In this guide, I want to take the opportunity to explain to you exactly what SEO and SEM is and how it can help you take your business to a whole new level if done correctly.
But first, some stats.
Fact #2: Google receives over 100 billion searches each month according to Mashable.
Fact #3: 61% Of all marketers, feel that improving their company or business SEO is one of their top priorities.
Fact #4: 81% Of shoppers, research a service or product online before making a purchase
Fact #5: 72% Of local customers, perform a search before they visit a store in their area.
Fact #6: Local searches can lead 50% of mobile visitors to a store in one day.
Looking at these stats, it is clearly evident, that any business whether offline or online utilising search engines is essential.
The 3 Most Popular Search Engines
Google is by far the most popular search engine, in fact, over 68% of people use Google as their primary search engine.
Google accounts for approx. over 96% of all mobile search traffic globally!
When it comes to the desktop, Google accounts for over 81% of all desktop search traffic and the rest is divided between Bing, Baidu, and Yahoo.
Yahoo used to be one of the more popular search engines in the late 90’s.
Today however, Yahoo is making little to no impact on the search market as they are only responsible for approx. 1.2% of mobile searches globally, and on desktop they are responsible for 7% of all global searches.
Bing was founded in 2009 and like Yahoo, it’s not really making an impact on the search market.
Which Search Engine Should You Put Your Time and Money Into?
I would suggest that all efforts should be aimed at increasing your company’s visibility in the worlds most popular search engine, and that would be Google.
This where you are going to get the best ROI.
Improving SEO To Help Grow Your Business in South Africa
In Part 1 of the Beginner’s Guide, I mentioned how important it is to ensure you appear on the first page of Google.
The percentage of people that actually view the second page of a Google search results is little to none, and more than two-thirds of all clicks go to the first five search results in Google.
To improve your business rankings, take a step back and find out how a search engine actually works.
If you’re a solo entrepreneur looking to take your business to a whole new level, then this part is especially for you.
How Search Engines Work
One thing to understand is that if you are searching something in Google, you aren’t searching the web, you are searching Google’s index of the web (or at least as much information as they could index).
With that said, if your business or company’s details are not in the Google’s index, then you are missing out.
Google indexes as many websites as they can, but it’s up to the owners or web masters of the company to make it easy for Google to find.
Google is able to find this information and display it on the web through the use of “Google spiders”.
Spiders are bots designed by Google whose sole purpose is to crawl the web and index the information they can find.
In return, when you search for example, “How high is Mount Everest?”, Google then goes into its index and finds every page that includes those keywords.
In this case, there would be over a thousand different results, so, how does Google decide which pages to show first?
They do that by asking over 200 different questions like:
- How many times does the page contain the specific keywords?
- Do the keywords appear in the title, header tags, and URL?
- Does the page include synonyms for those words?
- Is the page from a quality website or is it low quality?
- Does the page look spammy?
- What’s the page’s page rank?
- Does this page have any links pointing to it?
These are just some of the questions Google needs to ask itself before compiling all the information and determining each page’s overall score.
The amazing thing, is that this all happens in half a second after you submit your search!
To make your page appear on the first page of Google, you need to ensure that you take all these questions into consideration each time you publish a page or create a website.
And this is where Search Engine Optimisation comes in.
Now that you have an idea of how search engines work, let’s look at the two main ways to optimise your page or website for search engines.
On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO, What Is The Difference?
On-page SEO is basically what the title suggests.
It’s optimizing the page you want to rank for and improving key elements on the page that is connected to Google’s ranking factors.
This would include the headline of the page, page structure, content, etc.
These are Google ranking factors that aren’t necessarily under your control. For example, the total amount of social media mentions, websites linking to your site, the authority of your site and more.
The Most Important Factors Of On-Page SEO
Your website structure, in my opinion, is definitely one of the most essential ranking factors.
If it’s not designed and correctly, Google won’t be able to access your content.
You might have all the necessary information on your site to help customers understand your services and products, but if your website is not designed to allow Google’s spiders to crawl your content, then your website might as well not exist.
If you are like me, then you are probably not a web developer, and this can get overly technological, however, bear with me, as I will try and make this as simple as possible.
In a nutshell, the more your website is accessible to Google, the better you will rank.
1.1. It’s All about the user experience (UX), so make sure to put the user first
1.1.1 SEARCH AND BROWSING YOUR WEBSITE
Google is always trying to find ways to benefit its users, and if your website is not designed in a fashion where someone has a great UX when they are visiting your site, then sooner or later that will come back to haunt you.
The first order of business is to ensure that your website is easy to understand a.k.a user-friendly.
Make sure people can easily find the content they came for.
One of my favourite things to do is to ensure that the search bar is prominent on the webpage ,thus you can use the search bar to find what you are looking for.
1.1.2 KEEP YOUR SITE SIMPLE
Research has shown that if a website page is filled with banners, different colors, pop ups, and menus, people end up leaving it within seconds.
Why? Because they are overwhelmed with what is happening on the page.
