What is SEO and how it works is a complete mystery to most people. You’ve probably had emails recently telling you your SEO is rubbish and that you can get on to page 1 for your chosen search terms if only you work with this or that company? Or maybe you’ve had an email telling you that all the work you’ve done on your website is to no avail as Google has just changed it’s algorithm and your site will probably drop in a matter of hours?
It’s a challenging time for any small business especially when the acronym SEO is shrouded in a mixture of secrecy and buzzwords. We’re going to go through a number of points today, all around the concept of SEO and what it means for a small business.
- What does SEO actually mean
- What can SEO do for your business
- How can you effect your SEO
- How much can all this cost?
- What to look for in an SEO partner
Hopefully after this you’ll be a little more clued up with all things SEO, which should help you and your business thrive.
What is SEO, what does it actually mean?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. If you can imagine, search engines use bots to rush around all the web pages they can find, collecting information. They take this information and put it into a very large index, ranking how well the harvested knowledge answers any number of specific search queries. They decide which doors are shown to you so someone can decide which to go through. SEO is basically all about tailoring the content on (and off) your website to be found by these bots. And to influence them positively, pushing your door to the forefront of search.
If you imagine that on average Google handles, around 40,000 search queries every second, it’s no wonder they need to rank things. For businesses it’s quite important though, as 96% of all web traffic goes to the page one results.
Even though the search engines keep pretty tight lipped about what they are looking for, it’s fair to say we can be sure of a few things. When we first developed websites back in the 90’s this was about putting a bunch of hidden words at the base of the page that would be possible search terms – Key word stuffing. This is very very old hat now.
Search engines have become incredibly sophisticated, but also it’s become big business. Google has roughly 87% marketshare and they want to keep it that way. The way of doing that is to ensure that when you search for something, you get the information you want and need. And the answers you get are not an accident, it’s been a lot of work on the part of both the website owners and Google.
What can SEO do for your business?
What is SEO has been answered, we can start to think about what it can do. When you consider how important page one results are, you can see how important it is for any business to be there. It’s imperative in times when, through necessity, pretty much the entire world is doing everything online. Without SEO, your website could be on a road to nowhere. This is what SEO is all about.
In some ways you can see it is a very fair way of doing things. If a company has their site on page one for their chosen search terms (and they are most definitely chosen), it’s because they worked hard to get it there (or because they are the only people doing it!). They have invested in SEO, understood it and made it a priority. SEO is truly something that every serious business should have some interest in, even if it is entirely home grown.
around 90% of all the web pages that exist today get zero traffic from Google)
In many ways whole subject is aligned to good and bad identities. Not having a great identity won’t visibly show the benefit of having a good one. You’ll just get on with life and do work as you always have. The benefit is only seen when you get a great identity – or when you start using SEO.
There will be organisations that have a website that rarely gets traffic (around 90% of all the web pages that exist today get zero traffic from Google). They may not even know they don’t get traffic, they just have a website because they knew they needed one. If these companies suddenly started getting traffic, and having calls from prospective clients because of it – how much of a difference would that make?
How can you effect your SEO?
This is a very big subject, one which we may start to talk about more in the future. For today we’ll just brush quickly over the possible ways forwards. Firstly there are two kinds of SEO, on-page and off-page. On-page SEO is pretty much anything you can control or effect on your own site. This can be anything from the way an article is written, to the words you have chosen as keywords. It can also be the speed of your site and the types of images you use, and with the latest updates on Google it could even be how well your site uses branding.
Off-page is pretty much anything outside of your site. This is pretty much all about backlinks – links from other sites to your pages, articles or even images. This is about registering on relevant directories, it’s about creating guest articles on other sites (linking back to your own site), its about being mentioned by other well respected websites. Backlinking takes time, but helps a lot.
Many of the following you’ll be able to do on your own and for this list we’ll concentrate on on-page SEO. Remember though, SEO is not a ‘do it once and leave it’ kind of deal. SEO is a constant tweaking of your current pages and adding new ones. So here are a few things that will help your your journey a little.
- Create custom meta title tags and meta descriptions for your pages.
This will ensure that search engines can differentiate one page from another and (if the titles are engaging) can make pages more liable to be clicked
- Ensure you are using keywords in your content and headings
Keywords will help link your content to your audience and their searches. Ideally your keywords should also be connected to your title tags and meta descriptions. Also, to help with Google ranking, make sure your articles are more than 600 words long anything shorter is a bit thin.
