If you attended our Digital Day in June you will have learnt about the importance of SEO and how an effective SEO strategy can greatly benefit your business. In case you missed it our Head of Search, Syed gives a rundown on what was presented on the day.
Everyone turns to search engines when they want to find something online, but what’s interesting is that our search behaviours are evolving and the number of searches are growing exponentially every year.
According to comScore, 77% of the UK’s population is digital and 95% of people use Google to find stuff online. If you apply these numbers to the population of Hertfordshire, then just around a million people are using Google. This is why it is so important for a business to be found online.
We know that customers are already searching for products or services online but the key question is, can people find your business?
If you are not fully SEO optimised you will not even be in the consideration unless people are already familiar with your brand and products. This means it is really important to get found online through generic searches as opposed to just relying on brand searches.
According to MyBusiness.co.uk a third of UK businesses have their site poorly optimised for search engines especially on mobile. This could mean businesses are effectively turning away valuable traffic. This also shows there is a huge opportunity here for businesses to improve their presence online and tap into this additional traffic.
A literal definition is to optimise the site for search engines, however; modern SEO is all about optimising for your audience. With machine learning and AI, search engines are becoming quite clever at figuring out how users behave when they visit your site. Your customers and their needs are more important than Google or Bing’s algorithm.
So, SEO is about optimising the user experience on your site as opposed to optimising the site for search engines.
On Google, everyone wants to rank on page one and the reason for this is that 90% of users don’t even bother looking beyond the first page.
The process of optimisation revolves around three key areas:
1. Search engines can easily crawl your site
2. Pages are indexable
3. You are able to get good rankings
It is quite a complicated process so let’s use an analogy of a bear searching for some honey.
Imagine if each web page was a tree and the web was a forest, made up of over 60 trillion trees, each of which might have honey.
In order to search through all of the web pages, or trees in this instance, a search engine looks around the web using automated programs called web crawlers. The crawlers follow links from page to page, sending a copy of each page back to the search engine and then building an index of the words on each page. However, just searching the index for ‘honey’ would bring back too many results and it would be hard to find the best stuff.
To narrow down searches, algorithms are used to look for clues to better understand what you are searching for. This could include alternative spellings or how you searched. The relevant terms are then pulled out of the index. To find the very best search results or honey, the results are ranked.
There are over 200 factors that can affect the rank of the results. These include:
This may all seem a little complicated still, especially when we consider the fact that search engines look at more than 200 signals. So, to simplify the process I have created a 5-step plan.
The first thing you need to do is research. You need to try and understand the demand in the market. You need to identify the keywords people use to find a business like yours.
What are the most profitable products or services for your business? Is there seasonality to your products and services?
How much do you know about your customers, what are their pain points and what is the journey they take when people buy your products.
Your pages are an asset, any tools, widgets, videos – they are all your assets. If we take a page as an example, you can use the keywords identified in the first step to inform your URL, heading, image name, videos and the copy on the page.
The structure of your site is important because search engines don’t just look at the page; they also look at the architecture, where the page sits in the hierarchy of the site and try and build context.
Modern SEO is about optimising for user signals. Are people engaging with your content? Are they converting? Are they spending time on site? Are they bouncing back straight away?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a fast website. We’re living in the age of convenience. The consumer of today recognises the shortage of time, they want to get the most of out of every nanosecond and businesses need to cater to their preferences.
Google revealed the importance of site speed, stating that a 1-second delay means an 8% increase in the bounce rate of your site. They also stated that a response time of over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL affects the ability of search engines to crawl your site severely.
The fourth area to consider is to ensure you are known as an expert and seen as an authority in your industry. You can read about the importance of Digital PR in Natalie’s post, but it is also something I wanted to quickly touch on, as it is something search engines factor into their process of ranking websites.
A good starting point is to set up brand alerts on Google or your target areas. Are there any local events that you can be a part off? Make sure you write posts after the event and share it with organisers.
Once you have created your content masterpiece, engage with influencers early and ask them to share their experiences or tips with their audience.
One of they key benefits of digital marketing is that it is highly measurable which means you can track the impact of your strategy. It is important to understand the incremental traffic and revenue you are getting from SEO efforts. This is because the number of searches grows every year; sometimes you would expect a slight increase in traffic anyway so you need to separate the brand and non-brand traffic.
We use a number of tools to help us through every step of optimisation. For step 1, when we are carrying out our research, we use tools like SEMRush, SEOmonitor and Pi Datametrics. They all give you an in-depth view on the opportunities available.
Your customers are already looking for you online. Be part of their consideration and optimise your site to ensure you customers can easily find you.
WHAT DO YOU iTHINK?