There can be little doubt about it, SEO is the modern form of alchemy. Get it right (right keywords, right message, right conversion methods) and a river of money can flow to you and your business. As amazing as it seems, all these digital bits and bytes can and do convert into real spendable cash.
The problem is that everyone else knows this as well! That means that for the real “money” markets online the competition is fierce. Very fierce. It is less like business and more like a long-term war of attrition. If you are unlucky, this means you. If you are fortunate, there are few people in your market or niche and the few of you have the field mostly to yourselves.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of helping a website to be found in the results of Google, Yahoo! and Bing. As you may know, the traffic is mostly to be found in Google, so this is where the competition is the toughest.
Google has an on/off relationship with SEO. On one hand, they want webmasters to make their content and sites as good as possible so that visitors have the best quality experience and within some limits, SEO can help to make that possible. Ensuring that some of the basic on-page factors are in place actually helps Google to see what a web page or site is all about. This is known as “white hat”. (For a good description click here).
On the other hand, there are ways to manipulate the search results. The most favoured of these involves building links into a website from other locations, proving how popular it is. Depending upon what is done and how, this is probably “grey hat”.
At the furthest end of the spectrum are all sorts of strange goings on that the average user probably would not even spot – cloaked links, the hacking of competing sites and building tens of thousands of links from less than desirable sources. This is “black hat”.
In the most competitive of online markets (such as insurance, mortgages, supplements and gambling) the companies play with incredible amounts of aggression and ruthlessness. There is so much money at stake that almost any amount of buying links, writing content, building sites and on and on, can be justified.
Hopefully you are in a much less competitive space and simply by getting your website in order you are most of the way there. If that is the case, then it really is worth the time and effort to get your website into the type of working order that is considered to be “best practice”.
Many smaller digital agencies will offer some sort of site audit to help get these things into order. They don’t do the work, but they will investigate your site closely to offer page by page recommendations to put things into the best possible order. There are other providers (such as http://seo-malta.com) that simply get on and start providing results. For the small business that is not well capitalised and cannot afford to spend multiple thousands on having someone “look at” their site, this might be a good option.
For most small businesses their keyword research is quite easy. You sell beds and are based in London? Then “beds london”, “buy beds london”, “mattress london” will probably be good places to start. You don’t need any fancy tools to help you figure out those phrases. If your business is “online” – in other words international, global or purely digital – then keyword research will play a larger role in your optimization.
The trick to keyword research is in finding target phrases that have a good number of people searching for it each and every month but are only moderately competitive, meaning that you have a chance to actually rank for that phrase. The additional trick is in finding phrases like that that people are actually likely to spend money on. For example, there will be lots of searches for “football” but they probably won’t earn much money, whereas people looking for “buy nike football boots” are probably more ready to spend money.
Things like keyword lists probably don’t need to be worked on very often, once you have them, but they are a vital first step to a successful website. It is amazing just how many companies seem to overlook even this stage and instead focus on making the photographs of the board members look pretty…
From this point in the search engine optimization process onwards, there are often changes. Google have over 200 criteria that make up it’s algorithm and they make minor changes every day to try and make it difficult to “game” the system. It is something of an arms race between Google’s Anti-Spam team and all those guys using underhand methods to try and outwit them. Therefore, it isn’t easy to write about what are the best next steps – they will almost certainly change at some point.
From here, good luck and be sure to get the best SEO help you can afford.