Search-engine optimisation (SEO)
Search-engine optimisation (SEO) is the art of fine-tuning and promoting a website so that, over time, it will rank highly in search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.
SEO is a specialised marketing field that overlaps with web design. At Applegreen, we begin the process SEO by working in the keywords that have been agreed with the client. But we leave the long-term reputation-building work to the experts. This is what we mean when we say we carry out basic SEO on our websites.
Applegreen’s role in your website’s SEO
For new websites, we approach SEO in three ways:
- Building the right architecture so the website is easily crawled and indexed by search engines;
- Making the site relevant to your customers — which means understanding how they think, so you can give them what they are looking for;
- Boosting the website’s reputation in your industry or field.
Responsibility for each section is shared out between the web designer and the search-engine optimisation specialist.
A website’s architecture is squarely the responsibility of the web designer. We make sure your website’s navigation clear, its purpose unambiguous and avoids duplications. We implement redirections if the structure of your pages has changed. All this ensures your website gets the best start.
The web designer has to start by researching the keywords or key phrases a customer might use to find you. This will vary with the business and the area over which it aims to operate. We then place them in the strategic places on your website where search engines look for them. The SEO specialist would take this further. They have analytical tools to experiment with different keywords and work out which have the greatest effect.
Reputation building is a complex field. SEO specialists work closely with clients to help their website climb ahead of its competitors.
What are keywords and key phrases
They are the words and phrases your customers are searching for, with which you hope that they will find you. Your business name is important but it is not the first thing a customer will search on if they have never heard of you.
Imagine you run a small bread baking from home. You sell sell to local shops and you want your website to help you expand. Let’s say your business is called Homeloaves. People who haven’t heard of you are unlikely to type “homeloaves” into a search engine. Your keywords will be bread, home baked, delicous loaves, etc.
But if you are baking in Brighton, you’re unlikely to be selling in Sunderland. It is an advantage to narrow the geographical area where possible and to make this part of your key phrases.
Applegreen researches keywords and keyphrases to help us choose the best ones for your area and your business. We then incorporate them into your website’s search engine optimisation strategy.
Any new businesses entering a crowded marking should focus on its unique selling point (USP) early on and expand later. Your bakery may be the only one locally making the Middle-Eastern delicacy baklava: aim to rank on that first.
Keyword placement in your website
The keywords, once chosen have to be added to your website in locations that search engines normally look. This means using them in headers, permalinks, metatags and, judiciously, in the text of each of your pages.
WordPress website owners can do a lot of this themselves with the help of a plugin. We normally recommend Yoast, which we use ourselves. Read our guide to SEO and keyword placement.
Ranking first with Google
Here is what Google themselves say about this: “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.” They recommend you beware of SEO companies making such promises.
Google give clear guidelines for choosing a professional SEO company. Climbing up the rankings takes time and ongoing effort, and the competition can be fierce. We would refer you to specialists in the field for this ongoing work.
But there are a few things you can do yourself. Your website will work for you only if you work for it. Managing at least one social media account helps you connect with your customers and drive traffic to your website. This will take commitment and time on your part.
Analytics: tracking visitors to your website
It’s no longer fashionable to display counters that show off the numbers of people who have visited a website!
Google provides a free tool for tracking visitor numbers to your website, called Google Analytics (GA). Applegreen places GA tracking code on websites when asked. We will also register them with Google Webmaster Tools, which provides extra keyword information and monitors malicious interference by hackers.
You can ask for regular analytics reports if desired. We charge for analytics work at our normal hourly rate.
GA can provide long-term data that may be of use to a search-engine optimisation specialist should you choose to engage one.
Marketing your website: paid vs organic rankings
Marketing dovetails with search-engine optimisation and to an extent with design. Good design that draws visitors to your products is the starting point for marketing.
As any new business takes time to build up a reputation, a new website takes time to climb through the “organic rankings” of search engines. This is true even when you’re doing everything right.
What are organic rankings? They are the positions naturally achieved by websites in search engine listings for a particular keyword. Rankings are determined by that search engine’s algorithms. This excludes the sponsored websites that appear at the top or down the right-hand side of the list. We call these sponsored links.
An SEO specialist may recommend that you pay for sponsorship so that your website is visible very quickly. Google Adwords work on a pay-per-click basis: you only pay for the advertising when someone clicks on it to reach your website. The “cost per click” varies with the competition for keywords. Paying more achieves a higher position in the list of sponsored links.
If you choose to work with an SEO specialist, decide in advance how much you want to spend. Large companies may be able to fork out several hundred pounds per month for detailed tracking of traffic to their site. This may not be appropriate for smaller businesses or organisations.
Google ads vs organic search-engine optimisation
You may well ask, as I have done, why organic rankings still matter in a world of Adwords. Will paid search will ever supplant the free organic queries? Let’s hear two voices giving the arguments.
Alex Miller wrestles with this question (see his Section 5). He points out that businesses can choose paid ads or organic SEO, or a mix of the two. However, SEO-dependent websites can suddenly drop through the rankings if Google undergoes a major change of search algorithm. He expresses skepticism of Google’s motives in continually changing its algorithm with the purported intent of improving the relevancy of searches. He claims that Google’s stock price increases with every change.
Phil Singleton concurs that Adwords drive 90% of Google’s revenues and are therefore essential to its business model. However, he makes another valuable point. Google’s main focus is to provide the best search results of any search engine. Without this benefit? the public will switch to another one. Providing excellent organic search results is the only way for Google to place its ads in front of an audience. Phil writes: “They must always be sure not to cannibalize their own revenues by diluting the value of organic rankings.” It seems as though organic SEO is here to stay.
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