What is SEO and Why Does It Matter?

In other words, how to attract customers with great SEO content

SEO can feel like a mythical beast – tricky to pin down and even harder to actually capture but it doesn’t have to be like that – so here’s the myth, demystified.

What exactly is SEO?

For the uninitiated SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’. It describes the process of getting further up search engine rankings organically (in other words – not paying for the privilege of being first on the page).

So, why should you bother with SEO, after all, isn’t having a website enough? Well, that depends on what you’re trying to do.

If your website is simply a platform to showcase your work, SEO might not be high on your agenda. If you’re actively looking for new customers, want your brand noticed or are trying to establish yourself as an industry leader, SEO can help you.

How does SEO actually work?

Confusingly, the way SEO works, constantly changes. That’s because search engines (like Google) are constantly looking for ways to improve search results for web users.

At the moment, search engines look for two key things:

  • Authority – are you an expert in your field?

  • Relevance – does your content have anything to do with the search terms used?

The more relevant and authoritative a search engine thinks you are, the higher your website will rank.

How do I make my content SEO friendly?

To make sure your website is both authoritative and relevant, you need great content – think about:

Keywords – when digital content first appeared, it was often just about littering your website, article or blog with as many keywords related to your subject or product as you could find. This doesn’t work anymore and ‘keyword stuffing’ as it’s become known is a sure-fire way of relegating your content to the bottom of the pile.

You need to be tactical and consider the phrases people are searching for in relation to your website.

Think about the way you use the internet. You wouldn’t just type in ‘top’ if you wanted to buy a pink short-sleeved tee shirt. ‘Top’ is simply too vague and you’d end up with thousands of irrelevant pages.

Instead, think about the specific terms people are searching for – most of the time common sense or a straw poll of friends and family will give you a good idea of what to use. If you’ve signed up to Google Ads you can use their free keyword planner. This tool will show you search terms and the average number of times they’ve been used. You can then include these words in your web content.

Keyword placement – when you’ve chosen your keywords, you need to get them noticed. Include them in the title and URL (the page address) and any subheadings. Keywords in your main body of writing should read naturally (remember – stay relevant and definitely don’t give in to keyword stuffing).

If you’re feeling creative, try adding something called a kicker or teaser. These are snippets that (usually) appear at the beginning of the article but under the main headline. Its aim is to entice the reader to read more so it’s a good place to sum up what you’re trying to say.

Use anchor text – these are links you include in your content (sometimes called hyperlinks). For example if you own a shoe shop and wrote a blog on the ideal summer sandal you might want to link to different styles you sell on your site – for instance, strappy sandals, wedge sandals, flat sandals – you get the idea.

Content is about quality

It doesn’t matter how well placed your keywords are if your content is average or factually wrong. For instance, if you’re making a point with statistics you need to be able to back it up – link to the source or add a foot note. The better the source, the more relevant and credible you appear.

Ultimately, each piece of content you write needs to take your reader or customer on a journey with a clear intention. Outline your subject or product, tell them about it and finish with a call to action – do you want them to call you, email you or ‘click here to buy’. The journey needs to be direct but informative and hold the reader’s interest till the end – think of it as a motorway, not a meandering country drive.

Typos are a no-no

Nothing undermines credibility quite like glaring spelling mistakes or bad grammar. Technically poor writing is the text equivalent of turning up to a meeting with remnants of lunch on your clothes. It looks shoddy and implies you can’t be bothered.

The same applies to web content, just because people are reading your words at home, doesn’t mean they aren’t silently judging your credibility (and authority). After all, if you’ve made loads of spelling mistakes – what else are you likely to get wrong?

Boost your authority

This is about getting other websites to link to yours. Search engines see this as a kind of digital word of mouth recommendation. It’s also a big part of technical and off-site SEO which are two other types of search engine optimisation. These areas focus on more ‘behind the scenes’ applications which SEO agencies and experts specialise in.

At a superficial level, boosting your web content with blogs can make a difference. For example, if you’re an accountant, a piece about filing tax returns doesn’t just highlight what you do. Post it on social media with a link back to your website and it showcases your expertise, relevance and increases your authority. Get other people to post it, forward it, share it and comment on it and you could find yourself being hailed as an accountancy guru in a matter of weeks.

Take control and be relevant

Of course, understanding SEO is one thing, putting it into practice is quite another when you’re running your own business. Not only are you managing director, you’re probably also company secretary, HR department and facilities coordinator too.

The good news is that you can pass your marketing and digital content to us because it’s our business to help your business grow.

To explore your potential and reach new audiences, contact us at Grow My Small Business.

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