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Search Engine Optimisation (February meeting review)

An increasing number of small businesses now make use of a website, whether it’s to convey information, spread brand awareness or for e-commerce.  Having a website is of course great, as long people find it, stay on it, and ultimately become customers (or do whatever else you’re hoping they’ll do on your site).    So getting the right kind of traffic to your site in the first place is obviously key. 

So we were very lucky to have local expert and font-of-all-knowledge Russell Hogg, the Managing Director of Hogtronix come to our February TW MIBs meeting to give us his top tips about how to make the most of SEO (that’s “Search Engine Optimisation” for the rest of us).  Russell gave us a huge amount of advice and info, which I’ve tried to summarise below – hopefully I’ve done it at least some justice!

Russell’s first point was to say that the nature of website traffic is changing rapidly due to the massive rise of social media, and would change so dramatically over the next 12 months or so that he’ll probably need to come back in a year’s time to give us new top tips.  But in the meantime…

Google, google and more google

Google currently accounts for around 92% of search engine use, with the next-biggest player (Bing) having about 5%.  So at the moment, Google is the one to focus on and ultimately your aim is probably to get as close to the top of Google’s search results for the right keywords as you can. 

However, Google is a very complex machine – it uses a mere 200(ish) different factors to rank websites, which impacts upon how far up the search results your site will be.

Keywords

Regardless of whether you are going down the route of organic or paid search, you need the right kind of traffic to your website – that’s people who are looking for what you offer.  If your site is getting lots of hits, but for something that you don’t offer, then it won’t do you much good either.  To get the right kind of traffic which is likely to turn into custom, you need to include plenty of specific, niche keywords e.g. not just “hotel in England” but “small family-run character hotel with spa in rural location in Kent and Sussex near Tunbridge Wells”.  Make a list of specific keywords and include variations – Google’s Keyword tool will also give you other suggestions for these such as common mis-spellings. 

Your website needs to be a balance between being visually attractive and having text content containing keywords for search engines to pick up.  You should put your keywords in the text on your page, have 2-3 per page in your meta-title and also in your description tag (this is the wording that shows up on search results alongside your link). 

Choosing the right keywords is even more important if you are going down the paid search route – there’s little point in paying for advertising or “pay per clicks” if the people that reach your site were looking for something different, couldn’t find what they were looking for on your site, couldn’t appreciate the value of your service or be bothered to finish the check-out process. 

You can see how your keywords appear to the Search Engines using this tool.

Keep clicks on your website

Use “sticky content” to keep people on there and make it an enjoyable “user experience” using clear calls to action, easy navigation, social media plugins, resources and information about how to do things, and keep your content changing to encourage return visits. 

Keep your home-page content changing

Google takes into consideration how often your homepage content changes when ranking your site.  The more it changes, the more they visit and the higher your site is ranked in search engine results.  Having a social media plugin on your homepage can be an easy way to achieve constantly changing content. 

Keep your content easy to find 

Everything should be reachable in less than 5 clicks

What is your call to action?

Every page must have one (at least!).  Think about what you want your visitors to do on your site when they land and make it obvious and easy for them to do it

Contact details

Have a quick contact box in the same place on every page of your website, including a prominent telephone number.  If you only have a mobile or work from home and don’t want to give out your home number, think about using a VOIP number – this allows you to buy a landline number with any area code, which can then be diverted to e.g. your mobile.  Russell recommended this provider.

Make your site fast

Among other things, Google ranks on speed.  Slow site – poor experience and poor search engine position.  To increase its speed:

  • Have your site hosted in the UK
  • Use an image optimiser to reduce your image size to 20,000 or less px
  • Put your images at the bottom of the page

You can check your websites load times by using this speed-test tool.

Sitemaps

Upload your formatted site map to Google regularly, which should also include details of how often Google should visit your site.  Google doesn’t automatically look at pages which are beyond 2 forward-slashes on your site – so the surest way to make sure they know about these pages to get them picked up in search results is through a site-map.  You can upload your site-map through Google’s Webmaster tools.

Links

Google also ranks on links to and from your website.  In simple terms, the more links there are out on third party websites there to your own site, the higher up the ranks you go.  However, links on your site to other websites will “weaken” your rating and reciprocal links effectively cancel each other out entirely(so neither site benefits).   Try increasing the links to your through business listing sites (e.g. Freeindex), lots of mentions on social media sites (these mentions can be by you!) and getting reviews of your products or services on online forums and blogs.

Analyse your site usage

You can find an amazing amount of information about what visitors are doing on your website using Google’s free analytics tool, from how people are getting to and navigating your site, to assessing the impact of marketing and ad campaigns, what search engine keywords they’re using and help you calculate your ROI. out how people are reaching your site (e.g. through a search engine, directly, or through a link from another site), what search keywords they are using, how long they’ve been on your site.  If you’ve got budget to spare or want even more stats, try out www.raventools.com.

And finally…

Hopefully this is useful to you.  A HUGE thanks to Russell for his expertise and apologies if I’ve misinterpreted anything in my write-up.  We’re all looking forward to finding out how it’s changed by this time next year, so watch this space!