Think about it like this, liken it to going shopping for a printer. What’s the first thing you do when you get to the shop?
You look for a capable professional to help you. You do this because, if it were up to you to browse through all the printers and pick the best one suited to your needs, and most likely end up being overwhelmed and buy the wrong one.
The same rules apply to your website, you need to ensure that your website is not overwhelming. It needs to be user friendly and efficient.
1.1.3 ENSURE YOUR SITE IS MOBILE FRIENDLY
With more and more people using their smartphones to browse the web, it’s essential that you ensure you cater for them.
Google has also released a few major press statements confirming that they are planning on improving the user experience on mobile.
Improving user experience is one of the major driving forces behind the project “Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)”.
Search Engine Land has confirmed that nearly 60% of all searches are now happening on mobile devices.
Here is a breakdown of the what percentage of users that are searching on mobile devices
- Food and Beverage = 72%
- Health = 68%
- Sports = 68%
- News and Media = 64%
- Lifestyle = 62%
- Automotive = 62%
There are different ways to check if your website is mobile friendly, but my favourite is Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
You can add your website URL in the available field and see what Google has to say about your website.
Make sure to send the report to your developer if you see that it’s not a 100%, as I can guarantee that it’s affecting your rankings.
1.2. Make It Easy For Google To Crawl
Like I mentioned before, the better “the spiders” can crawl and index your website, the better it can report back to Google.
A sitemap is a simple way of allowing search engines to understand your site structure.
See it as a roadmap to where you have saved the most important content you want users to find when they are searching the internet.
If you have a developer, make sure to confirm with him or her that they have uploaded a sitemap to Google and other search engines.
1.3. Speed Matters
When was the last time you stuck around longer than 10 seconds to wait for a web page to load?
The chances are you can’t remember. It’s a fact that we have less patience in a world where everything is instant.
On average, if a web page loads longer than 5 seconds, visitors start getting annoyed.
The sad thing is, it’s not only the visitors that get annoyed, but it’s also Google’s spiders that need to crawl your website.
A website loads slowly due to clutter in the code, high-res images, and unnecessary scripts.
With that in mind, the spiders struggle to crawl through all the clutter and eventually leaves before getting to the most relevant content.
A fast loading web page increases the experience of the user and allows the spiders to get to its core content which can then assist Google in indexing your website.
I usually use Google’s Speed Test Tool to ensure that my website is on par.
Like the Mobile Friendly Test, just add your URL in the field and see what Google has to say.
If you aren’t happy with the results, make sure to pass it on to your developer to look at, as there is no doubt that it’s affecting your SEO.
1.4. Keywords and URLS
I’m sure you know what a URL is, but even if you don’t, it’s the link you want visitors to click on to visit the specific web page you want them to see.
Keywords play a significant role in SEO, especially when it comes to the URL. They can help Google identify what the link is all about without having to crawl it.
Often I browse a site and and have a look at its URL, and most of the time the URL is something like, www.domainname.co.za/2016/09/12/store/products/77654
If you were a Google spider, what would you think this link is all about?
We see it as a store selling product, but looks are deceiving.
What if it were something like this, www.domainname.co.za/store/shoes/nike/nike-tanjun-running-shoe
Without even having to think about it for too long, we can immediately see that this company is selling shoes, and the page they want us to view is a Nike Tanjun Running Shoe.
The keywords here are the category name which in this case is “shoes”, the brand name which is “Nike” and the shoe name which is “Tanjun Running Shoe”.
This is easy to understand, not only for the user but also for the Google spider crawling your website.
Make sure to have a look at your website’s link structure, if it’s not similar to what I’ve indicated above, then make sure to ask your developer to look into it.
CONTENT AND HTML
Now that you have the basic website structure under control, it’s time to make a move on the content.
It’s difficult to differentiate the importance of one component over the other. In my experience content is the main entity that gets indexed and without it nothing will be crawled.
I believe it’s structure first, and then content.
Back in 1996, Bill Gates said that “content is king”. And he was right.
Think about it like this:
Google is all about the user experience. To keep its users happy, it needs to give them what they are searching for.
If they can do that by showing the most relevant content related to the users question first, the higher the chances of the user using Google again next time.
This is where the quality of your content comes in.
As a local business or e-commerce store, you need to ensure your pages provide value to its visitors.
What do I mean by this? Well, if someone is visiting a page on your website, the chances are he or she is looking for something.
In most cases, it might be a product or more info related to your services. This is your opportunity to provide value.
2.1.1 HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE?
One simple way to do this is to visit your competitor’s website. What are they offering that adds value to the visitor/potential customer?
- Do they explain the product or service in-depth which helps convince the user to make a purchase?
- Do they provide extra tips and tricks on how to use the product or service to get the best bang for buck?
- Maybe they already address all the question the visitor might have of the product before the visitor even thought of it.
If they are not doing this, ask yourself, why aren’t you doing it? This is your chance to go the extra mile and add more value. I have no doubt that it’s going to help not only increase conversions, but also boost your SEO.
Keywords are not such a big ranking factor as it used to be. However, it’s still important.
