Be honest, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says: ‘Search Engine Optimisation’? Your eyeroll is almost audible, my friends, and I can’t say I’m surprised.

First thing’s first: SEO is something that people dedicate their careers to. It’s not something you just “know”. That said, there are some quick wins to get you on the right track.

Many moons ago, SEO took centre stage. It was something people threw casually into conversation as though they knew exactly what they were talking about. I’ll let you in on a little secret: they very rarely even began to scratch the surface.

Here are my top five…

1.Research, research and more research…

I can’t begin to tell you how many times someone has included the phrase ‘we need to appear at the top of Google’ in their brief to me. Well, my response to that is ALWAYS: ‘for which phrase?’.

Where you rank in a search engine (yep, Google isn’t the only one – remember Bing?) is relevant to the actual phrase a user had typed into their search bar. Seeing as there will be a fair bit of effort required to increase your rankings for any given phrase (how much will depend on the specific words), it’s worth spending time deciding on the keyword or keyphrase to focus on.

Start by casting a wide net. Write down anything that comes to mind when you think about your blog or business. Then, refine and refine. There are a number of tools that will help you predict how competitive a phrase is, so that you can start to gauge the effort needed versus the expected ROI. Wordtracker is one of my favourites.

TOP TIP: Run your research past someone that could be your target audience, if you can. Ask them something like ‘what would you put into Google if you were searching for my blog?’. No answer is too primitive here, they’re likely to come up with something you would never have thought of. Go on, humour me.

2. Code is your friend

What I’m not suggesting is that you’ll have to go away and study to be a web developer. But, knowing a little about your code, will go a long way. Search engines will look at certain areas within the code to see which keywords and keyphrases the content is meant to be relevant to. You’ve probably heard the names before: meta descriptions, URL, alt text and so on.

These are the places the search engine will compare with your text, so including your phrases in them, will jump start the search engine’s work. That said, only include the phrases that are actually relevant to your content. Mismatched code and text will not do you any favours.

TOP TIP: WordPress can guide you through this. Download and activate a plugin such as Yoast SEO and follow the tips it gives you.

3. Write for people, not for machines

You might remember the primitive days of SEO when the fastest way to the top of Google was something called ‘keyword stuffing’ – the more you mentioned a keyword, the higher you ranked

Yep, this really did work. Once.

Alas, it’s not been that simple for some time. Today, search engines will assess how your text is written, not just the subject matter.

TOP TIP: Forget about search engines in your first draft. Write for your audience and insert the keywords later. Keep reading over your text to make sure it sounds like something you would share yourself, not something that is written for Google.

4. Every little helps

Search engines like to see engagement with your content. Don’t just post to your blog and forget about it. You won’t get anywhere like that.

Share your content on your social media, see if you can have it picked up by local media, submit it to magazines or relevant industry blogs, grow your network and see if they will share it.

Extending the reach your content has across media types will really help push it forward. Plus, you never know who it might land in front of.

TOP TIP: Add ‘share on social media’ functionality on your blog. The easier it is for readers to share your content, the better.

5. Know when to surrender

Not to sound defeatist, but there is such a thing as a time to quit. Not to quit entirely, but to quit trying to do everything yourself.

I have great respect for Search Engine Optimizers and so should you. They spend their working days (and probably beyond) working for people like you and me, pushing their content forward, but also staying on top of any changes to algorithms that search engines release. Be honest, you wouldn’t know where to start.

Hiring an expert can be the best way forward – it’ll allow each party to focus on what they do best.

TOP TIP: Ask for recommendations from your network. You’re likely to work closely with this person for an extended period of time, so it’s important you know exactly what it is you’ll be getting and a personal recommendation can get you much further than.. well, than a blind search on Google.


 

Maggie Majstrova has over 10 years’ experience in general marketing, having originally started in a full-service marketing agency. For the last few years, Maggie has been working as a freelance copywriter with several clients on web, social media and general marketing content. Clients include companies in construction, interior design, recruitment and jewelry design[

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