self seo guide Introduction
What is this Self SEO guide about?
There are many businesses out there setting up their websites and hoping for the instant inflow of customers. They wait and wait… and nothing happens. No calls, no emails. No visits to the site neither (if they check their site analytics!). Often these businesses cannot understand why. After all, they spent so much time and money to make their sites so beautiful and flashy. And yet, no one cares! How is that? Day after day nothing happens. Soon they realise one of two things, either their website is not good at all, or the website is simply not discovered by a sufficient number of potential customers.
From my experience it’s the latter. The website may be beautiful but if no one is discovering it, it doesn’t really matter. On the other hand the website can be just ok, and yet bring you revenues. This is why SEO or search engine optimisation matters. To make your website visible in order to attract traffic. The reason I decided to write this Self SEO Guide is to give your business a tool to get discovered, to become competitive and to survive.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is a process of improving a site to increase visibility and discoverability when people search for a particular content, product, or service. The idea is that it is unlikely that someone will search for your product by typing the name of your business or brand. The search query is specific to what the user wants, not to what is your business name. Imagine you have e-commerce site called Mad Cat and you are selling shoes. You picked this name because you used to have a mad cat or just because you like how it sounds. You are selling shoes, not cats, and definitely nothing mad. Shoes. At the other end you have a potential customer looking to buy black shoes with white laces. How likely someone who never heard of you will type “mad cat black shoes with white laces” or something similar with your shop’s name in it? Pretty unlikely, I think. More likely the search will be more generic, “black shoes with white laces” or “buy black shoes with white laces.” This means you may never be discovered unless your site shows up in the search results when that potential customer types the query. Obviously, there are other ways of being discovered, Google Ads for example, but it’s outside of the scope of this article and we are concerned here with organic visibility of your site. More visibility, better chance to attract visitors and convert them into sales. So, the goal here is to understand why and how your site is being discovered when the user queries something in search engine.
How SEO works?
In order to answer this question, we need to understand how search engines, such as Google or Bing, collect and store (index) information about websites. So how they do that? They use bots, which are, basically, software applications programmed to perform certain tasks, to crawl pages on the web and index them like in some kind of insane supermarket where every time you want something you are presented with an alley of products relevant to your need. What it means is that the search engine algorithms index your websites, their content and many other factors to present users performing searches with most relevant results. Just think about it. Customer query is not necessarily related to the title of the page so all indexed pages are immediately assessed for their content relevancy and, well, let’s call it popularity (we will discuss it later), to give you what you seek. It happens every time a user performs a search.
Now, I mentioned Google Ads before. Google Ads allow you, the owner of a website, to cheat a bit. You pay search engine to show your website irrespectively of how good, how popular your website is. Obviously, if the content of your website is not relevant to the query, “cheating” makes no sense. You don’t want traffic that is not converting into sales. And it’s going to be too expensive. The times when Google Ads results depended only on the budget you had are gone and now you have to be relevant, you have to put more work towards it, to satisfy Quality Score. You can read more about Google Ads Quality Score here.
With organic results you cannot really “cheat” this way. You cannot pay search engine to present your website on first or second page of search results. This is where search engine optimisation comes. SEO is about making your website discoverable and visible by making content relevant, user experience better and website more “popular.” We will talk about it bit later, for now all you have to know is that search engine optimisation is about making your website visible to potential users interested in what you have there. There are millions of potential searches out there that can result in a visit to your site but in order for that to happen you have to be seen. And just to have this out of our way, there are still ways of “cheating,” so-called black hat SEO techniques, but they are as likely to hurt your business as to give you good results.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very competitive place with SEO specialists working hard to get websites ranked well but you don’t necessarily need a specialist to do well. If you run a small business paying hundreds of euros or dollars for search engine positioning may not be an option for you. You may consider it as something in the future but often your immediate needs are different. And yet, not being visible to potential customers makes you less competitive, makes you miss opportunities and revenues.
So, what can you do? Actually, quite a lot. You can optimise your website for better discovery and make sure you avoid most common errors. And before you object saying you are not a web designer; you don’t have to be! The idea behind this self-SEO tutorial is to give you the necessary knowledge and tools to do as much as you can to rank well. Sure, at some stage you are going to need SEO specialist, that’s a given, but in the meantime, you can analyse your website and optimise it for better results. And this, hopefully, will give you enough time to build your business enough to hire a specialist who can take you a step further. And again yes, you are going to need SEO expert. After all your core business is something else and you don’t need to have a detailed knowledge of search engine algorithms, recent trends and updates, link building and many other things. Simple enough? Good, let’s start then!
Starting with your search engine optimisation
The first thing you need to know is that traditionally experts talk about on-site (on-page) SEO and off-site (off-page) SEO. Often a third category of SEO is specified, technical SEO but this one is also sometimes, just to confuse you more, included in on-site SEO.
When I do website SEO I always start with on-site technical SEO. Why? It’s quite simple. Before you want to start optimising your content for keywords and before you start building your off-site strategy (link building) you want to make sure your site is optimised from technical point of view, there are no errors, the site can be crawled, you have your sitemap done… Basically that all is working well. You have to ensure good user experience to avoid being penalised by search engines. Once you ensure that, you can move on and start working on keywords strategies and optimising content to get you discovered. That’s the basic idea.
What’s next? Self SEO Guide
Right now you should have a basic knowledge of what SEO is, and why is it important for your website. The next step will be to dive into technical SEO. This will be the subject of my next blog post.
I hope you are as excited as I am. See you soon!
Good intro to SEO for small business owners. Part 2 coming?
Thank you Alastair, it’s coming 😀 Just difficult to find time 🙁