Good quality SEO services are increasingly expensive and beyond the reach of many small businesses. One possible solution is the do it yourself SEO approach. In this three part article series we provide some tips and resources to get you started.
Advantages of SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is rapidly becoming an outdated term but it may be defined as “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.” (Source – Webopedia). There is little point investing in a website if it cannot be found online when a prospect types a relevant search phrase into a search engine. Statistics show that 92% of users don’t continue their search beyond page 1 of the Google search results (source Chitika).
Stage 1 of an online marketing process is to drive prospects (traffic) to a website whereas stage 2 involves persuading the maximum number of those prospects to take some appropriate action (conversion). SEO is relevant to Stage 1 only and should be based on maximising traffic, as without traffic there can be no conversion. SEO is concerned with progressing so called organic results (those that are not paid for) to as high a position as practical.
The alternative is Pay Per Click which can deliver a consistent ROI but if not professionally managed can burn through cash reserves at an alarming rate. Pay per Click results are the ads at the top and right side of the page. Research shows that the click rate is much higher on the organic listings (94% v 6% – Source Nielsen and Group M-UK) than it is on the PPC ads.
Forget The SEO Hype – The Reality
Not so long ago it seemed everyone from the one man band web developer, to the local IT company, to print companies were offering SEO services. A quick look on the internet will show that all that has changed. Apart from the inevitable spammy Emails from India and China the number of offers has dropped significantly, and for good reason
From early 2012 onwards a number of Google search algorithm updates wiped out the impact of many dubious (Black Hat) and automated Search Engine Optimisation techniques. Of course this change is to the long term benefit of everyone but it significantly increased the complexity of SEO and, without automation, the time involved. This change both took out those with little actual SEO expertise and increased the costs of those good SEO’s employing sound (but time consuming) best practice that remained.
The DIY SEO Option
A large proportion of SEO work is not particularly difficult but it is time consuming and it does require a consistent approach. The main issue, however, is best practice search engine marketing can take a significant amount of time to learn. Worse still, as the process is continually evolving it is not possible to learn once then forget. With any do it yourself SEO process it is necessary to commit time and resources to ongoing education or risk being left behind.
With SEO costs rising (see above) the only alternative for many business owners is the DIY option.The issue is where should a business turn to for quality advice on how to take on their own search engine marketing efforts forward. Books on SEO are often out of date on the day they are published and although there is a vast amount of information online it can be difficult to determine what is current, what is valid and what is completely wrong. A few useful, and up to date resources to start a do it yourself SEO process are:
Multiple author sites:
A useful starting out resource
Some people to follow on Twitter (or G+)
SEO – Where To Start
The starting point is to define exactly what a website should achieve (in most cases it is sales leads), define precisely what is on offer, why it should be of interest to the market and what makes the offer different from all the rest. The target customers for the product should be precisely defined, resisting the temptation to try to market to everyone, as should the geographic reach (local, country wide, worldwide).
Without a marketing strategy and plan in place a large amount of SEO activity (and marketing activity in general) will be wasted. Although I will contradict myself to an extent in the next post in the series on semantic search, the next step is to decide on keywords or phrases that match with the offer. The idea is to find a phrase (avoid single words) that has a large enough number of prospects searching for that term with a relatively low level of competiion.
As an example if you offer used BMW cars then to use the keyword BMW cars will have a high potential level of interest (traffic) but also I high level of competition. You may be competing for a page 1 position on Google with BMW corporate website, New BMW car dealers and major price comparison sites all of which have significant resources to throw at SEO activity and all will outrank your site.
Using the keyword phrase Used BMW Cars reduces the competition (and the traffic). The phrase Used BMW Cars in Nottingham significantly reduces competition (and traffic) further so a balance needs to be struck. For businesses with a local potential customer base Google+ Local is an important part of the SEO mix that should not be ignored. There are many free keyword analysis tools and paid versions available, a selection of which are:
Choosing keywords is a time consuming, but essential task, and these resources deliver some useful introductory guidance the first from Rand Fishkin and another from KissMetrics. There should be one keyword phrase per page and be certain to always keep in mind relevance. The keyword phrase must match with the content theme of your page.
Meta Tags and Site Speed
With a solid selection of keywords in place the next step is to allocate one per page of your website and to set the meta titles and descriptions. Of course, this assumes your website has an appropriate content management system that allows access to the tags. Kristine Schachinger provides some useful advice on best practice.
Website load times are an increasingly important website ranking factor so it is worth checking the speed of your website at Pingdom which gives both the loadtime and an indication of how that loadtime rates against the average. If it is poor then it is worth considering employing an expert to clean up the code or to consider a new website on a more current website design platform.
The above only covers the do it yourself SEO basics, in the next post we will develop the keyword concept further and discuss semantic search and schema markup we will then conclude the series with some notes on the importance of content and backlinks to SEO.
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