately increase your traffic tenfold. It is a slow burner process but incredibly worth it in the long run.
If you have the time to publish a new post, refresh your content or promote traffic to your website – then keep at it for a few hours at least once a week. Also, don’t just rush through it, take the time to make sure your content is reliable, insightful and original. Keep it organised and maintained as well, with your header tags and alt tags!