The world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can seem intimidating for the uninitiated. So intimidating in fact, that it puts many people off approaching it at all, leaving SEO to chance, and to those they think of as more tech savvy than them.
But SEO doesn’t have to be something that is prohibitively technical, complicated, or expensive. An understanding of SEO basics can be easily achieved with a bit of time and effort. And with a small amount of knowledge, it is possible to bring about big changes and impressive, real results.
All the major aspects of SEO, from working out which keywords will generate the highest amount of traffic to your website, to link building and designing a great user experience can be easily achieved without hiring or becoming an SEO expert.
SEO can be complex but it doesn’t have to be baffling, and it is more than worth investing your time in. So let’s look at what you could achieve over the course of just one year, sticking to a focused SEO campaign, taking just a few steps and concentrating on keyword planning, and raising your search engine placings.
What is SEO?
At its core, SEO is the practice of increasing traffic to your website by making your website as friendly to the user and search engines as possible, and by perfecting your content in order to attract as many people to click through to your site as possible.
As moz.com states, “despite the acronym, SEO is as much about people as it is about search engines themselves. It’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume.” It’s about connecting you with your potential customers and making your site the answer to their questions.
You may have heard about keywords and their importance in SEO. However, gone are the days when a few keywords placed strategically into your site was enough to get you high up in the search engine results. The aim of SEO these days is to make your site as attractive to customers as possible. Google’s emphasis has switched to rewarding those sites which users rate as useful and relevant. And that is definitely to your advantage if you’re just starting out in SEO.
How can SEO work for your business?
For the purposes of this article, let’s take a fictional company, we’ll call them Dining Style; a catering firm based in London. Dining Style is a successful small business grown over several years through word-of-mouth recommendations and a modest online presence. But the company owners are looking to expand their share of the market and they’re looking to see whether SEO could be the way to do it.
Where should they put their efforts and what can they likely expect from a year’s hard work focusing on SEO?
Currently, Dining Style is languishing down on the second page of the Google search engine results pages (SERP) when their customers search for ‘Caterers London’. They know this puts them at a considerable disadvantage as 75% of people never scroll past the first page of results.
The company owners have undertaken some research into keyword searches and from that, they know that by using the Google Ad Keyword Planner and Keywords Everywhere, they can find out which keywords are most commonly being used to search for catering firms in the areas of the country they serve.
Google Keyword Planner is a free-to-use tool within Google Ads and is extremely useful in offering insights into what terms people are searching and the number of times per month each specific keyword or phrase has been searched. What makes it even more useful is that allows you to tailor your campaign to specific locations by breaking results down into geographic areas. For more information on how you best utilize Google’s Keyword Planner, have a read of this article by Google themselves, or this article where Google explain why Keyword research is so important.
In Dining Style’s case, the owners have discovered that the keywords ‘Catering London’ is searched 2,400 times per month, making it by far the most searched term of all the word/phrase variations they can think of surrounding their trade in the location they serve. Through using the keyword research tool, they can also see that people who also searched for London caterers sometimes used the phrase ‘Party caterers London’ (210 times/month) and ‘Corporate catering London’ (260 times/month) and ‘Event catering London’ (720 times/month) too. That helps them to know which keywords they should also be used on their site for their SEO campaign.
However, simply knowing which keywords are most searched each month, is only half the picture. For an effective SEO campaign, you need to be able to turn those searches into people clicking through to your site. For that, it’s important to know how much competition you have from your business rivals who will also be wanting to use the same kinds of keywords as you. If a thousand different catering firms include the keywords ‘Catering London’ to bring in traffic, but only five use ‘Vegan Caterers London’ then your hit rate can actually be higher by including less searched terms in your site. You can also see areas where you could potentially find a niche market that isn’t being (literally) catered to, and tailor your content and your business to them.
Keyword research is a vital part of your campaign as it enables you to discover which keywords people use when searching, and how often different words and phrases are being entered into the Google search engine. Knowing this allows you to match your site content to those particular search phrases. And knowing this allows you to rise your way up towards those coveted top Google rankings.
Ranking at the top of the Google search listings matters because it not only means that yours is one of the first links people will see when they undertake a search, therefore making you one of the most likely to be clicked on by default, but also because being ranked near the top of the page has important connotations in the eyes of your customer. Being a Google top ranking company says to your audience that you are big, established, and most importantly, trustworthy. There is an air of authenticity about appearing near the top of the page that will make a significant impact of the number of visits your site receives.
