You’ve probably heard the term SEO a few times, especially if you run a small business and have to speak with your marketing or web design agency now and then.

As a busy person, you probably don’t have all the time in the world for meetings where everyone seems to speak in acronyms and letters. Knowing your SEO from your PPC and all that gobbledygook about conversions and CPCs is important to the health of your business. The problem is finding someone to explain it all in simple English. Never fear! That’s why I’m here.

So if you are a web designer or developer this may not float your boat; I’m reaching out to those who don’t understand all that techie stuff but do understand the importance of getting and keeping customers.

Why is SEO so important?

First of all, SEO stands for “search engine optimisation“. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue does it? What it means is making sure your website is in the best possible shape it can be for it to appear in search engine results.

It is important because people use search engines to find businesses like yours and if they can’t find you they most certainly will find your competition.

SEO is about putting your at the top of the page when someone asks a question on a search engine like Google and Bing.

How does it work?

How much time do you have? Let’s look at what search engines care about.

Relevance

Let’s say you sell skin cream in Poole and I’m local, searching online for an ice-cream parlour. If my search results list your website and I click on the link, I’ve just wasted five seconds of my life that I’ll never get back. Apart from that I no longer trust the search engine to deliver relevant information or the descriptions in your website. So by default, I don’t trust you.

There was a time when SEO was about stuffing your page with keywords that had Iittle to do with the website was about. Nowadays search engines penalise this practice, demoting your ranking and blacklisting the site.

Accessibility

Search engines are all about getting to the information that matters, anything that gets in the way of that happening will harm your SEO . Jargon that’s hard to understand text too Small to read or colours that don’t Contrast very well are all things you should avoid.

Structure

You’ve heard the term ‘crawling’ used to describe search engines going through a website. No? Well, you have now. When search engines crawl your site they are looking for a trail to follow; a structure. Your site navigation needs to make sense as does the copy on each page. The way to do this is to use headings to break up long chunks of text into meaningful parts. Use different heading levels starting with heading level 1 to lay out your copy so the narrative flows. This article shows how I’ve used heading levels with “How does it work?” at level 1 and “Relevance”, “Accessibility” and “Structure” at a lower level so the reader and the search engines can see the relationship between them.

Popularity

If people are visiting your site, search engines believe there’s something to see, something interesting and useful. If they’re talking about your site on other sites and social media platforms like Facebook, even better!

Your site ranks higher the more popular it is and in the early days of SEO, all it took was people clicking on your website to push you up in the rankings. Those days are gone. Now, search engines want to see links from popular sites and social media back to your website. They want to see those links popping up in forums, news feeds and messaging apps. The more this happens the more relevant your site becomes. Ultimately it starts to climb up in search results related to your business.

So what can you do?

Take a look at your website and ask yourself the following questions, if the answer to any of them is ‘no’, you have some work to do.

Is your website responsive?

Or in other words, can it be viewed on mobile devices like phones and tablets. If it can’t then you need to change it. Why? Because it is not accessible to people who use mobile devices and that’s a pretty big number. OK so you may not be a web designer, but there are a number of website builder apps and there’s always WordPress. You don’t need to be a techie to set up a site using one of those platforms and a responsive site is the first rule of good SEO. I’d go so far as to call it a prerequisite. If you want to learn how to put a WordPress site together, check out this upcoming course.

Does each page have a relevant keyword in the title?

Or in the first line of text. Why does this matter and what’s a keyword? Well, remember relevance we mentioned above? If I get to your page looking for the price of milk and the first line reads ‘history of milk’ I will hit that back button so fast and head back to Google looking for something relevant. It won’t matter that what I’m looking for is halfway down the page, you had your 2.5 seconds and blew it. In this case “milk” is the keyword although in today’s SEO world you want long-tail keywords like “price of milk” because we search in phrases and questions, not in single words.

Look at the copy on your page and see if the keywords relevant to your audience appear high up in the page. If they don’t, change the sentence. A client wasn’t doing too well in the ranking stakes for the phrase “Best Nigerian restaurant in London”. A quick look at their site showed the phrase didn’t appear anywhere on the content of their page. A change to the page titles, headings and the first line of text soon sorted that out. They quickly went from the fourth page in the search results to the first, just with that simple tweak.

Does it load quickly?

If it doesn’t, see above. Your 2.5 seconds is up. Google has a page speed test (yes you can Google it) which tells you how your page performs on mobile and desktop. Run a test and send it to your web designer to sort it.

Can people share your content?

You should have a way for visitors to quickly share content with their friends and networks so get some sharing buttons on each page, especially product pages. People always ask “where can I buy this?” or “Anyone know a company that …?” so if they can’t pop a link to your product into a WhatsApp chat or ‘pin’ a great pair of shoes from your site on their board, your site won’t do too well in the popularity stakes.

Do your images on the page have alternative text?

Say what? OK if you’re using a PC or Mac, hover the mouse over an image on your site, some text should appear – that’s alternative text. Search engines use it to populate search results for images and people who use assistive technology to browse websites will have that read out to them. So you need to make sure that you have alternative text for each image and that it is relevant to what’s on the page; the context it is used in. Back to our milk example. If you want to use a picture of a cow to illustrate your milk delivery service and you just use that word as alternative text, you’ve missed a trick. Try “our milk comes from free range cows” for a better SEO effect.

Does each page have metadata keywords and descriptions embedded in the code?

One for your web designer or developer to answer maybe. If you are curious, you can open up the website, right-click on the page and choose “View source” from the menu. Don’t be alarmed by the code that pops up, just press the key combination Ctrl +F and a search box pops up. Type <meta name=”description or <meta name=”keywords, if nothing comes up you need to have a word with your web designer.

This is just to give you an idea of what SEO is about and what you can do to improve your site’s SEO. It is much more complex than this, but I hope the principles will set you on the right path to making your site more SEO friendly. If you want to know more about SEO or would like us to help you out with making your site more SEO friendly, find out more about our services or fill in the form below.

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