What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to your business. It can also be the most cost effective. Almost all the sales leads we get for our CRM system come through Google search, at no marginal cost to ourselves.
If you’ve never done any SEO on your website, you can even do it yourself once you know the basic principles.
Google decides what sites to show
When you type in a search query into Google (almost all business search is done using Google), Google tries to find the best results it can for you, in order of relevance. The maths behind exactly how Google calculates the relevance is a closely guarded secret known only to Google and is changing all the time. But put very simply it is based upon the content of that page and how popular that page is.
When you make a search Google will return the sites that it thinks best fit your query in the “organic” or “natural” search results. Google will also show advertisements for other sites, usually three at the top of the results, before the natural results, and up to eight more on the right hand side. Google makes a small effort to differentiate the ads from the natural results, either by having a slightly different background for them or showing a little yellow “Ad” sign next to them. Many people however have no idea that there is a difference between natural results and ads.
The basic rule is that you need to be on page one of the search results to get any traffic as few people click through to subsequent pages. And some people ignore all the ads in the knowledge that those sites didn’t get there because they were any good but because they paid money.
Choosing your keywords
Your keywords are what you’ll be optimising your site for. They are the words that, when somebody types them into Google, you want your web site to come up in the results. For example, for Really Simple Systems our main keywords are “Simple CRM”, “Free CRM” and “Email Marketing”, followed by “Online CRM”, “Cloud CRM” and “Small Business CRM”.
You may think you know what your keywords are, but beware: what you think your keywords are might not be what prospects are searching for. For example, when we first started out we optimised our site for “Online CRM”. Then the word “Cloud” started being used and our industry started using the words “Cloud CRM”. So we changed the optimisation of the site from “Online CRM” to “Cloud CRM”. After a week we thought we’d run a check and discovered that ten times more searches were being done for “Online CRM” that “Cloud CRM”, and so quickly set it back to that.
To find out what people are searching for, you can use the Google Keyword Tool. This will show you how many searches a month there are for a given keyword, and will suggest alternative keywords for you to look at. This tool used to be freely available but now it can only be accessed if you have an Adwords account.
You can sanity check the keywords by typing them into Google search. If your competitors have done their SEO correctly, they should turn up in the results!
Once you’ve decided what your keywords will be, you can start to optimise your site for them.
Optimising your Website
This is a really simplistic list of things to do to optimise your web site, but if you are just starting out this is a good place to begin.
Starting with your home page:
This is also important to the viewer, as it’s what appears as the big blue link on the Google results. Make sure it’s is attractive so people will click on it.
This text will be used and possibly displayed by Google against your search entry. Keep it no longer than about 160 characters.
The tag is also a key piece of data that Google uses to work out what your page is about, and can also be used by Google in the search results. For example: Making CRM Simple
If you are using a tool such as WordPress to maintain your site, maybe with an SEO add-in, make sure you look at the source HTML that is generated to make sure that all the tags are being created correctly.
The text on the page should include all your keywords somehow woven into natural English so the page reads well. You can use the keywords multiple times, but don’t overdo it as Google doesn’t like “keyword stuffing” and will penalise you if you do that.
Google can’t read the text in images, so putting keywords in images will have no effect. You can use the ALT text on the image to include keywords, though.
Once you have done your home page you can think about the other pages in your site. They should all have different titles, meta descriptions and H1 tags, and ideally each page should focus on one of your main keywords. You should also use that keyword in the page URL, for example https://www.reallysimplesystems.com/free-crm/
You’ll want to measure the improvement you’ve made to your search results. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to Google Search Console (used to be call Webmaster Tools). You’ll need to register, and then find out where your site ranks for your keywords. Keep a record of where each keyword ranks and you’ll see if your SEO is working.
Warning – Don’t rely on doing a search yourself to see where you turn up. Google personalises search results, and if it thinks you like a particular site, it will start showing it higher up just for you. If you want to do this, use a clean browser with history and cookies deleted.
It is a good idea to look at your competitors’ sites and see what keywords they are using. Look at the HTML source of the page to see what the Title, Meta Description and H1 tags are.
Take inspiration from this but do not copy it directly, Google hates plagiarism.
That’s a quick do-it-yourself guide to starting to optimise your site for Google and other searches. The next steps include getting incoming links and continually adding new content, plus more advanced techniques. These will be covered is a subsequent article.