Do It Yourself SEO

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Do It Yourself SEO

Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer keyboard

In this instalment of Words that Bite, I look at the thorny question of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).


Think about SEO from the beginning, but don’t get obsessed

There is no doubt that one of the biggest buzzwords online these days is ‘SEO’.

Everyone is talking about how important it is. There is never-ending chatter about black hat and white hat methods, algorithms, spiders, and bots. More recently there has been a lot of talk of penguins and how they rank websites.

Baffled?

You are not the only one.

On top of all that, there are literally thousands of companies out there that promise to optimise your site and get you to page one of Google.

Perhaps it is time to learn a few basic things about SEO.

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process by which you try to improve the visibility of a website in a search engine’s natural or unpaid (organic) search results in Google, or other search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing.

These days, SEO is not just about optimising your website; over the past few years, it has evolved dramatically. It is now much more about optimising all your digital assets, such as websites, blogs, your social media presence, videos, images, press releases, eBooks, etc.

I think the best way of looking at SEO is that it is not only a science but an art. My personal view is that it is probably more of an art than a science. Still, I am a firm believer that if you follow the basic rules in an intelligent way, you will improve your SEO results dramatically. It may not happen instantly, but it will happen.

At the same time, you need create a website that is going to be read by living, breathing human beings, so it also needs to have a bit of ‘sparkle’. All website copy should not only be well-written, but also punchy. It should attract a reader’s attention. This is what I mean when I say that you shouldn’t get obsessed by SEO. Or, rather, don’t forget the sparkle when you are working on your SEO.

How important is Google?

There is no doubt that, from a SEO perspective, Google is the most important search engine to conquer, especially if your business is based in Australia and the bulk of your customers and clients is located here.

In May 2013, in the United States the figures for market share for the main search engines were:

Google 66.7%

Bing 17.4%

Yahoo! 11.9%

In Australia, however, we seem to be besotted by Google. In February 2013 in Australia, Google had an astounding 92.11% market share, while all the other search engines together held a mere 7.89% market share.

This means that, in Australia, all your SEO efforts should be focused on Google. That isn’t to say that the strategies you use for Google won’t be relevant for other search engines. Instead, it means that if your business focuses on selling products and services in the Australian market, you have no choice but to concentrate on Google.

How important is SEO for my business website?

SEO is vital for your business website if you want it to help sell your product or service.

The objective, especially in Australia, is to try to ensure that your website ranks on page one of Google for its chosen keywords.

How does Google rank webpages?

Google’s main concern is to give its customers a positive user experience. For this reason, it tries to produce the highest-quality search results for specific keyword searches.

There are two key things Google does to achieve that goal:

  1. It indexes pages on the web.
  2. It ranks those pages.

These two elements are separate, but they are linked.

The name of the ‘creature’ that crawls across the web and indexes webpages is Googlebot (sometimes it is called a spider).

In order to rank those pages, Google uses an algorithm called the Google PageRank Algorithm. No-one, except the nice people at Google, knows what the algorithm is. Google claims that the algorithm looks at more than 200 components when it ranks a webpage. To make matters even more complicated, the algorithm is constantly modified, so anyone working in SEO is always playing catch-up.

The current code name for the Google algorithm is Google Penguin, so if your web designer/developer/copywriter starts talking about penguins, they are probably referring to the algorithm, not their most recent trip to Antarctica.

Despite the secrecy surrounding Google Penguin, we do have some idea what it looks for when it ranks websites. It seems to be a complex combination of the following three elements:

  1. Appropriate use of keywords.
  2. High-quality links.
  3. Well-written content.

Yes, it seems that Google Penguin can detect a well-written website, or what I call the sparkle, so it is very important to ensure that the humble written word is doing its absolute best for your business, especially when you are trying to attract customers and clients online.

‘Black hat’ versus ‘white hat’ SEO

What is black hat SEO?

Since SEO is so important from a business perspective, there are people out there who try to trick Google and take shortcuts to SEO success. They will promise you the world. They will probably talk about how SEO is just a matter of stuffing your website with keywords and doing dodgy deals to get links. These methods are known as black hat.

Black hat SEO may work for a while but, in the end, Google will probably catch you out. At that point you may find that your website drops from page one to page 936 for your chosen keywords. Even worse, you could find yourself blacklisted by Google!

What is white hat SEO?

In contrast, white hat SEO follows Google’s rules.

It uses the following strategies:

  1. It focuses on finding high-quality keywords that are then strategically placed in your website and in supporting digital assets, such as social media, your blog or images.
  2. It works slowly to develop high-quality links to your website.
  3. It ensures that the content of your website is not only high-quality, but well-written. (After all, who hasn’t become frustrated when visiting a website that is full of valuable content that is badly organised and poorly written?)

These are the strategies that I like to employ. They take a bit of time to get results and you have to be patient, but they lead to long-term success.

So, if you can’t afford to hire someone to work on your SEO, can you do it yourself?

The short answer to that question is ‘yes’.

It is remarkable what the average small business-owner can do to improve his or her website ranking on Google, just by employing a sensible SEO strategy.

Basically, it is a matter of:

  1. Researching SEO, so you understand the basic principles.
  2. Identifying the best keywords for your business.
  3. Writing great content.
  4. Developing quality links.

To summarise

I think that the main trick with SEO is to follow the basic rules, but also remember that you are writing for people. In short, don’t get obsessed with the technical aspects. Do your keyword research. Refrain from engaging in keyword-stuffing, or over-filling your website with your keywords. Have your keywords in mind as you write, but also make sure you write for human beings. After all, when it comes down to it, your website should be all about providing web browsers with a pleasant user experience.

In the next instalment of Words that Bite, the Pink Rottweiler will look in more detail at the first stage of developing your SEO strategy – how to find the right keywords for your business.

Are you too busy running your business to think about your SEO? Would you like someone to look after it for you? If so, call the Pink Rottweiler on +61 (0)409 609 903 or email me at info@pinkrottweilercopywriting.com.au.

Who is the Pink Rottweiler? The Pink Rottweiler is Genevieve Burnett – a copywriter who will take the time to research your business and come up with the smart words to sell your product or service.

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