I hear so much completely inaccurate information regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) I decided to create this SEO Guide for Small Businesses, this cannot cover every aspect of SEO it will, however, cover the basics in a plain English that the layperson can understand I’ll keep any technical jargon down to a bare minimum so the general public can easily understand it (there’s a Glossary at the end) and this can serve as an SEO starter guide for the typical small business owner it focuses on organic SEO rather than Pay Per Click (PPC), as with the other content on my site this guide is mainly for small business owners who wish to keep costs down, so I’ll not examine tools which are priced for agencies and larger firm instead, preferring to focus on cheap/free tools.
The crux of the matter
The typical Small Business owner is unconcerned with debates such as ‘is SEO an art?’ or is ‘SEO a science?’ instead, their focus is on whereabouts their website shows up in the search results as this has a huge impact on the number of visitors their website attracts, SEO is the process which should result in your website ranking more highly for the words your customers actually use when searching for your company. The aim of SEO is to make your website more easily found by your customers which in itself is a laudable aim, in a nutshell, Keyword research is finding the keywords your target market and customers actually use
Keywords, Keywords …Keywords
Keywords are one of the areas of SEO I found confusing initially
perhaps keyword phrases would be a more accurate description. ‘Widget Shop’ is an example of a keyword despite the fact it consists of two words, ‘Widget Shop Manchester’ is another example of a keyword, Keywords are important because they can be researched (using a variety of tools including Google’s keyword planner) to see what phrases your target audience are using when searching, these can and should be researched so there is no guesswork involved when selecting keywords, additionally its possible to see how much competition there is for particular keywords, the screenshot below illustrates Google’s Keyword planner in action, personally I don’t like the Google Keyword tool so I’ve suggested a couple of alternative tools in the list below
Free Keyword tools
- Google Keyword Planner
- Majestic SEO
- Bing Webmaster Tools
So what are Long Tail Keywords?
Long tail keywords contain more words and are generally associated with the later stages of the purchase funnel as the searcher drills down for more specific answers, returning to the widget shop example ‘Acme AC456 Widget stockist, Manchester’ would be an example of a long tail keyword search as you can see it’s a lot more specific than ‘widget shop Manchester’ here the searcher is looking for a particular Make and Model of Widget
Onpage and Offpage SEO
SEO generally falls into two categories, On page SEO and Off page SEO, Onpage SEO is concerned with the contents of YOUR website such as the text and images, Offpage is more concerned with other websites which link to your site (the backlinks people are always talking about) The model which is usually mentioned here is that Google view a backlink as a vote for your website, a site which lots of people are linking to must be good …(well not always see Gaming the System) this is the concept which lies at the heart of Pagerank a concept drawn up by Larry Page who along with Sergei Brin founded Google, Google offer the following definition of Pagerank
PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websiteswww.Wikipedia.com
So what on earth is Link Juice?
A model that the search engine industry uses to visualise the impact of backlinks is that of linkjuice, backlinks to your website provide ‘linkjuice’ the more ‘linkjuice’ your website accumulates the higher its authority in the eyes of Google, not all websites provide the same amount of link juice, high authority websites such as Wikipedia and the BBC provide
A short Aside: Google’s perspective
The World of search is extremely competitive. So how do Google stay ahead of their competitors such as Bing & Yahoo? The short answer is by providing better results and answers to users queries, this thinking lies at the heart of semantic search where the search engine is described as an answer engine. By attempting to understand Google’s perspective suddenly the changes they implement make much more sense. Google’s Mission statement is as follows
Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.Google.co.uk
Gaming the System?
As soon as the importance of Search in Online Marketing became evident there arose people willing to use underhand techniques in order to boost their search engine ranking and businesses only to happy to take any shortcuts available, its fair to say that Google are engaged in a constant battle to negate these shortcuts and cheats, these explains Algorithm changes such as Panda and Penguin, the aim of Panda was to prevent sites with poor quality content enjoying high search engine rankings, Penguin penalised sites which make use of black hat SEO techniques and used poor quality backlinks which were freely being traded at one point.
White hat, Black hat and grey hat
This terminology comes from definitions of hackers in the field of Computer Security and I think originally from Cowboy movies, i.e. the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. This has been adopted to describe the techniques used by search engine optimisers (SEOs). White hat SEOS only use techniques Google approve of. Conversely Black Hat SEOs use techniques that Google don’t approve of such as Link farms and Keyword stuffing, grey hats use a mixture of white hat and black hat techniques in order to boost search engine rankings hence the grey hat moniker that implies a mix of black and white
On Page SEO: Ranking factors
Although search Engine Algorithms are a closely guarded secret, the following on page factors are widely regarded as being important (items listed in order of importance)
- Page Title tags
- Meta Description
- Headings H1 especially
- Website/Data Structure
- SEO Friendly URL Structure
Despite one or two persistent misconceptions about Keyword stuffed Rubbish, Search Engine Optimisation has come along in leaps and bounds over the last ten to fifteen years, Google has publicly stated that their three main ranking signals are, Links, Content, and RankBrain. Contemporary SEO is all about Content, if you can provide a website full of great quality content or linkable assets being the term link builders use you’ll have nothing to worry about search engine wise. In my experience this is where the vast majority of Small Businesses fall short failing to provide any useful or interesting content on their websites
Further Reading & Bibliography
- How to write meta title tags for SEO (with good and bad examples)searchenginewatch.com
- What is off page SEO? www.reliablesoft.net
- On-Page SEO Factors: Which Ones Have the Most Impact on Rankings? www.searchenginejournal.com
- On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Pagewww.backlinko.com
- What is link juice?www.goup.co.uk
- Topics Over Keywords: An SEO-Driven Approach To Content Marketing www.anumhussain.com
- 12 Free Keyword Tools To Replace Google’s Keyword Tool www.internetmarketingninjas.com
- How to Find Content Topics That Score Big Using Keyword Researchwww.copyblogger.com