By Sunetra Chakravarti, Monday 09 October 2017
There are more than 6 billion word searches on the internet everyday. More than 4 billion of those are on Google. More than 94% of those searches lead to an ‘organic’ link click, with just over 5% opting for the advert.
Experts say that if you are a pure-play digital company, then at least 40% of your initial cost of setup should go towards your search engine optimisation (SEO).
But what is this mythical beast that everyone speaks of so reverentially?
SEO is how you make sure your website is easy for Google’s robotic spiders to read. Although it isn’t really an exact science, the consensus on what can help you get to the top is fairly simple.
Surprisingly, it isn’t glitzy content, flashy layouts or the most interesting colour combinations on the website. There are just two words which help sum up SEO: authoritative and unique content. That plus some very creative ideas can help you make it to the first results page.
The fact that content is king isn’t just true for content-driven sites, it is also on e-commerce and photo sharing sites. Here are some creative ideas you can try out to make sure your business stays relevant in the world of internet search.
When you run an organic search on Google, have you noticed that recently, Google has started running content on the right panel for businesses that are closest to you?
For Google, a business in your local area with a 4-star rating is more important than one 200-miles away with a 5-star rating. Not only does this show exactly why Google has been on the forefront of search since its inception but also gives marketers a handy tool to ensure they can stay on top. This feature is especially relevant for small businesses that are just starting out. If your offices are in a central location, expect relevant visitor numbers to soar.
According to Patrick Schaudel, head of product management e-business at 1&1 Internet SE: “By simply creating an up-to-date profile with contact details, opening hours and a link to the corporate website, your business’s key data is shown on applications such as Google Maps.
“There are special tools available for listing your business with a short corporate profile and visuals in the most important business directories on the internet. This is the digital equivalent of a business card which can lead to more potential customers learning about your offerings.”
Web SEO is a combination of content, back links and metadata (keywords). Metadata is just data about data that can be easily read by Google and indexed as a possible source of information. The key is to create new and original content that search engines can crawl and index, so it is always a good idea to make sure that your website’s robot.txt files are in good shape to be read by search engines.
“A well-known SEO trick is to use content, images and videos, but make them as accessible as possible with ALT tags (description for photos), hidden descriptions and meaningful text. A more accessible website is likely to be higher up in the search results,” says Val Biswas, founder of digital agency Cassia Bark.
Google loves a good chat
Google has a very conversational search algorithm and the majority of users are looking for an answer to a question or for a service to fulfil their need. Louise Ray, marketing manager at Plastic Card Services, a company that has seen successes from concentrating on SEO, says: “We focus on making sure we are there with informative and expert content allowing them to quickly and easily find a solution negating the need for them to look elsewhere.
“We have strategic SEO and PPC campaigns in place that are constantly reviewed and analysed to ensure they operate as efficiently as possible in terms of both traffic and conversions.”
Broadly, businesses should focus on overriding factors they can affect to increase organic visibility: content, links and structure/technical.
Content should start with market research, competitor analysis and keyword research and help you define the pages you have on your site and the way you present information to users.
They key to being number one
It is a well known fact that you need to be at the top of every search to win the most business. Or do you?
The first four results on Google get around 43% of traffic, the top 10 (page one of Google) get 89% of traffic. If you are not there you might as well be on a back street and hope you are a destination people already know about.
Although being the top result for a query does mean clicks, unless your website has a very good flow of content and the user journey has been mapped to perfection, it will result in more bounces than sales. “Ideally you want to make sure your website is ranked in the top four positions, the higher the better, but focus on highly relevant keywords. There is no point in ranking for a generic, irrelevant term or one with no search demand when you could target a long tail term that has 50 searches per month, is less competitive and is specific to what your business does or sells,” says Matt Shaw, digital marketing manager at Blue Digital.
Think user, think journey
Google has made it absolutely imperative for websites to be mobile-friendly in order to rank highly for search traffic. This is because mobile web consumption has overtaken desktop usage in recent times.
Plastic Card Services did very well out of a website redesign. According to Ray: “At the outset we spent a great deal of time investing in researching the ‘user experience’, looking at how users interacted with our website and then designing a user path to enhance our overall conversion rates. Since launching our new website last year we have seen this approach pay dividends with conversions increasing by 53.73%.
“Our website was purposely designed to be different from the industry norm B2B sites that are relatively plain and text heavy. We wanted the site to be design-led featuring high-quality images as well as informative content in an easy to find structure.”
Jonny Ross, SEO specialist and managing director of digital marketing agency, JRC.Agency agrees: “Think how you can add value on your website. What unique content can you offer that makes your website a resource? What stories and data do you have that people will be interested in? How can you become a desirable ‘destination’ online for your customers? Use these to create great content, and then share it widely.”
Links are still hugely important to any SEO campaign, particularly in competitive markets where onsite factors will often be well implemented across the board. “Structural and technical fixes should never be overlooked and businesses have seen huge wins recently simply by reorganising a site into a more logical URL structure that follows the path users take through the site,” says Toby Dean, senior SEO account manager at Add People.
While spending on PPC and social will definitely generate numbers for your website, chucking money at the problem will not make it go away. Google search rewards quality over expenditure and with complex algorithms in place there are many things to take into consideration.
In conclusion, Luke Budka, director at TopLine Comms says that SEO on the whole requires a lot of hard work, quality content and PR, and most of all, dedication. But the rewards are worthwhile.
Set up your Google My Business profile with relevant information
Make sure canonical URLs for original content are regularly topped up
Content on your website should answer conversational questions
Track the customer journey and make sure it feels ‘natural’, get others to try it out too
Make sure your < Title> metadata on each product is as full of keywords as it can be
Design your website for the mobile user as that’s where most start their search
Remember to keep your social channels updated
With search engine advertising you can place ads within Google and pay only for clicks
Case study: Vistaprint
Vistaprint changed its strategy and focus recently to focus on fewer adverts, a customised mobile-friendly website dashboard and bespoke website interface for customers.
In the past few years the business has made a conscious shift to be more customer-centric. The majority of our customers are small business owners. They have to wear many hats and their time is so precious. We aim to make it as simple and fast as possible to order their products so they can get back to the job of running their business. We also spend a lot of time talking to our customers and getting their feedback, to make sure we are offering the right product mix and providing the right experience. The majority of search queries are now on mobile, and mobile is now the main internet access for many prospects, hence investment in getting robust user experience and ability to purchase, customisation – for example personal home or landing pages – and incremental improvements.
The old Vistaprint was very much about customer acquisition and helped to build our success, but that was not sustainable. In recent years we have tried to make it easier to build long-term partnerships with our clients in order to raise retention rates. We try to customise the experience for them as much as possible.
Johann Godey, director, channel marketing