Basic SEO principles
Hiring an SEO professional is beyond the means of many small businesses. Simply ranking higher in search engines does not generate revenue in and of itself; instead, you will only generate cash if you can convert traffic into sales. Much of this depends on the nature of your business and the quality of your website.
That said, there are several SEO activities that you can complete yourself at little or no cost. A significant proportion of the potential gains from SEO can be achieved by simply tweaking your site, and many of these tweaks can be performed by a competent internet user.
Remember that doing these things won’t make a difference overnight and that optimising for search engines shows results over an extended period.
Search engines aim to produce results that are relevant to real users. As such, the quality of your content is of the utmost importance for SEO purposes. As in the past, it is no longer enough to ‘stuff’ your copy with keywords. Instead, search engine algorithms are increasingly seeking high-quality, relevant content.
But keywords are still a primary means by which search engines identify content. To make your copy as ‘search engine friendly as possible, you should help them to find the keywords.
Your first task is to identify keywords that will work for your business. It would be best to find out which words people use to search for products and services like yours. You can do this with free keyword tools like the one from Google.
You should ensure that every page has suitable title tags that describe the content. Where possible, the title should include the main keywords you are targeting.
Some search engines also place more weight on words found within ‘heading’ tags, as these are used to delineate content sections. As such, you should place each section’s keyword-specific titles within headings.
Google and other search engines place significant importance on the ‘trustworthiness’ of your site. The most important way to build this trustworthiness is to secure links from other sites. As such, you should try to get other sites to link to yours.
This relies on you providing exciting and relevant content – few site owners will be willing to link to you if you are trying to plug your services.
How links are formed is also significant. Where possible, you should ensure that the keywords you are targeting (for example, ‘widget repair’) are linked to a relevant page on your site containing those keywords. This will increase its relevance to search engines like Google.
Search engines also look at URLs to determine the relevance of a page for any given search term. So, www.example.com/widget-repair will perform better than www.example.com/12345abcde for the search term ‘widget ‘repair’. Ensuring your URLs are ‘search engine friendly’ is vital to your SEO activities.
You should ensure that all of the vital pages of your website have easily interpretable URLs. It should also be noted that many search engines, including Google, do not index pages with URLs resembling form elements. As such, you should use modifiers such as ampersands wherever possible.
Search engines only look at the text; they cannot interpret words within images. As such, you should always use regular text, rather than images, for important content from an SEO point of view. This is particularly important for menus; some web designers like to use pictures for header menus, but this can be hugely detrimental to the site’s search engine rankings.
Thankfully, search engines also look at the ‘alt text’ attribute given to images. As such, you should provide descriptive, keyword-heavy alternate text descriptions for all your important photos.
This is a very whistle-stop tour of the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimisation. However, improving your business sales with relatively little outlay is possible by enhancing your site’s search engine listings using some of the SEO tactics detailed here.
Search Engine Optimisation isn’t magic.
It’s implementing certain online activities that will hopefully bring about the desired outcome – higher rankings on the search engines. Because of this, you’re unlikely to see results instantly. Search engines can take some time to ‘crawl’ and index changes to your site. So keep monitoring your site’s performance, and you will soon know what will increase your business sales.
Contributed by Libby Smith Vanilla Circus