As Harry Sanders, founder of specialist SEO agency StudioHawk previously explained, SEO may not be suitable for every business, so the first step is to determine whether it is suitable before diving in.
But once you have determined that SEO is an important element of your online presence, he recommends looking at these five key elements to quickly boost your profile on the web:
1. Consider whether an agency is right for you
If you are going to outsource your digital marketing — including your SEO — Mr Sanders said it really pays to know what the agency can, and can’t, do before taking them on.
“I’m on the board of AWIO, which is the Australian Web Industry Association. The feedback we hear is, ‘I don’t know what my SEO company is doing; I’m not sure what’s going on’,” he said while speaking on the My Business Podcast.
“A lot of the time, it’s a business owner has gone out and appointed a marketing agency to just handle everything for them.”
He said that a jack-of-all-trades, unless they have people within their team with direct SEO expertise, may struggle to deliver real value around SEO, no matter how well they perform at other aspects of digital marketing.
“What happens is they fall down on... and it leaves SMEs disappointed.”
2. Update your content
According to Mr Sanders, the best SEO strategy and skilled people — whether agency or in-house — mean little if there isn’t any content for search engines like Google to find.
“On the technical side, a lot of small businesses go wrong because they don’t want to put in the effort to do the blogs,” he said.
“They don’t want to output content, and outputting content is a really good way for Google to see you as an industry expert. It’s something that we would always advise on pretty much any campaign that we’re working on.”
3. Get back links to your website
Mr Sanders said that links can be a bit of a misnomer, and it’s important to understand which type of links should be your focus from an SEO perspective.
“When we talk about links, it often gets confused, there’s so many misconceptions around it,” he explained.
“There’s external links: so you’re linking to other websites, [but this] is for a large part not a massive factor for you.”
Instead, he urged SMEs to pursue backlinks, or links from other websites back to your own website. Yet he cautioned that not just any old link will do.
“Backlinks have to be niche relevant,” he said.
“So, if you’re a plumber that you have a shared company are giving you a link, Google sees that as not relevant. And you do that too many times, they can penalise you for it. So, they want to see blogs about plumbing or information about plumbing, referencing you.”
4. More links isn’t necessarily better
Continuing on the subject of backlinks, Mr Sanders agreed that it’s more a case of quality over quantity.
“People are still caught up with, ‘I want hundreds of backlinks’. Realistically, one good backlink from the right place is worth a thousand bad ones,” he cautioned.
“It’s a little bit different to PR, because we couldn’t care how many people read the article. What we’re looking at is the SEO impact of the articles that we place.”
5. Look at your customer journey
Another aspect that search engines consider when determining their rankings is intent, Mr Sanders said.
“And this is where a lot of businesses get this wrong,” he explained.
“You’ve really got to sit in the brain of the customer. What is my client or customer looking for? And then you need to link your product page or your service page with that search exactly.
“What people underestimate is you can have the best backlinks and the best technical SEO in the world, but if you’re not answering the user search intent (and when they land on your website, they don’t feel like they’ve received an answer), then it doesn’t matter.”
Going back to the example of a plumber, Mr Sanders said that location is likely to be a core element of a user’s search, so build that into your website too.
“If you’re a plumber in Melbourne, make sure that page reflects that you’re a plumber in Melbourne and not in Sydney or not somewhere else.
“It can be as simple as matching that search intent as closely as you can to build up that trust, and so that if someone lands on your website, they stay.”