A keyword is a specific term you want to rank for when people are searching the internet.
If you are selling shoes, then your keyword would be “shoes.”
However, due to the competitiveness of the online world, long-tail keywords are becoming more popular.
Long-tail keywords are keywords that are more specific.
If you mainly stock Nike shoes, and you know people love the Tanjun Running Shoe, then your long-tail keyword would be “Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe.”
This helps target more specific customers and can help increase conversions rates as well as overall SEO.
2.3 Bringing content and keywords together
You can rank for as many keywords as you want, but you will have to ensure you have the necessary content to support the keywords you want to rank for.
You can’t expect to rank for “Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe” if you don’t have a page showcasing the shoe or actually stock it.
Another example is, if you want to rank for “Best Hairdresser in Bedfordview,” you need to ensure that your website and content supports that.
- Do you have a web page explaining why you are the best?
- Do you have a page with customers testimonials proving why you are the best?
No? Then how are you planning on convincing customers and Google that you are the best?
The better your content can support your keywords, the better you will rank in Google, the more you will outrank competitors and the more new business you will be driving your way.
This concludes the basics of on-page SEO. By no means are these the only factors involved in improving your SEO.
But by ensuring you have these basics covered, I can guarantee that you would start to see a growth in organic traffic in a few months.
The 3 Most Important Factors of Off-Page SEO
In the beginning of the article I’ve roughly mentioned what off-page SEO is all about, now let’s dig into how it affects your SEO.
This is actually simple but think about it like this. Where do you take your car for a service whenever it’s time for a fix-up?
The chances are, the car dealer you bought the car from, or alternatively, someone you trust.
The same goes with ranking higher in Google. Google will rank the page it trusts higher than the page it doesn’t.
1. How do you improve Google’s trust
Google likes websites with authority, and if your website has a low authority score, the chances are Google doesn’t trust it too much.
Two factors that determine your overall authority
1.1.1 Domain Authority – How popular your domain is, and how well-known it is in its space.
1.1.2 Page Authority – Which has got to do with the credibility of a single page.
If you want to view your website’s domain authority, have a look at this link.
Usually, a new domain has a score of 0 out of a 100. The majority of websites on the web has a domain authority score of 0-20.
Anything higher than 20 tells Google that your domain can be trusted, then it’s just a matter of how much.
Websites with an authority score of 100 out of 100 are usually companies like Facebook, Google, Youtube, etc. These are the most popular and trusted pages on the web.
Most universities and governmental websites usually have an authority score of 70 to 80 out of a 100.
You can always use that link to see what your competitor’s authority scores are. That will give you an indication if they are trusted more than you by Google.
Factors that can Affect Your Domain Authority
Bounce Rate – A bounce rate is someone that visited one page, and not another. This tells Google that the website was not as impressive or interesting and caused the user to leave after only one visit.
Now you can start to see how user experience plays a role in bounce rate. And that eventually plays a role in domain authority.
Domain Age – It’s sad, but if your website is new, you will, unfortunately, have to start at the bottom like all the others.
Links – Links can play a significant role in your domain authority. If high authority websites are linking back to you and if you are linking out to authoritative websites then the chances are your own domain authority will increase.
Think about it like this, who would you rather take a restaurant recommendation from? Your best friend, or a stranger?
Google works in the same fashion. If a high authoritative website links out to you, it’s telling Google that this website can be trusted.
The more people you have following you on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., the more it can help benefit your SEO.
The two main factors that play a role here are:
The Number of Shares – This is the total amount of shares a page or website receives.
If your Men’s Nike Tanjun Running Shoe page has received over 500 shares, it tells Google that this page is popular and people enjoy its content.
That’s in a nutshell how a number of shares can play a role in off-page search engine optimization.
The Quality of Shares – I’ve talked about getting high authoritative backlinks from other websites, well, this is similar to that but just related to social shares.
Even though the number of shares plays a role, the quality of those shares is even more important.
Here are two easy ways to get more people to share your content
- Have a look at sponsoring key influencers in your industry
- Produce quality content that adds value to customers
Maybe you are not aware, but if you visit a website frequently, the chances are whenever you are searching something relevant to the company or business, the higher its pages will rank in your search results.
Google’s algorithms are intelligent enough to know when you are visiting a website frequently. If you are visiting it often, it must mean it offers some value to you.
With that in mind, if the search term you are searching for falls in line with the companies organic keywords, Google would allow it to appear higher in your search results.
There is no way of forcing people to visit your website often, but by producing quality content and offering them a ton of value, I can guarantee you they will be coming back soon or later.
Please keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your business and website’s SEO.
By ensuring you keep what is mentioned in this guide into account, and making some necessary changes, I do not doubt that you will start to draw more organic traffic within a few months.
I hope this guide has opened your eyes as a sole entrepreneur or business owner.
At the end of the day, you don’t need the skills to improve your SEO, you just need to understand the basics and know what to look out for.
At least now you know as a CEO, marketing director or business owner what to ask your marketing team or developer and what to do about it if your SEO is not on par.