Yes, your business’ website was woven from the hair of golden mooses that drink sparkling spring water from the summits of the tallest mountains in Tajikistan. Lovely stuff. And you print your website address on your gilded business cards, and you post it on Facebook after some photos of you with your screaming six-month-old baby, but still, nobody is looking at your damn website.
And so you Google your own business! Yes! Because that’ll show you that something is wrong with the way the web developers built that site of yours!
Except your business doesn’t show up. Next page, next page, next page – ah, there it is, three quarters of the way down page seven.
The problem here is that the site hasn’t been optimised for search engine friendliness. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is many things – it’s about the content, web design, back-end coding and more. Modern websites are usually built explicitly with SEO in mind, because your competitor’s Times New Roman website whose most recent update was about when Princess Diana visited them surely cannot rank higher than yours.
There are many ways to rank higher on search results, and the reality is that if you’re not on the first page, your chances of getting leads online drop dramatically. There are two main kinds of SEO: organic and paid.
Paid SEO is rather straightforward: you have a budget for something called Google Adwords which is paid straight to Google to get your website featured right at the top of results pages for certain search terms (that you can specify). It gets a little “Ad” label that looks like this:
For example, if you’re Upington’s finest supplier of rare pygmy gherkins, you could pay to have your site at the top whenever someone searches “pygmy gherkins Upington”, “Upington gherkins”, “small gherkins Northern Cape”, and so on. The more search terms you choose, the more you pay – also, the more competitive your search term, the more expensive it will be. Being at the top of “New York hotels” searches will cost a fortune, while “pygmy gherkins Upington” will likely be slightly less popular, and therefore more affordable. Unfortunately, as soon as you stop paying, your rankings plummet. All those countless retailers of tiny pickles in Upington will scramble for the top spot once again in a vicious frenzy.
Organic SEO is mostly free and your rankings can last a long time (still for free), but the effects can take a long time to kick in. It’s about what you want, really: if you’re okay with your business growing over time and you don’t have much of a budget for Adwords, organic is the way to go. Here’s a (limited and incomplete) list of what goes into organic SEO:
- Your website text has got to meet general search engine criteria – these days, blog posts should be at least 300 words and website pages should be 500-700 words each, particularly your home page. More text means more information and more value that your audience can glean from the site, so Google rewards it.
- Keywords are an important part of the text. The likely search terms that people will use when looking for your type of business should be included in your web copy at least three times each – included cleverly in the text itself to make Google realise that it’s relevant.
- Back-end code is the dark and murky world of including certain lines of code in the structure of the website itself, which Google picks up and analyses, to understand what the site is about better. These days, website construction platforms like WordPress have plugins that make back-end SEO easier, but it’s still something that should be done by a professional.
- Design factors into it, too. Having clearly-marked sub-pages, easy navigation, calls to action, simple layout and such things that are focused on user-friendliness are all things that the Google overlords smile upon, and so will be willing to pass on blessings for.
- Link building is the process of adding internal links – that is, making sure that there are ample opportunities for users to find other content on your website that’s relevant, for example, this text that links to another one of our articles about writing SEO-friendly content. Then there’s external link building, too, where links to your website are included in other places on the internet. A Facebook page is useful for this, because you can feature your web address in your business page information as well as in posts you do. See our Social Media marketing tips article and the options we offer for your business.
Naturally, because we’re in the business of building brands ourselves, we can advise you about SEO if you’d like. Our doors are open and our coffee is hot. Our content writer is also hot, so there’s that.