Do you know your SEO? If you’re like most business owners, you may have an idea about search engine optimisation and how it’s vital for your website being in tip-top shape, but most likely, it’s all a bit fuzzy too.
Not to worry, because in this in-depth SEO guide for businesses, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know so that the next time you’re tinkering around with the inner workings of your site — or your digital marketing agency is doing it for you — you’ll know what you’re doing or what your agency is talking about.
Your SEO Guide for Businesses
The worldwide web has gone from one rudimentary website in 1991 to nearly 2 billion today, and there are more coming online all the time as even the smallest of businesses realise they need a space in the digital world so their customers and potential new ones can see them.
Standing out in this packed online realm is tough, and you need to ensure your digital offering — your website — is fully optimised for search engine success so that you get traffic, conversions and sales.
That, in a nutshell, is what SEO is all about.
And, mostly, it’s done for the globally dominant search engine Google, which commands over 86% of worldwide search volume — it’s essentially the internet overlord regarding SEO and everything else connected with the web.
Find more statistics at Statista
Search King: Other search engines have little success compared to the runaway popularity of Google, meaning companies must tailor their SEO to its diktats.
When Google frequently tweaks its search algorithms or mathematical formulas to improve search results and the overall user experience, companies can see their website traffic change in a second — from record highs to pitiful lows — because they’re no longer in compliance with the rules.
Websites can go from enjoying high visibility online to disappearing — and their businesses along with them. One of the most noteworthy of many algorithm changes in recent times was the Google Penguin update that was rolled out in 2012.
Designed to reward high-quality sites with higher rankings and weed out websites that engaged in so-called black hat SEO practices (like keyword stuffing and questionable link schemes), as well as having little or no decent content, many sites suffered while others gained.
Google doesn’t just have one algorithm but lots of them, and collectively, they form its ranking systems. “To give you the most useful information,” says Google, “Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.”
To stay in Google’s good books and make sure your site is not penalised with lower rankings — or hardly any at all — there’s a lot of SEO work to do to ensure your site is up to scratch.
The following are some initial checks to carry out to give yourself the best chance of not falling foul of current algorithms and future updates.
Is Your Site Google-Friendly?
The first step on the path to being on good SEO terms with Google is to have a website that meets its criteria for a quality site.
It starts with content, and not just any kind, but the best content you can get — company information, product details, informative and unique blogs on relevant topics, knowledge bases containing a wealth of information about a particular subject and lots more.
High-quality content “is the single most important thing to do,” advises Google. “If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site.”
Appraise all the content on your website, and if it’s of poor quality and quite thin, it’s time for an overhaul.
It takes time and expertise to create great content, and if you find you have little or neither, you can get the content department of a digital marketing agency and its skilled writers to do it for you.
Having a Google-friendly site also means having a healthy backlink profile — other sites that link to yours.
The more backlinks you have, the more Google will think your site and its content is top-notch, as other sites are linking to it, and you’ll be rewarded with higher rankings. “Links help our crawlers find your site and can give your site greater visibility in our search results,” says Google.
But before you think of heading to the nearest content farm or blog network to try and get tons of backlinks to your site, heed this warning from the search giant:
“Keep in mind that our algorithms can distinguish natural links from unnatural links. Natural links to your site develop as part of the dynamic nature of the web when other sites find your content valuable and think it would be helpful for their visitors. Unnatural links to your site are placed there specifically to make your site look more popular to search engines.”
If you’re looking to boost your site’s search visibility, it’s advisable at the outset to carry out an SEO website audit that will do it for you. You can use tools like SEMrush to identify issues, and you also need to make sure that your site is easily accessible for Google to crawl. “Build your site with a logical link structure. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link,” it says.
Get to the top of Google for free
Are You Trying to Dupe Google?
“The web is like an ever-growing library with billions of books and no central filing system. We use software known as web crawlers to discover publicly available webpages,” Google says. And if you’re engaged in efforts to try and hoodwink the all-powerful search engine, you’re most likely wasting your time because it’s futile.
As we’ve seen with the Penguin update, if you stuff your site’s pages with lots of keywords in the hope that you’ll stand a better chance of Google picking up your site in results pages, or if you have pages that are cloaked or only designed for crawlers, Google will most likely bypass your site entirely, and you’ll effectively vanish.
Essentially, a site must be set up for visitors — the human kind, who want quality content — and not software in the form of crawlers, as Google considers that “deceptive.”
It’s for the benefit of everyone — visitors and site owners — because if we were all stuffing our webpages with keywords and engaging in other shady SEO practices, the internet would soon dissolve into an unreadable mess.
Is Your Website Responsive?
Another key area in this SEO guide for businesses is mobile. If your site is not optimised to display and function properly on smartphones and tablets, it’s a safe bet that it’s not going to rank as highly as it should in search results.
That’s because Google has been putting more emphasis on mobile in the last few years, rewarding sites that are responsive, as (increasingly) that’s where the majority of the audience is.
Full Picture: Websites must have responsive design so they’re able to work on all the devices in use today, not just desktops and laptops.
Test your website on mobile devices or simply run a check. If your site is not showing properly on mobile, with text running off the page and images blocking everything out, it’s time to tweak it so it is. If you don’t know how to go about it, ask a digital marketing agency to do it for you.
How’s Your Site Speed?
Three seconds is all you have to make an impression before your visitors flee.
That’s the amount of time your website should have loaded by, and many issues can slow it down so much that it takes ages to appear — by which time, people trying to view it will have gone elsewhere.
Site speed, including on mobile, is an important ranking factor, and when Google rolled out its Speed Update in 2018, it said: “People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page.”
Other SEO ranking factors to consider are the security of your site and if it has an HTTPS certificate instead of HTTP, meaning data sent from your website to visitors is encrypted; schema markup, which is code on your pages that helps search engines give better results; and social signals, which help Google determine how visible your site is on social media platforms and the likes and shares your content gets.
Driven by updated algorithms, SEO is constantly changing, and keeping up with new developments is critical for business success.
Get a free review of your website’s SEO right now, and see how you can dramatically improve your rankings and get more business!