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One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses in the digital world is driving consistent, quality & engaged traffic to their website.
A business’ website is a window through which potential customers view your brand, its values and what you have to offer.
But simply starting a website and throwing some content on it isn’t merely enough. If you want to get noticed and reach your customers over a long period of time, you must understand search engine optimisation (SEO).
With so much to learn, we know it can be daunting to get started. Let us break down the key elements you must consider when it comes to ranking well on search engines.
On-page SEO refers to the optimisations you can make directly on your website, either by changing its structure or its code. It’s the first stage of getting your website ready to perform on search engines.
In the past, adding keywords related to your business in certain areas of the HTML code was enough to get you noticed by search engines. But today, search engines like Google and Bing have evolved, with their algorithms much more complex and harder to crack.
While you want to avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ - the practice of adding as many related keywords into the page, even if unnatural – it’s crucial to implement keywords and phrases into your website’s content that makes it possible for people to find you through search engines. It’s a good idea to use the search terms you wish to rank for, alongside a number of related phrases used by the likes of your competitors.
But you shouldn’t be doing so blindly. Using keyword research tools, such as Ahrefs, SEMRush and Google Trends help you understand exactly which keywords your users are searching for and which are most valuable.
You would’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase ‘content is king’ – and it couldn’t be any more accurate when it comes to building a successful website. You could have a highly optimised website, but without content, it’s meaningless. If you have a business website, it’s vital to have a blog/insights section as it’s one of the best ways to boost your SEO signals and pull in more engaged and relevant customers.
Writing and regularly publishing articles demonstrates to Google that your website is consistently active and engaged with its audience. While you should have SEO in mind when it comes to the structure of your articles (H1, H2, H3 tags), the content should always be aimed at your potential customers.
An effective long-term content strategy is a cost-effective way to increase brand and product exposure and is a must if you’re looking to take your website to the top of Google’s rankings.
While links from external websites pointing to your website remains a significant ranking factor, one area that often gets overlooked is the internal linking structure. An internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website.
Google 'follows' links on your website to determine its site structure, relevance & importance. It's helpful to imagine your website as a pyramid: your homepage goes at the top, its categories below that and individual posts & pages at the bottom.
Your navigation menu must adhere to that pyramid structure, with users able to navigate to different categories or sections from the top of each page on your website.
In addition, you should make it a habit to link to other relevant articles on your website within your blog’s content. This is called ‘contextual links’ and allows Google to identify other relevant content it can include for related phrases for your targeted keyword.
The loading time of your website and its user experience greatly affects your bounce rate and abandonment.
There have been numerous studies into page load speed, with the consensus being that 47% of users expect a web page to load within 2 seconds or less. For every 1 second of delay, user satisfaction decreases by around 16%.
The increased bounce rate from a slow page is a negative ranking factor for Google, who favour websites that load quickly and can handle a fair amount of concurrent users at any given time.
While much of the optimisation can come from better hosting plans with higher resources (usually dedicated or VPSs), your HTML code is often the culprit for why your page is bloated and takes longer than usual to load.
Optimisations such as deferring heavy-duty scripts, lazy-loading images, minifying CSS & JS files and browser/server-side caching can all help in reducing your page speed.
Metadata is code added to your website, using tags such as
meta name=”title” and
meta name=”description”. These HTML tags tell Google what to use as a title and description in its search results.
While you may be tempted to stuff all possible keywords within the title, you should ensure the copy is relevant, makes sense and is well-written since it goes a long way to bettering your click-through-rate and encouraging engagement from potential customers.
If your website is running on a CMS such as WordPress, plugins like Yoast SEO & RankMath SEO allow you to optimise meta descriptions, titles & focus keywords for all your posts and pages, saving you plenty of time.
While on-page SEO happens directly on the site itself, off-page SEO refers to all of the activities you can undertake away from your website to raise your rankings on search engines.
Perhaps the most critical factor in this list, backlinks are a major ranking signal for Google and other search engines. Backlinks are external links you gain from other websites linking to your pages.
Whilst these links may give you a fair amount of referral traffic, the real value is in how they signify authority to Google – helping you climb up the rankings. By having more links from unique websites pointed to your site, Google learns to ‘trust’ your website and place you higher in the search engine results.
But if gaining backlinks is all it took to rank well, resourceful SEOs could create hundreds of websites and link to their main website to artificially boost the performance. That’s why link authority matters. The higher the “authority” of the linking page, the more authority it passes on to the pages to which it links. Therefore, gaining one backlink from a high-authority page could be worth more than a hundred from a low-authority page.
Other factors include whether the link has been marked as ‘follow’ or ‘nofollow’, which informs Google if it should pass on the authority to the linked site or ignore the link. The relevance of the linking site & its niche is also important.
A good way to increase your backlinks is to push out regular content, reach out to other businesses, and offer to post articles on other websites' blogs. You may be tempted to pay for a link, but proceed with caution as Google looks down on the practice and you could be heavily penalised.
While you may think social media can give you the backlinks you’re after, most social media sites and forums append a ‘nofollow’ tag to links shared on their platform, so minimal ‘link juice’ is passed to your website’s authority.
Google maintains social media is not the biggest ranking factor, but that doesn’t mean there’s no SEO-benefit to having a strong following.
Search engines take followers, account engagement and brand mentions into account as part of distinguishing how authoritative your site is. While backlinks from social media aren’t the most valuable, the social proof allows for better brand awareness and may result in higher click-through-rates. Plus, it’s always a good idea to engage with your customers.
Local SEO is a different kettle of fish compared to a general SEO strategy. If you run a business and have any intentions of attracting potential customers to your offices or store, Google My Business is integral to putting yourself on the map.
Customers can find information such as your business name, address, email, phone number, opening hours, promotional offers and reviews.
Bear in mind that merely having a Google My Business listing isn’t enough to propel your business above your competitors. It is most effective when implemented alongside strong on-page and off-page SEO efforts, which help boost your listing based on your website’s organic ranking.
In similar fashion to social media, reviews about your business in local directories and review aggregators like TrustPilot help build your website’s authority – not just for your customers, but also Google.
This is especially important to factor in if you run an e-commerce website, which relies on your brand's ability to communicate its authority and trustworthiness for making regular and consistent conversions/sales.
SEO is always adapting and evolving as search engines alter their algorithms. What worked in 2019 - or even last month - may no longer give you the same results.
At Key Business Marketing, we stay on top of the latest industry changes and work with a number of clients to improve and optimise their digital presence.
By taking care of your SEO, social media strategy and website, we give your business the platform to outperform your competitors. If you're interested in any of our digital marketing services, get in touch today.