But what should you be doing to give your business the best chance of getting ahead of the local competitors?
Here is our list of essential tips that you should follow to ensure your SEO and Internet Marketing strategy is on track.
- SEO is for life, not just for the new tax year. This process is not a one-off event. You have to commit regular time to reap the long-term benefits, keeping an eye on current events, changes in search engine algorithms and your competitors.
- Content is king. Your website must contain relevant and hopefully unique content. How will people rate your website compared to all the others. If your aim is to be in the top 10 (1st page rankings) then people have to find it worthwhile visiting.
- Use Google Analytics – NOW! It’s free and it tracks your website statistics and your SEO goals. If you are spending a lot of time and money on SEO and Internet Marketing campaigns then you need to be able to measure your successes and failures from day zero. This free tool does it all. Did I mention it’s free?
- Research your keywords. To gain a competitive edge, you will need to know the keywords and key-phrases people are using to search for the products and services you are offering. Identifying high volume keywords is an essential start to your campaign. There is no point in optimising your website for keywords nobody is searching for. There are free tools such as WordTracker , Keyword Discovery and Google Keywords that can help determine search volumes. The sites do have premium pay-for services that offer better results.
- It takes time. You will need a lot of patience before you start to see some results come in from any SEO campaign. Two or three months is the usual period. You will need to keep a daily or weekly eye on the reports to see where your volume of traffic is coming from and modify your ad entries appropriately.
- Start a PPC campaign. Perhaps the biggest of these Pay-Per-Click campaigns is Google AdWords. If you don’t have the patience to wait a few months for results to trickle in then PPC is a solution worth considering. This method costs money and it is advisable to set a reasonable monthly budget otherwise your advert won’t make it into the top list. Yahoo has a similar system in place called Yahoo Search Marketing, as do many other lesser web directories. Make your ad short and snappy as there is a lot of competition out there. Again, use a tool such as Google Analytics to monitor your campaign goals and the volume generated.
- Use search engine friendly URLs. Placing relevant keywords in URL folders and filenames will help the robot crawlers rank your pages higher. E.g. http://www.mydomain.com/sw234724.php#SMN or http://www.mydomain.com/super-widget-model-2008/save-money-now.php. Which URL do you think will get a higher relevance ranking for saving money on the super widget model 2008? Make sure to use hyphens rather than an underscore in filenames. Hyphens are treated as spaces by most search engines whereas underscores are not.
- Use keywords for internal links. Use proper keywords when creating anchor links internally within your site. Again, this will help the search crawlers index your website more effectively for relevance. Try to avoid links such as click me or click here. Instead use natural language for the links. E.g. fantastic autumn offers or get a free quote now.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the dark side of the force paper advertising. Yes, even the nerdiest SEO guru will admit to you that some people do actually read papers and magazines (once in a while). It’s not all about on-line marketing. Expanding your campaign to advertise your website address on local media can drive a surprising amount of traffic to your site. Sponsoring a local event or fund-raiser can give your website the volumes of traffic your campaign is looking for.
- Social Networking. Ever heard of Facebook, Beebo or MySpace? If you haven’t, then, OMG, LOL, whr hv u bn l8ly? Seriously though, if you are looking for volumes of people interested in a particular niche, then social networking sites such as those aforementioned are worth targeting. Create a free profile on each of the sites and populate them with targeted information, drawing links back to your website. Add groups, discussion topics, photos and videos. Be warned, social networking sites need to be updated frequently, so expect to put in a few additional hours per week to keep them fresh.
- Don’t put all your baskets in one egg. The internet can be a fragile place once money and politics come in to play. The dot.com bubble crash of the late 1990’s taught that lesson to each of us. Just because Google directs 85% of your website traffic today, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Search engine websites are always updating and refining their algorithms. What if such an update precluded all or even part of your website? Spreading your SEO campaign over multiple web directories is prudent planning.
- Blog that. If you have a dynamic website with content that can be updated often, then creating a web log or blog can increase traffic to your website. Bear in mind though that this is a long-term investment. People will only stick with reading a blog if it is updated regularly with interesting material. Blogs come in all shapes and forms but ideally you want to host one on your own website URL to help drive traffic volume. There are plenty of blogging tools and modules that you can add to your own website.
- Inbound Link Generation. Without going into too much detail, search engine algorithms will give your web site or web page a higher ranking if it has been linked to from an existing high page-ranking website. The number of links you have from your website doesn’t really count much in the ranking process. It’s the inbound links, or links from other websites, that really count. To simplify (a lot), if your website was mentioned and linked from the main Google front page, it would carry a shed-load more importance than if it was linked to from 8yo Stan’ Under Construction DIY Trinket Box Web Page.
- Beware of Spammers. We all receive hundreds of spam emails every day; Cheap Viagra, Update Your Bank Details, My Uncle In South Samoa Left Me 6.1 Million Dollars… blah.. blah.. SEO is no different. Because it is a topical media subject, spammers are out in force. If you are looking to hire an SEO firm, first do some research into the company. Ask questions, lots of questions. Politely excuse yourself from those who offer 10,000 search engine submissions for £50. Yeah, in reality it would take me all of about 1 hour to code a program to do that, but what worth are you getting? What’s the page ranking for the websites you’re letting these companies submit your URL to? Are any of them link-farms that are banned by Google etc? Make sure your SEO company knows what they are talking about and at the very least, have some sort of ethical submission policy.