Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has proven to be a baffling topic for many small businesses over the years, and more than a few have fallen victim to the various snake-oil merchants and charlatans who still sadly stalk the industry looking to prey on the unwary.
Though it’s potentially a very broad subject, the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) are actually surprisingly straightforward. Drill them into your head and you’ll be able to steer clear of scammers and have a much clearer picture of how to drive your own site’s success.
SEO ultimately boils down to a mix of on-site elements and off-site factors, all supported by great content. We’ll concentrate on the on-site elements below and tee up a further discussion of the other aspects for another day.
On-Site SEO Elements To Pay Attention To
In terms of basic per-page SEO, there is a small subset of obvious elements you should make sure are tackled first. Don’t get bogged down in online waffle or decision paralysis about the hundreds of elements search engines are allegedly tracking – get the following taken care of first:
- Title tag and meta description: The title tag tells search engines what your page is about and should be under 70 characters. The description fleshes out the title and should be under 160 characters. Make them read naturally, and don’t stuff either with keywords. A word of warning: Both of these should be easily editable in your content management system. If they’re not, find another CMS solution pronto!
- A sensible page structure with headings: Make sure your content is sensibly structured and makes judicious use of headings throughout to both lead the reader and give search engines clues about which parts are important.
- Images: If there are images in your content, give them meaningful filenames and include ALT tags for accessibility and to provide search engines with context.
Take care of those three things and you’ll be ahead of a surprising amount of sites.
Off-Site Optimization Is Mostly About Gathering Links
We’ll talk more about specific strategies for gathering links in a further article, but for now the point to take on board is that you will need to devote specific resources to getting them. It’s not just going to happen automatically.
More, in this case, is also not necessarily better. You are after quality incoming links from relevant, reliable sources – not thousands of random links from the more dubious parts of the internet. Link building is a set of skills and tasks all unto itself and is something you should be prepared to invest both time and money in down the line.
By far the biggest SEO mistake small business owners tend to get suckered into is paying for sketchy link building efforts that deliver huge amounts of bad incoming links which actually end up tanking rankings rather than improving them. Don’t make that mistake!
SEO can be a minefield for small businesses but, once you strip away the smoke and mirrors, the basics of search engine optimisation are relatively straightforward. Start by making sure the on-site elements we’ve mentioned above are in order on your current content, then move on to considering link building and content marketing strategies. We’ll cover both of the latter two in more detail in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!