The Basics of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO
Search Engine Optimisation, simply referred to as SEO, is the practice of continually developing and improving the structure of your website and it's usability, to encourage sales and traffic from organic sources such as Google, Yahoo or Bing search engines, without the need to pay for each visitor or each sale.
SEO itself is a huge subject, covering thousands of pages of text books and online article sites, YouTube explainer videos or online courses. There are even people employed within larger companies for the specific purpose of working on SEO tasks to develop and improve commercial websites.
But how can SEO be applied to those who are just starting out?
Firstly, it's important to understand the two key areas of SEO. There's on-page (your website, your content, your products) and the're off-page (advertising, links from other websites, social media posts that link back to your website).
From there, it becomes easier to define exactly where you want to focus and where your short and long term goals can come from.
For on-site SEO, you'll be looking at navigation, the customer journey, which pages potential customers frequent and how many visits they make before they make a purchase or fill out the online enquiry form.
For off-site SEO, you'll be looking at creating great content that links back to your website, or advertising on forum sites or getting links back from important people or companies in your field of expertise.
IT'S ALL TOO COMPLEX FOR ME...I'M OUT!
Search Engine Optimisation can become complex but at the beginning, you just need to KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid!
Simplicity is key for on-site SEO, as you need to direct people to what they're looking for as quickly as possible. If someone has searched for 'Buy Red Chairs Online' they need to click on your website and land on the Red Chairs department pretty darn quick, else they'll disappear to a competitor and perhaps never come back.
Some small businesses have grappled with the complexities of SEO when really, they needed to just focus on making everything obvious and easy for the people visiting your website.
Google is an intelligent search engine that's used by over 80% of the European population. If you sell in the UK or EU, you MUST get your website appearing on Google and the search engine actually wants you to appear for customer queries, because that's how they ensure they keep their visitors happy, by providing them with websites that answer their needs effectively and quickly.
The first step is to setup a simple spreadsheet (don't panic, we're not going to do any maths!). List your products, all of them, just the titles. Then in the next column, you can begin to group these together in to categories. It's a good idea to check out your competition, to get an idea of how they group similar products together. Once you have your first column of categories, think about if these can be grouped again in column 3.
Something like this: Red Chair > Chairs > Furniture (two categories filtering to one product).
The above is exactly how Google sees your website. In text format, it will use something called a GoogleBot to visit your homepage. If it finds a link to 'Furniture', it will follow it, then it finds a link to 'Chairs' and it will go down this route, then it will find all of the variations of Chairs you sell on your website, from Green Chair to Blue Chair, a veritable feast of content for the GoogleBot to enjoy and begin listing on the search engine for people to find.
Remember, when creating a menu at the top of your website, keep it direct and don't tempt people away to watch videos or read articles. If you're selling online using eCommerce, your profit come from selling product, not articles. So keep it focused and keep it simple.
Articles, Videos and Delivery Information can all be featured on product pages, to encourage a visitor to make a purchase but they're not to be used as a distraction!
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT SEO, I CAN JUST ADVERTISE?
It's vitally important that you open up as many revenue channels as possible. Online, this can be through Organic (SEO), Paid (Pay Per Click/PPC), Affiliates (Your ads appearing on other peoples websites), Direct (People who already know your website address), Social (Facebook/Twitter) or Email (those who have signed up to your weekly newsletter).
If you can get all of the above to generate a little income, then put them together and you suddenly have a fully functioning website that isn't reliant on Google, or Email or Advertising. It can organically snowball and one customer becomes three customers becomes 5 customers, all in a very short space of time.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The cost depends on the complexity and scale of your ambition.. If you're starting out, your only cost for SEO is time, your time. Research, apply, test results and repeat.
With the technology now available to small start-ups, you can make your business look mighty professional, without having to hire assistance.
From creating YouTube videos that explain and demonstrate your product, to taking photos of your products in a field, surrounded by sheep. Most of the time, all you need is your iPhone, a tripod and a laptop.
For inspiration and to snoop on what everyone else is doing, download the Pinterest or Instagram apps.
For more on SEO and understanding the basics, we recommend heading over to Moz.com and their SEO Learning Center