Yes, Even You Can Do SEO!

The Importance of SEO

How visible is your organisation online? How easy is it for potential customers to find you when they first begin looking for a solution to their problem, an answer to their question? With statistics telling us the overwhelming majority of searchers click on a result on the first page of the search engines, we’re all chasing those golden spots.  We know how important it is to achieve a high ranking, especially for small businesses whose brand awareness may be on the low side. But how do we get there?

Businesses can certainly go down the paid route with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, but it’s best to use those as short, tactical efforts and not as the long-term solution. To gain real traction you’ll need to focus on SEO – search engine optimisation – and a more natural rise to the coveted first slots.

For many people SEO can seem more like a dark art than any other art form, especially with headlines warning about the penalties organisations can incur if they do SEO wrong. The search engines keep their algorithms secret and it’s hard to know just where to start. But as I read more about it, it would seem that a good SEO strategy is fairly straightforward and mostly common sense.

DIY…really!

Of course, straightforward doesn’t mean simple, and it may be a good idea to bring in the experts to help you put an SEO plan in place. But if you’d like to have a crack at it yourself, or even if you’re just interested in understanding a bit more about it, I highly recommend The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimisation by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola.

Don’t be put off by the hefty size – the illustrations and example screenshots account for the high page count. But it’s incredibly easy to read and even the technical bits are presented in a friendly tone of voice that will have you believing this is something you can understand.

The book starts with a high level overview of what SEO is all about and moves progressively deeper into practical how tos and best practices for SEO. Here were my main takeaways:

  • SEO should be factored into marketing plans and digital channels much earlier than it normally is. It should be more of a first step than an afterthought. But even if you’re coming to it after your website is up and running, now is the time to start.
  • Everything you do should be customer focused and all about providing relevant, timely content that will add value to a customer. Whilst there are numerous techniques available for building links and driving traffic to your site, you’ll only see sustainable benefits if you’re meeting customer needs in a real way. This is where the straightforward and common sense elements kick in. You can’t focus solely on the latest releases to Google’s algorithms or spend your whole time chasing links. You need to remember that your customers are the intended audience for your message and the search engines are the channels to reach them effectively.
  • This is an ever-changing landscape, which makes it both scary and exciting. Develop a curiosity about SEO and a hunger to know more. There are tried and true techniques that should be put in place today, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work next year, or even a few months down the line. SEO is about testing various options, refining your strategy and never being complacent about what you’ve achieved.

Ask, and then ask again

Even though I’m no longer a newbie in digital marketing, I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of all the information that’s out there. The great news is you can build an amazing community that can help answer any questions you may have. Here are a few of the resources I always turn to:

Seth Godin; http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

I’ve long enjoyed Seth Godin’s writing on marketing, customers, psychology and general outlook on life. He’s essential reading in my opinion.

Daily SEO Tip; http://dailyseotip.com

I’ve found this blog quite interesting and they approach the topic of SEO from a number of different angles. I get it delivered to my inbox for convenience.

SEOMoz: http://www.seomoz.org/blog

The go-to SEO community. These guys and gals are friendly and generous with their knowledge and time.

eConsultancy: http://econsultancy.com/uk/

Covering a range of topics, including SEO, this is an indispensable resource for anyone working in the digital space.

Twitter: www.twitter.com

There are so many amazing people on Twitter who are (again) so generous with their knowledge and opinions. Here are a few people who always have something interesting or challenging to say:

@mollyflatt

@ThisIsSethsBlog

@bryonythomas

@karenmcgrane

@dorieclark

@jcolman

@rlovinger

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