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What is SEO? – How does it affect your business website?

Have you ever wondered what is SEO and how to get the most out of good SEO practices? I will try and explain it in as simple terms as I can while exploring SEO basics without getting too technical. Just as the articles on “Website load time” and “Page Speed”, this is intended for small business website owners to give them a better understanding of the topic, and not as training material for techies.

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic that you earn from the organic results from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

We all use Google or some sort of search engine on a regular basis. Be it to search for products, places or doing research on certain topics. Have you ever wondered how and why certain websites are on page 1, and others can’t even be found on the search engine result pages (SERPs)?

I will give a couple of SEO tips and explain how website SEO works, and things you can do to improve your website ranking in the SERPs.

Ever wondered why certain words are in bold on some websites? That is part of SEO marketing and SEO optimisation. It is a tactic employed to indicate to robots and crawlers that these words and phrases are important to them and that they should take note.

Why is SEO important?

If you do a search on say Google, you find that the top spots are allocated to paid adverts.

And then follow all the organically ranked pages.

Research has shown that around 18-20% of web traffic from SERPs comes from these paid ads. This means that 80-82% of traffic from SERPs is due to sites that rank organically. If you have not realised this yet, this is HUGE. And this traffic is “free”.  And traffic is what you are after. More traffic means more eyes on your content, more eyes means more potential customers, more customers means more money in your bottom line.

What is SEO affected by?

There are many factors that work together on what your search engine ranking will be. And the biggest problem with SEO is that companies like Google keep on changing their algorithms and what they look for. That is why SEO is a living and continuous thing. As the game changes, you must adapt and change with it. There are many sites out there that used to dominate the rankings, and some of them slipped into oblivion overnight, never to be seen again.

This is no joke or exaggeration. When Google changed the way they index sites a couple of years ago, some of the top sites were top spot one day, and the next day they were gone, and shortly after that Google blacklisted them. But how can this happen you may ask. I will cover this later when discussing certain things that affect your SEO.

Website Traffic

These days Google is focussed on user experience. They look at a variety of factors that will tell them if users have a great experience on your site or not, and the biggest indicator is the amount of traffic flowing to your site.

We also in our everyday life use this method. If you drive past a restaurant a couple of times and every time you see the parking lot is packed with cars, and people are standing outside waiting to be seated, you know that something is up. Either the food is good, the vibe is good, the service is good, or maybe all the above, but one thing you do know, is that people enjoy going there.

Now you decide that before you are going to book a table, you will have a look at what is going on. One night you decide to sit outside and see what the fuss is about. But what you see is not what you expected. People come in by streams, but 5 minutes later the same people are leaving. And so it goes on. People coming and going the whole night. What do you think about the place now?

Google is the same. It is not only traffic that counts, but the quality of the traffic, and the quality of the site. Traffic that comes and goes without spending time on your site is referred to as “bounce rate”. A high bounce rate can be due to a couple of reasons. I will discuss these individually under each topic that affects bounce rate.

Responsive design

More and more users are online using mobile devices, for that reason, Google and other search engines are demanding that websites are mobile friendly and fully responsive.  

Page speed

Page speed is very critical for SEO and Google is obsessed with it, just as us at Web Design Foundry. Please read our articles as mentioned in the first paragraph if you have not already.

Slow page speed can directly impact your bounces rate. People might opt out even before the first page is loaded. This is bad for overall SEO.

Or, some will stick it out the first time, thinking that it might be the page that is large or network that is slow. But when they open the next page, and the same thing happens. They abandon your site, and ten to one, never to return. Not only have you hurt your SEO ranking, but you have lost a potential customer for life.

That is why website load time is also a metric that Google looks at directly and scores you accordingly. It might only count 1% on your total score, but the impact is much greater.

SEO keywords

What is SEO keywords? The term SEO keywords might be new to you, but the concept is not. It is what you yourself will use when searching for certain things on search engines.

Keyword selection is critical for a couple of reasons:

– When doing research with the Google Keyword Planner, do not select the most used keywords if you have a new site with little to no traffic. Look for the “low hanging fruit”. The popular keywords will just have a lot of competition and as a new site, you will not easily compete with established sites with a lot of traffic.  A later article will explain the process in detail.

– Keyword density is a make or break. Too little, Google will ignore you. Too much, Google will see this as keyword stuffing and blacklist you. On a 300 to 600 word article, 3 to 4 times is good. Start, middle and end of the article.

This is exactly what happened when Google changed their algorithms and the way they index sites. In the past, Google looked at keywords and backlinks differently. Some guys were just out to get traffic without providing real value to the reader/visitor. This leads to content that made no sense, but the keywords were found in every sentence… more about backlinks a little later.

– Relevance is a major factor in bounce rates. You might target the word/s “painting techniques” to showcase your skills as a panel beater and custom painter. People searching for canvas painting techniques might land on your site. Definite bounce…

Backlinks

Backlinks are created when a post or page with a clickable link is shared on another website.

