With e-commerce on a constant rise, as a business owner a website has become one of the essential tools needed to support your business. Most business owners know a little about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and maybe something about SEM (Search Engine Marketing), they are terms used in relation to website promotion but what do they mean?
SEO is the method of optimising your website in order to be more visible and organically rank well in search engines, such as Google.
SEM is a broader term that incorporates SEO but also includes using search engines to target traffic to your website. A successful SEM campaign allows a business to target specific consumer groups and can result in a higher conversion rate, in other words, a higher rate of converting a customer from a potential to an actual customer.
The rules for SEO are constantly evolving to keep developers on their toes so it’s important to keep up to date with what is actually effective because there’s nothing worse than spending time on a task only to find out that it’s not actually going to help you in the long run.
SEO is the process of optimising your website to make it as attractive as possible to potential customers on the front end and making it as accessible as possible on the back end for search engines to recognise what services you provide and how it is relevant to keyword searches. Search engines use crawlers or bots to trawl through websites and if your website is correctly optimised it makes it easier for them to equate your website with certain search parameters.
An SSL certificate stands for Secure Sockets Layer (although it isn’t really SSL anymore, it’s the newer version of TLS, or Transport Layer Security, but everyone still calls it SSL). This is something that Google has been pushing for from 2017 as it is the process for establishing encryption between the client and the server. Websites with these certificates, which have https:// in their address and the small padlock symbol in front of the website address, rank better on search engines and the bots recognise that this is an official site that will protect its clients. It used to be used only for ecommerce sites, but it is becoming the norm now to have one even on information only sites.
Alt tags on photos
These are essential for your website as alt tags, particularly on images, aid in your websites search rankings, particularly on ecommerce sites. Optimal alt tags are usually the same keywords as the page they are on. They should be short and to the point, as these are more likely to be assessed well by search engines than longer ones. However, it is easy to overload a page with too many alt tags, so these should be used cautiously.
Keywords are something that can range from single words to more complex sentences and, if built properly into the back end of your website, can help attract potential customers to your website but helping search engines recognise your services. It used to be that you could rely on simple one-word keyword searches as people typed in the simplest terms into search engines. However, with the rise in smart phones with voice recognition and dictation, people are increasingly speaking their search phrases directly into the search engine and this can include a longer, more complex series of words to search for. This can make a big difference to which businesses are then showing up in the search results. It’s worth investing some time figuring out exactly what terms you want to be found under to make sure you’re are attracting the correct type of customer. It’s also worth noting that what is relevant for one search engine may not be relevant for another so it’s important to spend time in the back end of a website making sure the optimisation is effective on all platforms.
Publishing good content
There’s no point spending lots of time (and money) on a great looking website only to find out that there’s nothing really relevant on there. You want people to not only find you easily but to also be engaged by your content, your services, and to spend some solid time on your website. Search engines can track how much time people are spending on your site and how many pages they access from the search, and if people aren’t spending time on your website once they’ve found it then your website will become less relevant in their search criteria, thus making you rank lower and therefore being less visible to potential clients.
Creating a site that’s easy to navigate
Once you have your website designed and all the different pages you want sorted out you need to make sure that your potential customers are able to navigate your site easily. It’s great to attract them to your site but once they are there, they need to be able to access all of the information they require quickly and efficiently. If they end up going around in circles trying to find out what actual services you provide, or how much you charge, it’s likely that they will become disheartened or frustrated and leave your site in favour of a competitor who has a simpler design.
Optimising Social Media channels
This is also important. We’ve recently had a guest blogger explain which is more important to your business, social media or a website. While we maintain that a beautiful, easy to use website is very important, it is also becoming more key to invest your time in creating social media channels that link to your website. These provide followers with up to date information that might not be so easy to distribute through email, or as a post on your website. If there is a problem with the phones, or if you have a customer query, sometimes the best thing to do is to hit the social media and get right onto the issue. Also, it’s a great way to quickly promote new services or sales. All you need to do it keep on top of it and not let any opportunities to connect with potential customers pass you by.
SEM is an umbrella term that covers SEO as discussed above, as well as other aspects, some discussed in the following section.
Paid search engine campaigns
Google Ads is a popular way to pay to attract targeted potential customers to your website. You can specify certain parameters of the ad such as location, keywords, language, budget, etc. Creating attractive ads that you pay to display at the top of a set of search results. This way you can target the customers that you specifically want. Getting a great Google Ad campaign isn’t as easy as you think so do some research before kicking off to make sure that you’re not wasting money on ineffective campaigns.
Landing pages are entry points to your website and are often built specifically to encourage customers to take immediate actions, such as complete a contact form, a sign-up form, a download, etc. Once the customer has done this you can then store the information (using GDPR guidelines of course) and use this to market specific services to this customer based on the information you have gathered. When a call to action has been completed, you can then link through to a Thank you page that is designed to encourage customers to explore your website further and hopefully take more action. Once you have created your landing page you can advertise this in a targeted Google Adwords campaign to attract the customers that you want.
Analysing website traffic gives insight into the type of customers that are visiting your website, the amount of time they are spending on it, what pages they are visiting, and how popular your site is in terms of ranking. Once you have this information you can customise pages and target audiences specifically using ad campaigns and landing pages
What’s the point of all of this?
SEO and SEM are not competing services and should work in harmony with each other. SEO is considered a subset of SEM services and if you want to run a business in the current and foreseeable online climate you should be investing time, and almost definitely some money, in researching and implementing both an SEO and SEM strategy.
What are your thoughts on SEO and SEM and do you have a strategy in place to help your website thrive?