Chances are by now you've heard about SEO. But what is it? And how does it affect your business? Keep reading to find out.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – An Introduction

What is SEO?

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s the process of optimising your website and web pages to make it easier for search engines to find your page. This is often done through keywords, content, header styles, and descriptive meta fields that make it easy for the “crawlers” that search engines use to make sure the most relevant pages are at the top of search results.

As you probably already know, our reliance on search engines has made SEO a booming business. There are hundreds of small SEO firms in every city, and hundreds of thousands that operate from faraway places like India and China. However there are simple things you can do yourself to improve your website for the search engines. If you do require help, it is vitally important that you shop around and find someone with good references.

Why is it beneficial?

When you need to find out about something new or you’re looking for a product or service , what’s the first thing you do? Most likely Google it! With so many people searching for things, the business of providing them with answers has become a profitable market.

If you can get your website at the top or on the first page of the search engine results page, (or SERP’s if you want to sound like an industry insider), you will see a greater amount of qualified traffic to your website. Qualified traffic consists of people who have already stated their intent to purchase your services, simply by searching for them. It’s much easier to get a client that already has a need for  your services than it is to convince a random individual that they need what you have to offer.

How do I get started?

1. Keyword research

It’s important to know what customers will be looking for before you optimise your website to make it easy for them to find you. You can do this with keyword research, which is the practice of finding out the terms that real people enter into search engines when they’re trying to find information.

Tool: – FREE

This is one of the few free tools that you can use for keyword research, and it’s excellent. Search for a term that you would likely search for to come to your website, say “Salon in Auckland” and it’ll give you other related search terms that people will be typing.

2. Page titles and meta descriptions

Now that you know what people are searching for, it’s time to craft your page titles to coincide with popular search terms. It’s a good idea to keep page titles within 55 characters, as search engines like Google typically only display between 50-60 characters on search engine results pages.

Next, it’s time to update your meta description, which is a field that’s used to describe your web page. Make sure this writing is enticing and inviting – you want the person on the computer to click through and check out your website as opposed to the next listing in the search results.

Updating your meta descriptions will be different depending on how your website is built – if you can’t find the meta description box, ask your web designer.

Tool: Yoast plugin for WordPress – FREE

Using Yoast, you can update the meta section and page title right below your page content, and it’ll tell you what your SEO score is.

3. Content, content, content

Regularly posting original content to your website tells search engines that you’re still relevant. That’s how they distinguish your site from the thousands of other websites that are dead and outdated.

An easy way to do this is with a blog on your website. Creating original content every week can be a challenge, but it is certainly worth it. If you can’t commit to once a week, make it once a month but make sure you consistently stick to that. Here’s an excerpt from our “Get started with a website” article:

If you’re looking for content ideas, here’s something a small business owner in the accounting industry once said:

“It’s usually not worth my time to create blog posts from scratch. What I do try to do on the blog is answer many of the questions the clients ask me. The questions are usually about taxes or payroll. What I’ve noticed is that, if they’re asking me those questions, other people are asking Google, and I’m now ranking very high on search engines for a lot of these questions. They get a lot of shares too, because everyone knows someone with an accounting question.

These articles get me both traffic and sales, but I do think that the blog posts that answer questions have a higher conversion rate than other ones because I’ve already done something for these readers. They know I’m knowledgeable and they don’t seem to want to go elsewhere after one of their questions has been answered and simplified.”

Many people wonder how giving away free content is going to benefit their business as they’re not getting paid for it. However, showing your knowledge and authority in a particular area makes them much more likely to spend their money with you, when that time comes.

search engine optimisation

4. Social media

Connect your social media accounts to your website so that visitors are able to connect with you elsewhere, and this will raise your rank in search engines. Make sure you regularly update your social media accounts with interesting content for your target audience, as this will lead to more traffic to your website. Encourage others to link to your content as well – but you need social media to distribute that content to them first.

5. Alt tags and image descriptions

Whenever you add a new image to your website, include alt tags and image descriptions to increase your search engine optimisation. Alt tags provide alternative text descriptions of your image in case the image won’t load for them. Image descriptions are different from alt tags as they won’t be seen by your website visitor but the search engines can check the relevancy of the keywords and then index accordingly in the search results.

6. Link building

Google’s aim (as with the other search engines) is to show the searcher content that is relevant to their search. There are various ways that they can measure this that we have already covered, but another vitally important way they measure it is through the number of links that are pointing at your website. If another good quality and authoritative website has a link to yours, they are saying to Google “Hey, this is good content and we like it!” Google then takes this as a thumbs up that your website is the bees knees for that particular audience.

7. Get on Google Places

If you’re a local business, you want to be dominating search engine results pages when people in your area search for your services. Google Places can help you do just that. Sign up to the service, enter your details, and link back to your website. It can take up to 4 weeks for your results to show, but when they do, you’ll see a noticeable increase in local search engine traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation Summary

SEO isn’t impossible to do yourself, with a little research, time, and determination. The trick is to do it consistently, which is easier if you do it as you’re creating your pages and posts on the page. Keep in mind that it can take a few weeks for your results to show, both in search engine results pages, and in your ranking checker, so be patient!