— October 5, 2017
During any working week, it’s likely I’ll be asked a couple of times by small business owners for my advice on their new website.
They’ve heard that they need to be found in Google and that the “thing” they need is SEO. They come to me to help them get some of this SEO good stuff, and then reality bites.
You see, the web is littered with adverts for quick-fixes. I’ve seen promotions pop up in my Facebook feed for “100 ranking-boosting links for $ 17 – guaranteed to get you to number one”, and so the expectation is set that this is all they need. Job done.
As with most things, it’s not quite that easy.
Do these tactics work?
Unfortunately, in the short term, such tactics can give you a ranking boost, and I’ve seen websites suddenly rocket to the top ten, even number one after just one purchase of these wonder links.
However, very soon, they can disappear again.
Links are one of the most important factors in why a website ranks well, so getting links is what we all want to do, but there are good links and bad links.
Good links are the ones that are earned. They’re the links that are natural, that we get over time and are from good quality websites.
Bad links come under a lot of different guises, but there’s a simple rule you can stick to that will ensure you don’t get the worst links – don’t pay for them.
I need to explain links a bit more.
Let’s say you’re browsing the BBC website and there’s an article about a driving instructor who has a new take on how to help people to pass their test.
This article may have a link to the driving instructor’s website. That link is what helps the site do better in Google, and as a website owner, you want to get lots of those pointing to your site.
Getting such a link from the BBC is difficult though, so obviously there are short cuts.
These short cuts are usually in the form of groups of websites that have built up a certain amount of “authority, ” and then they begin to sell links to others. And this is where Google gets a bit upset.
What could happen?
Google says buying and selling links is a bad thing to do. If it discovers you’ve been doing either, it might decide to penalise you my removing you from it’s search engine.
Yes, it’s that bad.
I’ve seen this happen to a lot of businesses, and it can ruin them.
One business I know expanded massively when they were suddenly able to compete with some of the biggest names in the industry.
They bought new premises, took on new staff and expanded their network.
They had changed to an SEO company that promised them the earth, for a very low monthly fee.
When Google caught up with them, they disappeared completely. People searching for their products could no longer find them, so they had to make people redundant, sell off the new premises and cut back production. It nearly destroyed their business completely.
So what’s the best way to do it, then?
The steps that now follow are really easy.
There’s no secret formula and no tricks.
You don’t need to have studied computer science, it’s all just common sense, so let’s dive in.
1 – Set your expectations
The biggest problem most business owners have is that they expect everything to happen now.
I see this a lot. It doesn’t matter how many times I say “it takes a while for anything to happen,” when someone has engaged us on Monday, by Wednesday they’re on the phone asking why they still can’t find their website.
It could take months for any big changes to occur, so you simply have to wait.
Yes, there may be indicators you can measure that will show an improvement, but until your site is in the top ten, you’re not going to get reams of visitors via Google (or any other search engine).
It takes a long time, and this is when people usually get disheartened.
However, you need to play the long game.
The path to the top will be via a lot of very small wins.
Start now, and keep going and then eventually, you’ll find you get busier and busier.
2 – Do the simple things first
I’ve lost count of the number of websites I see where the title of their home page is “home page.”
The first page of your site should have a title that is a summary of what you do. It should be succinct, maybe a maximum of five words.
The rest of your pages should describe what’s on those pages.
The two biggest mistakes in my experience are at both ends of the spectrum.
The titles are either not informative at all, such as “Home page” or “Welcome” or “About us,” or there are too many words, such as “Plumbing and central heating fitters, central heating Birmingham, Central heating Wolverhampton, Plumber in Wolverhampton” etc.
The latter example is because someone told them that the title of the page is the most important aspect for SEO, so you should put all your keywords in there.
This is correct in some respects, but too many keywords is called “keyword stuffing, ” and it could actually get you in trouble.
So, give your site an audit and check your pages. Do the titles describe what the page is about?
If not, fix them.
3- Understand how it all works
Here’s a simple phrase that will colour your entire SEO campaign from now on:
“Google doesn’t rank your website to make it popular, it ranks popular websites.”
Your aim isn’t to get to number one so people will visit you, it’s to get people to visit your website so that eventually, you’ll get to number one.
It’s all about making your website the place to go to if people want to know about your subject.
That makes this entire process a heck of a lot easier. It means you can get on with your job, do it well and then Google will notice.
And what are people after?
They want answers.
It’s what people are searching for – quick solutions to the problems that annoy them.
When they’re sat in the pub and someone asks a question, they’ll pull out their phone and type it into Google.
Your job, then, is to find out what questions are being asked and then answer them.
If you’re good at your job, then yes.
Write answers to the questions people ask, and make them the best answers you possibly can, pop them on your website, and you’ve begun.
4 – Be regular, be consistent
Even when it seems like nothing’s working – keep going.
Giving up is the biggest failure for most. It could take months before you start getting any kind of traction, but consistency is key.
After a while, your site will start to attract visitors, and you’ll find people are interacting with your articles.
Others might begin to ask you questions, which will give you more to write about.
The flywheel will eventually kick in, and your visitor numbers will rise.
5 – Share, and tell everyone about your site
If nobody knows about you, nobody will find you.
You have friends and family – so tell them about your site.
Get on to social media and create your Facebook page.
When you write an article, publish it to Facebook and ask people to share it if they find it useful.
These people might need you at some point, and they’ll know who to ask because they’ll have seen your really useful content.
Social media could be one of the most important ways you get visitors to your site in the early days, so use it.
Search around for people with issues that you can solve, and help them.
Give out advice for free, become the “go-to” person who knows everything there is to know about your subject.
Remember that SEO isn’t just one thing. It’s a whole collection of actions that will help your site become popular.
However, whatever you do, if you keep at it, if you keep providing value then Google will notice and reward you with great rankings that will last forever.