We’ve all heard the term ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO).
Everybody says, ‘you must optimise your website for SEO’. However, with so much information and so many different aspects of SEO, many business owners find it intimidating and come to the resolve, ‘I can’t do that, I can’t afford it and it’s too complicated for me.’
If this is your position we totally get you.
On the other hand, we also understand the importance of SEO and how this can positively affect a business’ chance of becoming successful online.
And we know that the majority of business owners are also feeling overwhelmed just like you. Therefore, small businesses often only need the simplest of strategies to get ahead of others.
In this two part article we are going to show you the very basics of this field. We will outline some very easy steps that you can take (without the need for professional help) to push your website further up the rankings.
We are looking specifically at on-site optimisation; your homepage and your other main website pages.
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engines are the programs, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, that we all use to find things online.
We are all familiar with using them and over 92% of us use Google to carry out our searches.
When you search for something on a search engine, the words that you type into the search box are called ‘search terms’.
These search terms are then matched to website pages in the search engine’s database; based on keywords and phrases that are prevalent throughout that page.
If you type ‘Hairdresser in Cardiff’ into the search bar, the search engine will scan its database to find these words on webpages throughout the internet to provide you with a list of results.
As there are probably hundreds of hairdressers in the Cardiff area, the search engine must decide which websites are most suited to your search in order to rank them in its results.
This is where search engine optimisation comes in.
By using certain strategies you can optimise your web pages to be a better match for the search terms that people are typing into the search bar.
Once you have optimised your website, it will rank higher in the results. The higher you rank, the better for your business.
Think about it, how often do you look at the second or third page of Google results? If you are like me, hardly ever.
You need to get on that first page to be visible to a wide range of new potential customers.
Here are some very simple steps to get you started.
1. Understand what your customers are searching for
Before you start trying to optimise you need to know what people are typing into the search box in order to find you.
This could be ‘hairdressers in Cardiff’, ‘haircut Cardiff’, ‘barbers in Cardiff’.
Think about the services you offer or the products you sell. You can probably take a good guess at what people are searching for. It might also be a good idea to ask friends, family, or customers for ideas too.
We could get really in depth figuring out the best keywords to optimise, but, in the interest of keeping it simple, we’re going to use common sense for now.
One thing it might be good to do, if your businesses if very location specific, is to be more accurate with your location; for example using the exact neighbourhood or area of a city: ‘Hairdressers in Ely’.
This would likely have fewer searches than ‘hairdressers in Cardiff’ and thus there is less competition when it comes to ranking on search engines.
2. Title tags and meta descriptions
Now you’ve chosen some keywords and phrases that you want to optimise, you need to start using these strategically on your website.
Each page of your website will have a title tag and meta description.
This is the writing that appears in blue on a Google results page. It must be 70 characters or less and you should always include your business or brand name and keywords/phrases that are relevant for that page.
This is what appears under the blue title tag on a Google results page. As users will see this, you want this to be written for both humans and search engines to read. We suggest using your keywords here too..
Here’s an example for the search term ‘Hairdressers in Cardiff’.
Guy Christian Hairdressers in Cardiff | Hair Salons Cardiff
Guy Christian is a quality driven and award winning hairdresser based in three locations across Cardiff City Centre, Cardiff Bay and Cwmbran. Delivering professional hair styling, colouring and hair extensions in the comfort of our beautifully designed salons.
It reads nicely for humans and it is optimised for search engines to rank it.
For WordPress sites we recommend using Yoast SEO to add your title tags and meta descriptions. It’s a great free plug-in that will not only help with this step, but will also assist you in any future, more complicated, SEO that you want to engage in.
Remember, each page of your website should have it’s own specific title tag and meta description.
3. Integrating keywords into your pages
Now your tags and metas are sorted, you want to look at using your keywords throughout your web pages too.
For my nail salon home page I might choose keyword phrases such as ‘nail salons in Newport’, ‘beauty salon in Newport’, ‘manicure in Newport’.
Throughout my homepage I am now going to slip these phrases into my text.
It’s important to remember here that, whilst we want to rank highly on search engines, we are also selling our brand to real humans. So, for homepages, make sure the content flows and sounds natural; for blog pages specifically designed to acquire traffic via SEO you can be a bit more robotic with your language in order to optimise.
Choosing relevant keywords and keyword phrases for each page, you can now go through and optimise each page of your website.
4. Don’t be excessive
You might think, ‘I’ll cram my web pages full of keywords, this way the search engine is sure to pick it up and choose my website over others!’
Don’t stuff your web pages with ridiculous amounts of keywords or phrases.
Firstly, it will probably read like absolute rubbish to the everyday user.
Secondly, Google actually punishes websites it feels are over-optimised.
The general rule is: use your keywords/phrases roughly five times in an average blog.
Using Yoast SEO gives you an advantage here, as it actually tells you if you’ve used your keywords enough on each page in proportion to the amount of text on that page.
In this article we’ve tried to explain the very basics of search engine optimisation.
It’s such a vast field and there’s no exact science to getting it right, but you might be surprised at how these very simple steps can increase your ranking on the results pages when applied correctly.
We recommend taking it slowly.
Start with your homepage and work your way out from there.
The advantage of it being so overwhelming can now be yours, as you can get one up on your competitors without really doing too much.
Once you’ve optimised all of your current pages, you can then look at creating more content that is inline with topics that you want to rank for on search engines.
We’re releasing new guides for beginners each week.
Follow our socials for updates on part two of this guide and more.