Small Co. Experience: Encocam; The Woodland Trust
With search engines being the number one driver of traffic to websites – beating social media by more than 300% – it’s difficult to conceive of a business that wouldn’t benefit from some form of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Search strategies will be different for every organisation, however - shaped by their individual needs, website style and format, and especially their target market. What do you need to know when organising your SEO efforts?
Content is kingThe whole point of SEO is to pull a crowd to online content. If there’s nothing to offer when they get there, then it’s a redundant tool.
In fact, a 2015 report on SEO tactics put relevant content above all other factors, including keyword optimisation and social media activity. This means creating content for your site that is targeted, valuable and – perhaps most importantly – search engine-friendly. Gone are the days when Google mapped a keyword to a single page.
Today’s search engines adopt a more holistic approach, taking several factors into account when measuring the relevance of a piece of content. As Jason Russell, marketing director with The Marketing Centre, puts it: “SEO is about theme now”. That means prolific use of relevant keywords, well-crafted URLs and appropriately named images on your site. Another effective means of getting content search engine-ready is to make it evergreen.
In contrast to a news item or topical blog post, evergreen content retains relevance for weeks, months or even years after it’s published.
This ensures a fixed position in search engine indices, which in turn lends itself to a constant stream of traffic.
Keep it evergreen: content that’s built to last can work wonders for your SEO goals.
In-house or outsource?
Once your content is polished and search engine-ready, the next step is to plan a strategy that will make sure it’s found by the search bots. Whether this is managed internally or outsourced to a specialist agency will hinge on a number of factors, including budget, the expertise available within a team, and your own skills and knowledge.
A typical SEO agency will ask for between £1200-1500 per website per month for their services, which might include meta-tagging, social media links and content creation. While this might seem like a steep initial outlay, a monthly retainer is often unnecessary once the wheels are in motion. When engaging any agency, it’s important to cast a critical eye upon their offering and asking whether this will have a positive impact on ROI.
While shortening mobile download speeds and increasing page numbers might have superficial appeal, the knock-on effect in terms of sales is often negligible. In short, it’s worth getting familiar with the services that add real value and shopping with those criteria in mind.
Of course, if you have already have a team member with the relevant knowhow, an SEO agency is superfluous and could be an unnecessary drain on time and money. As with all things, it’s about figuring out where any strengths and weaknesses lie and allocating resources accordingly.
Tweaks made to the back end of a site can have a substantial impact on SEO performance. Take metatagging, for example. This is potentially the most valuable means of getting content on the map – but it’s important to be mindful of which tags are most effective. Title tags and meta descriptions have the biggest impact on search rankings across the board; meta keywords, on the other hand, are broadly considered a relic from the Google of yesteryear.
Other tags are a little more website-specific. For content that is image-heavy, for example, alt tags are imperative. Without these text-based descriptors of image content, search engines are blind to their existence, which could result in swathes of valuable material slipping under the radar. Internal infrastructure is also central to SEO.
If a search engine spider is unable to navigate the pathways within a website, then certain pages may be excluded from appearing in its indices. Exactly how much consideration this needs will vary from one business to the next: for a large e-commerce site, full of categories and subcategories, a carefully crafted link network is imperative; for smaller sites, less so.
Taking pole position for an obvious keyword like ‘shoe’, ‘car’ or ‘paint’ might seem like the holy grail of SEO, but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, a stat released at the 2015 Search Marketing Expo in New York revealed that half of all search queries are at least 4 words in length. In other words, the long-tail prevails.
The long-tail prevails: search terms that contain more keywords, though less elegant, are far more commonly used. While shorter keywords serve giants like Amazon and eBay well, small businesses and startups are likely to get lost in the avalanche created when users search for a generic term. Refining a search term with as much detail as possible – replacing ‘glue’ with ‘non-yellowing, fast-curing epoxy adhesive’, for example – bolsters chances of outshining the competition. Incidentally, long-tail keywords are also a good marker of intent: it’s probable that the customers they attract will already be primed for conversion, if not a sale.
Is SEO right for my business?
It’s safe to say that SEO in one form or another is a good thing for any site, but each target market demands a carefully tailored approach. As Jon Payne, director of Noisy Little Monkey, puts it: “People think SEO is about technology, when actually it’s about understanding your customers: where they are and what they’re searching for.”
In other words, producing high quality content should be a top priority for any marketer; effective SEO will make it shine.