People find SEO complex and frustrating. In fact, one of the most frequently Googled phrases in relation to SEO is actually ‘what is SEO’… so it seems that it remains one of those things that most people don’t have a handle on. The most common approach for small business owners is to build their website to look great to PEOPLE, and totally forget about how it looks to Google, from the ‘back end.’
Realistically, though, SEO is no more mysterious or unachievable than any other digital marketing project. And in fact, making Google fall in love with your website can be an easy – and even kind of addictive – way to actively work on improving your business when you have free time. Even an hour a week can make a huge difference after a few months.
So, back to that much-Google question; what IS SEO? The term stands for Search Engine Optimization, which just means to build or adjust your website so that search engines – for the most part Google – can easily understand what the site is about. Google’s whole reason for being is to serve up accurate, high quality results to people using its search tool to find what they’re after. The easier and faster you can make it for Google to zip through your website and match the contents to what someone is looking for, the better your website will rank.
It all sounds straight-forward, right? And it (mostly) is! The key is ensuring the information on your website is organised in a way that Google can find and read it snappily. If you have the login for your websites ‘back end’, you’re only one step away from making meaningful changes to how your website shows up online.
The only problem? Google ‘bots’ don’t read websites in the same way that we humans do…
Search bots crawl your website at incredible speeds, hunting for the keywords they’re after in several specific locations on each page of your website. They treat each page as a separate room in a house, and they want to know EXACTLY what furniture is in each room – pronto. Learning where Google looks and how to ensure the right words are in the right places is the key to SEO.
First, consider what keywords you would like to be ‘findable’ for. It might be a combination of what your business does and your location – for e.g. ‘Plumber Marrickville’. Or it might be a particular niche service or product your business offers, for e.g. ‘emergency electrician’ or ‘reclaimed timber furniture.’
Deciding what those keywords are (you need a new word or phrase for each page!) and making sure that they’re exactly where they need to be is the most important step to getting your website ranking on page one.
So, where do Google bots check for keywords? Here are our Top 5 spots for each page.
- In the blurb you write (AKA copy block) on each page. Google loves words (over 300 words per page is its ideal) and it wants to find the keyword it’s hunting for 2-3 times in a blurb that length.
- Metadescription. This is the brief blurb which shows up (along with your business name, and the title of the website page) in a Google search result.
- Photo info. The title and the alternate text of your photos should both include your keyword
- Heading and subheadings if possible (sometimes it isn’t possible)
- Your ‘slug’ – the extra bit added to your URL after the ‘slash’ at the end!
The key thing to remember though, is that your website still needs to convince people that your business is worth contacting, or hiring, or buying from, or it might as well not exist. So the real ‘knack’ in SEO work – the bit that is sometimes worth leaving to a professional – is working out how to make your site look great to Google AND your audience.
It’s a fine line, but if you can find a balance, and drive plenty of visitors to your site through social media and other methods, you’ll find inbound leads begin to flow in thick and fast. Which, at the end of the day, is what we all really want!
By Lauren Hamilton
Founder of The SEO Store and Digital Narrative