When creating backlinks, be careful. Google looks at the quality of the links. If they are of low or questionable quality, they do penalise you. Never buy backlinks. These links are posted on dubious sites all over the net. This is called backlink farming and search engines do not like it. In the old days, this could have placed you on the top of page one overnight, today, you’d be cast out into the darkness… overnight.

Google look at sites with lots of traffic, also the quality of the traffic that follow your links. Best sites for high-quality backlinks are Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter and so on.

Content

As the saying goes, “Content is king”.
Good content not only engage visitors, it will encourage them to browse your site for more high-quality content, it will create trust in you and your brand and will more likely be shared than poor-quality content.

Your content must be relevant to your site. No purpose in posting political content on a technical site, people are not there to hear about politics or your favourite movie review on a cooking site. Remember what was said about bounce rate?

Your content, keywords, title and meta description must all be relevant and about the topic under discussion. Again, if your title and meta description is about chocolate cake and the content about choc-chip cookies, you are in danger of people leaving your site.

Content should establish you as an authority in your market. People trust those who know what they are talking about. This will lead to longer and more visits to your site.

Content should be ever changing. Google loves change, it is an indication that the site is active. And by change, I do not mean you should re-write each page and post every day. Tweaks and refinement are needed from time to time, but I am talking about new content. Post as often as you can.

Do not copy and paste content from another site. Google may or may not rank you for it. Unique content is the best way to go. Yes, you can steal ideas here and there, but create your own unique content.

Internal links

In your content, you must have links to other posts and pages on your site. This shows Google that you have thought about what you are writing and that certain posts and pages are related. This will encourage visitors to follow the links which will lengthen their time on your site, and Google will see that these links were followed. Good for SEO.

Links should be visible. The standard is blue underlined lettering. Anchor text must be used in these links. A lot of people will do this: Read our article on chock-chip cookies here.
Rather use the anchor text as the link: Read our article on chock-chip cookies.
By doing this you are telling the robots that this is an important keyword for the article that it links to. Hint, use the title of the article that the link is pointing to.

Headings

The heading of an article must contain the keywords, and that goes for the URL also.
Google will take your keyword and scan from the top structure all the way through. First, the URL, the title, the first heading, and that should be an H1 heading, then your content.

TLD

The Top-Level Domain is very important regarding the SEO of your site. The TLD is the extension after your site’s name (domain). That is the .com, .co.za, .org and so on.

A .com site is primarily for the US but can work for international sites also. If you are focussing on a certain demographic like South Africa, a .co.za domain with the same content will outrank a .com site in local SERPs. Do not register a .org if it is not an organisation, you will be punished for that.

Domain name

Very important. Google wants to see right off the bat what your site is about. It is a good practice to include what you do in the domain name. Let’s say you have a butchery, something like www.abcbutchery.co.za will be much better than www.abcandsons.co.za

Hosting

Another important factor in SEO is where your site is hosted, and by this, I am referring to the physical location of the data centre. Why might this be important? Search Engines look at the site’s IP address and will boost rankings accordingly. Will you advertise in the Phalaborwa Herald if you are a mechanic in Cape Town?

How is SEO influenced by Social Metrics?

Google will even rank you on how many times your shared post or page is shared again on social media. This shows to them that the content is of interest to readers.
How many times that link was followed from social media to your post or page. Google’s new look on what is SEO is all about is user experience. Do users like, read and share your content? Do they follow your links?

Silo Structures

This is a bit of a high-level SEO tactic, but if planned correctly, tremendously effective. Think of a silo complex with compartments.

Your cornerstone article is at the top, then you have follow-up articles that expand on the first one. Links should be added with anchor text in the top-level article to all the articles below it, but also from each of the lower level articles back to the top-level article and all the other articles in the silo.

An example of that would be something like:

“How to rebuild a Ford 302 engine”
Then follow up articles in the silo could be about “High compression pistons for a Ford 302 Engine”, “Best camshafts for low, mid and high range power delivery in a Ford 302 engine”, “Valve angle cutting for a Ford 302 Engine” and so on.

Offline SEO

One of the most important factors for SEO is so often forgotten by so many people.

You might wonder what is SEO related in offline activity. A lot. The number one booster of SEO is traffic. Traffic can be sourced not only by online advertising, link building, social shares, search engine marketing and so on but have a lot to do with what you do in your day to day business.

Is your website on your business cards and letterheads?
Is your brand strong enough to interest people to search online for you when they hear about you from friends, colleagues or when they see one of your vehicles on the road?

All of these offline activities drive traffic to your site, and most of this will be people in need of your product or service, or at least, they will be interested in it.

I hope you have a clearer understanding about what is SEO all about and the importance of SEO marketing.

For more information on how we can help you to improve the SEO of your site, please contact us.

If you are interested in a new business website and would like us to help you, you can have a look at our web design prices and packages.

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