SEO – what does it mean and why should I care?
You could pay a lot of money to go to a seminar with ‘SEO’ in the title, and have a person wearing jeans and a posh looking jacket tell you what you could read here – for free.
Knowing about SEO will definitely help your website get higher in search engines if you apply that knowledge. But anyone who tells you they can guarantee you a top place in Google, and in a few weeks – is – to be honest – telling you porkies.
Why should I care about SEO?
If your website is a nice little hobby that you do for fun, then fine, close this page and go do something else.
But, if your website is your business, and you want to attract clients that turn into sales and profit, then heck yes, you do need to care about SEO. Research shows most people only browse page 1 of search engine results. So that’s where you should want your website to be. But you’ll have worldwide competition. Everyone wants to be on Page 1. How do you do it without spending a fortune?
It takes time to get high up in Google rankings – and yes – you have to keep on your toes and up to date with Google’s changing criteria.
Our Red Box Blog about SEO will tell you the basics – and that’s all you need – to get your site spotted by Google and higher in results – and we won’t charge you a penny.
What is SEO anyway?
Search Engine Optimisation.
If you’re in Yellow Pages, you want to be on the first page of results for your business genre so clients come to you first. So you might call yourself A1 Taxis – or AAA1 Taxis. But of course you pay for your ad – and pay more for a better placing.
Well websites have a ranking too – and ignoring Google Ads – which we’ll explain later – the only way to get your site higher in the rankings, or on Page 1 of results – is to follow certain rules that Google like – and they’ll reward you with a better result.
Google is in competition too with other search engines – and it wants to be the best search engine there is. To be the best – it has to be the one people favour – and they’ll favour it if the results it gives for searches are good results showing good websites. Google don’t want to show a website that’s 2 years out of date – or has lots of broken links – it’ll make Google look bad. Google knows which sites are regularly updated and work well – and they’ll give them more brownie points than others.
You want your site to be one of those with all the brownie points.
First of all – let’s dispel the myths.
- You cannot get high up in Google or on the first page in less than a good few months – maybe even a year or more.
- You can’t buy a higher ranking for natural page results.
(Google Ads is different and a bit like a temporary Yellow Pages)
- Submitting to lots of search engines is a waste of time – there are only a few basic important ones you need to submit to, and all the other little ones of no significance use the big ones as a search engine anyway.
- Submitting to Google lots of times will do more harm than good – it’ll just get you blackmarked or ignored.
Ignore, or say goodbye to any web designer or developer who tells you that any of the above myths are true – and charges you for it.
So – down to the nitty gritty – what can you do?
We talk about Google because it is the number 1 search engine people use. It’s not the only one, but if you’re a winner with Google, the rest will follow….
Google look for certain quality criteria in your website. If your site ticks most of these boxes, it will steadily climb up the charts and get to the number 1 page, which means more people will see it, which increases your chances of more sales.
So what are the key criteria? (We’ll look at how to address them in a minute)
- Relevance of the subject of your site to the search by the user
- Is the site well built or has it been done by a cheapster cowboy – really – Google can tell…
- Do other sites link to yours
- How fast does your site download – seriously – this is really important
- Use text rather than graphics and images to explain content
- Make your content text relevant to your website subject
- Make your site suitable for all browsers
- Make your content information rich
It sounds easy. And it isn’t rocket science. Google wants to keep its users happy by giving them the most relevant results to the user’s query.
So – what should you do?
- Your site needs to be well written on the surface – good text, excellent spelling, layout for web text (it’s different to print layout), relevant wording – ie. If you are a cake-maker – the words ‘cake’ and ‘cakemaker’ ought to appear in your text – and all relevant to your business genre.
- Good code. Google can tell if a site has rubbish code. If your code is no good, your site won’t work properly and will annoy users. Google will penalise you for that and give you a lower ranking.
- Speed of site. What’s that? Well, haven’t you ever been annoyed when you are trying to look at a webpage and get the little download clock just going round and round, or you get ‘timeout’ message or ‘page error’?
That’s because your hosting company or web developer isn’t looking after your site as they should, and Google can tell. If your site is slow, they’ll either ignore you completely in results or give you a lower ranking. Ask your hosting provider about speed – and check! Don’t take their word for it.
- You can test the speed of your website here and compare it to similar sites to yours that are on Page 1 of Google results http://pagespeed.googlelabs.com/
- If your site is good, other sites will link to it, and Google can tell if others do. The more good websites link to yours – (not reciprocal ‘you do me and I’ll do you’ sites) – the better your site will be considered to be by Google. If you can get sites like the BBC, or a national newspaper or a .org to link to you – woo hoo!
- Social media can help here – Facebook, Twitter and business blogs can provide inbound links to your site that are relevant.
- Submit only to the free sites. Never pay to admit a site to a search engine. Start with Google, Yahoo, Alltheweb, Bing and Hotbot.
- Check out your own web provider – if you search for ‘web developers’ and the town they are based in, and if their website doesn’t appear in the top few pages – they can’t be that good at SEO themselves. Always ask around.
- Check the metadata for your site. Does it have any – and is it relevant? In the top third of your site – right click and select the ‘View Source’ you’ll see in the drop down. This will show you a load of techie gobbledegook. But, you should see near the top a title – with your website/company name, a description, with a clear line about what your website is, and then keywords, and a line of words relevant to your business that clients would type in Google to find you. Not there? Ask your developer. Some developers put their own company name in your website code. If yours does – complain. Or send them a bill!
Paying for it…
We mentioned Google Ads earlier. Google Ads have nothing to do with SEO. Google Ads are where you pay Google for a listing to appear in the right hand side or the very top of the page of results. You pay every time someone clicks on your ad – it could be £10 a time. It’s a skilled and time consuming task – and a potentially very expensive exercise – and there’s no point in doing it until you’ve addressed all the above anyway. We’ll be covering Google Ads in more detail in a later blog. (New European rulings from a court case involving M&S and Interflora may soon have an effect on every website owner using Google Ads.)