- Give all your images alt tags
Again, linking images to your keywords is important. Creating meaningful tags will also help make your site more accessible (as alt tags are used to voice what the image is about)
- Make sure and broken links are mended as soon as possible
broken links will just annoy people, it’s a house-keeping thing that will ensure your site always looks professional.
- Ensure that any moved pages are properly redirected
Moved pages should utilise 301 redirects, this ensures that any equity built up by old links is continued to the new page
- Create internal and external links in all your pages
Linking internally helps people see other pages on your site. You want people to stay on your site, but if they do leave make sure they are going to pages you have sent them to.
- Ensure you have a responsive website (mobile/tablet friendly versions of your site)
A very high percentage of your traffic will be via a mobile phone, make sure they get a great render of your site specifically for mobile.
- Make sure your site is secure and certified (SSL)
Ensure your site has an SSL certificate, it’s what makes a sites address start with ‘https’. It is an additional level of security that will make people more comfortable with doing business with you.
- Build your brand
In 2021 it’s not just about your website. It’s about all your brand’s online activities, from images the images you use to videos, social media, search engine business pages etc. Building your brand helps with recognition, but now also helps with SEO.
- Remember SEO is a long terms strategy
This is not really something you do, it’s more something to remember. It can take anything from 3 weeks to six months to see positive impact through SEO – though it’s quicker for the inverse to happen!
How much can all this cost?
This is a massive question and one we can only give you an idea about. Usually there is some sort of project budget and then a monthly charge to tweak everything that has been done to keep it relevant and as high up the list as possible. The monthly charge could also include developing new content that is carefully chosen to link to your business.
In general terms the cost of SEO services can vary dramatically depending on what’s included in the project. These are costs we’ve researched from competitor companies and specialist agencies. The cost today that a company can expect to pay for a monthly service is anywhere from £250-£2,000 (this does depend on what’s on offer). For a one-off project, the budget can range between £1,500-£30,000. If you’re going to pay a consultant on an hourly basis, that could be anything from £20-£300 per hour.
As you can imagine costing can be dramatically different from agency to agency. This also goes for what is delivered and how. So how would you actually go about choosing a partner (if you didn’t want to give it a go yourself) to help with your SEO needs?
How to look for an SEO partner
If you’ve given it a go and it all seems a bit too much of a chore and the budget side of things hasn’t scared you, you can always partner up with an agency or individual to work on your optimisation with you. This sounds simple, but the world and his dog is now offering this service. It’s further complicated by the fact that it seems a bit like a black art (an no one is trying to make it seem any different). There is secrecy about what actually is done and a lack of transparency that’s usually reserved for top secret projects.
At the end of the day, there is no point of being top of the ladder if your audience isn’t looking there.
With all this in mind looking for an SEO partner could be a challenge. Our advice is to look for a partner that is able to convey a clear strategy based on your goals and longer term plans (which they should have asked about). Their ideas and strategies should align with you and your brand and talk directly to your target audiences. The same goes for link building, the sites they are working with should also align to your audiences world. You want your site to be found by your audience, not just anyone.
At the end of the day, there is no point of being top of the ladder if your audience isn’t looking there.
Another element to ensure your SEO partner is doing is reporting. It is incredibly easy to under deliver in the name of SEO, to talk of what is being done, but not show what has actually been done or achieved. Ask for a base line report and regular reports ongoing to show what has been done and why. Over time you should see a change in ranking and/or traffic.
There is something to be said for the term ‘quality costs’. In some ways expensive should mean a great service, check out qualifications, affiliations, proof of what they have done (case studies – with contact details). At the end of the day you are going to have to work with an individual or agency that meets your needs, with a price tag to match. Expensive doesn’t always mean good and cheap doesn’t always mean bad, but both statements are sadly correct a lot of the time.
And what can Puur offer?
Our SEO offer up until now has always part of a bigger project. We’ve delivered guidance and work as part of a brand development. We’ve rarely taken on and SEO job as a stand alone project. However, we’re now offering it as one of our core services. It is something that we are as rigorous with as we are with any other project. Our knowledge growing over the years. If you would like to speak to us about your SEO needs please do drop us a line – after all, you must have found us via a search engine, so we must be doing something right!