The following are the basic steps that a SME can take on the journey to mastering SEO:
(1) Do your keyword research
First things first, you need to know what keyword you are targeting. For example, for a budding web design business, this may be “web design”, a competitive but profitable keyword to rank highly for.
If, however, the agency operates only in London, the business would be better off targeting simply “web design in London” or better still “web design agency London” as approximately five times as many people search for the latter.
This is why it is important to choose targeted keywords carefully and using packages such as Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool can help identify what search terms people use the most. This sort of research should be undertaken a few times a year.
(2) Be ready for mobile users
Another important element of SEO concerns search engines’ focus on mobile-friendly sites, which should be considered during the design stage of any new website. With most web traffic now generated by smartphones and tablets rather than desktops and laptops, search engines are prioritising websites with dedicated mobile versions or responsive web design.
Minimising download times is equally crucial and this can be improved by eliminating unnecessary code or formatting, reducing redirects and preventing media content from autoplaying.
(3) Understanding on page optimisation
On page optimisation involves making sure that the web page ticks all the boxes for things that will flag up to a search engine that it is relevant for the keyword.
This includes, but is not limited to: making sure the page is accessible to search engines (no Flash sites, not hidden behind a form etc), including the keyword in the page URL, including the keyword at the beginning of your page title, frequent use of the keyword in the main text of the page (between 4-10 uses), although avoid undue repetition of the keyword.
Read more on developing a web presence:
- Why an online presence is critical for a small business – explained by small businesses
- The social media resolutions your firm should be setting
- Local business? Here are five tricks to get your local SEO right
(4) Know your meta titles and descriptions
The meta information is the content that appears immediately on the search results pages.
The meta title consists of the link to your web page and is used by search engines to find and rank pages, so it should contain appropriate use of your keyword. It should ideally be no more than 65 characters including spaces, as Google cuts off anything after this.
The meta description is the text displayed underneath the title. It is not used by search engines for ranking but it plays a crucial role in getting people to click on your link, so it is wise to fill it with inviting copy.
(5) Make link building a habit
Search engines rely on incoming links as “votes” for a site’s popularity – people are far less likely to link to websites that they think are of little interest. You should create incoming links for your site, which shows search engines that yours is a popular site.
However, link building is as much about quality as quantity. A link from a respected site, like the BBC or Reddit, is ‘worth’ more than even 50 links from lower quality, lower traffic sites.
This means there is a balance to be struck between building a large link base and also gaining some more exclusive, quality links. Methods of building your link base can include outright asking sites to link to you, getting yourself onto relevant directories, using a company blog to link back to your page or producing a piece of content that others want to share.
John Morris is the CEO at web specialist UK2 Group