There are of course search engines other than Google, but given that Google owns 70% of the search engine market share, you can see why it makes sense to focus your attention on their search engine over any other.
Converting SEO into Leads
So how do you do it? And how do you do it in the space of a year?
Climbing into the top Google rankings isn’t something you can achieve overnight. This is where so-called keyword metrics become all important. As we already know, keyword selection is a vital part of increasing your ranking. If the only keywords you are placing into your content are the same ones that all your competitors are using, you will fail to make advances.
So your first task after completing your research is to draw up a long list of core keywords you need to be using. Include ‘long-tail keywords’ – phrases of more than three words that people use to narrow their search right down to a specific product, service or location. ‘Corporate catering services London’ for example is searched just ten times per month meaning it might not be searched for often, but by including it in your keywords, you have a good chance of being matched with the ten customers who do use that particular long-tail phrase every month. And by choosing more obscure phrases, get yourself ahead of your competition who may not have thought of the same keywords. Obviously, if you can be in the top position for the search term ‘Caterers London’, you are going to see dramatic sales increases, however, that is far harder to achieve than say, being in position number one for the term ‘Vegan caterers London’.
With your keyword research done, and your long list of keywords to include now complete, your next step is to turn your research into a campaign strategy that leads to a rise in your Google ranking, and the subsequent rise in site visits and conversions.
You might at this point be asking yourself, a couple of very sensible questions. Ok, so I could put all that hard work into raising my Google ranking, but is it really going to be lead to more business? How much extra traffic does a top Google ranking actually bring with it?
If you want to get an idea of how moving up the Google rankings could impact your sales then we need to look at the average click-through rates (CTR) for each position. Let’s say, through our targeted keyword work, we can get Dining Style to move up from the second page of rankings to a position on the first page of results, which is perfectly achievable through a targeted focus on keyword placement.
A great deal of research has been done in recent years by those who live, eat and breathe SEO into click-through rates and most find very similar results. You can look at https://moz.com/blog/google-organic-click-through-rates-in-2014 for the whole breakdown of the results and how they’re obtained. It makes for interesting reading and absolutely confirms that rankings matter where leads are concerned, showing that for example, those companies whose results appear in positions 1-5, account for 67.60% of all the clicks through to sites, and those in results 6-10, account for just 3.73%.
For our purposes, let’s take a look at what moving up the rankings could do for the numbers of people clicking through to Dining Style’s website.
The formula is pretty simple really. It goes…
Traffic = search volume x CTR / 100
(visits per month)
So, in the case of ‘Vegan caterers London’, being in position one of the Google rankings could very well lead you to expect;
90 searches per month x CTR of 31.24 = 28.12 visits per month
And don’t forget, that is just from that one searched term alone. Obviously the more keywords you are ranking highly for, the more extra visits you will receive.
For being in position one for ‘North London caterers’, you could expect to see;
320 searches per month x CTR of 31.24 = 99.97 extra visits per month.
Obviously, these figures are not guarantees and the metrics are made a little more complicated if you break them down by the fact that research shows CTRs alter slightly when you allow for factors like search intent, branded as opposed to unbranded products, and whether there are ads featuring above you, but for our purposes, it is a reliable guide to what kind of success you might very well expect to see if you can move up those search engine rankings.
Dining Style’s SEO campaign over the year will need to be focused on more than just Keywords to really make an impact on their Google rankings. Given that Google’s focus is now firmly on rewarding sites that prioritize the user experience and quality content over pure keywords, Dining Style will have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort making sure their website content is interesting and addressing their customers’ needs, that their site is easy to navigate and the structure is tidy and user friendly, and that it contains plenty of backlinks (see here for more information on backlinks) to really get those top rankings.
However, assuming they do, and using the average conversion rate of 5%, then by placing themselves in position one for just five of their target keywords, they could realistically be expecting an extra ? leads per month from just one year of focusing on these free, easily achievable SEO steps.
SEO isn’t a quick fix solution. It takes time and commitment. But it will yield results if you stick at it.
For a glossary of all those terms which seem designed to baffle those new to SEO, take a look at the extremely useful https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/seo-glossary.