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What is SEO?

Updated: May 9, 2022

In part one of our 'how to' guide to SEO, we look at what SEO is, why it's important and how you incorporate it within your website - starting with 'Keywords'.

Useful resources

We recommend you create a free account with both of these as we're going to use this resource further later in our 'how to' SEO guides.

'How to' guide to SEO

​Welcome back to the SME Marketeers getting started guides for the first in our more in depth ‘how to’ sessions, which looks at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you’ve watched our first two video guides (or read the articles) you should now have a clear picture forming in terms of your proposition and messaging, who you are targeting, and who you are competing against for business. For your website in particular, you will have selected a CMS tool that worked best for you – likely WordPress, Weebly, Wix or Shopify – all of which work on a responsive design. Added to that you should now have identified a clear goal for users landing on your site. E.g.

  • To purchase

  • To book in to your facility

  • To call for a quote or

  • To attend an event

And you should have started to plot your customer journey from landing on your site to achieving this goal, including the steps and supporting information which forms your website structure and sketched the layout. The next stage in your web-build is to start producing the copy. So the final input element before you get writing, just to help focus the content on each page, is your on page SEO in particular keywords.

Let's just take a step back and clarify - What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Search Engines like Google and Bing ‘crawl’ websites ‘looking’ at the content, ‘indexing’ pages and adding them to its vast database so that when someone types in a search query it can quickly return the best results possible to meet the searchers requirements. However, a Google 'bot' or any search engine 'bot' cannot actually ‘see’ the content so it needs information on the page to help it ‘read’ what is there. That’s a very simple version. The algorithms Google uses to determine information and see a page 'as a human' - including ‘teaching’ its bots to understand semantics - are anything but simple.

Why is SEO important?

Most product and service sales, start with an online search. You probably know yourself if you’ve seen and advert on TV or a friend tells you about a product or you see something that interests you, you will most likely do a search on your phone or computer for more information on that product or service. If someone sees your product / service and they type that in to their search and see your competitors come up but not you, then you may lose that sale to a competitor. If you needed any more evidence, let's just do a quick search on Google for a random term - 'womens shoes' for example:

This search as returned over 3,000,000,000 results in half a second!

That’s an eye watering number, although it’s unlikely as a searcher that you'll you ever click on an answer much beyond the first page. ​ In fact, according to Hubspot, 75% of searches don't go beyond the first page.

Using tools like Ubersuggest, you can see the monthly volume for any search term.

​So, with 60,500 searches for Women’s shoes each month, you can understand the benefit to being on the first page.

However, as a ‘searcher’ sometimes the first page doesn’t give you the answer you want and, in that event, it’s more than likely that you’ll add more information to your ‘search query’ in the hope of refining the results returned to you.

For example, you might search for 'Women’s Shoes UK' or if you want to actually visit a store to shop you might type in 'Women’s Shoes shops near me'.

Whilst as a new business you will struggle to get to the first page for the main industry search term ‘womens shoes’, you will have a better chance with ‘Women’s Shoe shops near me’, since you are more relevant to that searcher's requirements. And there are things you can do to help the Google bots understand what’s on your site and how your site is relevant to certain search terms.

On page SEO Basics

OK, let’s get back to where we started with the on page SEO basics. As we mentioned earlier, with all your background information to hand, this is the final piece of your jigsaw when you are ready to start writing your web copy. We're going to start this journey with your keyword search.

Keyword research

Keywords are fundamental to your SEO. Identifying your target keywords and prioritising them, helps to focus your website content. But how to you go about identifying them? This does take time but is worth the effort. If you’re good with lists, you’re going to love this exercise.

1. Your keywords

Firstly, imagine you are at your computer now and think of all the words that you would type in to a search bar and want to see your company appear, so this would be perhaps be your brand name, your profession, your product or service. Write all these down. That’s your first list.

2. Your target audience's keywords

Now, imagine your target audience and what they would be typing in to the search bar to trigger results? What words do THEY use? What questions are they asking? Will it change according to the time of year? Where are they looking to source this need? Locally? Nationally? Globally? If you have an existing website and you have linked it to Google Search Console, look at the queries where your site has been returned. Now plug the words from these two lists into a free tool like Ubersuggest or SEMRush. This will not only give you more keyword ideas, including related searches and questions, but it will give you monthly volumes for the each of those keywords and also how difficult it will be to rank for that word. ​​That’s list two.

3. Your competitors' keywords

BUT you aren’t done yet! Finally using a free tool again, look at your competition, type in your competitors’ domains and see which keywords they rank for.

Your final keyword selection

​You should now have lots of lists in excel sheets with probably hundreds of ideas and you are now looking to narrow this down to the keywords for your business. We are now looking to strike a balance between the most appropriate words for your product/service with those that have a good monthly volume. Set the volume filters on your various excel sheet to 100 or more per month (initially). But be mindful that the best keywords might be what is called ‘long tail’ as we mentioned before. Whilst Women’s shoes might have a fantastic monthly volume, if you specifically only sell Women’s party shoes for example, that will be a better keyword to go for. Why? Well whilst the volume might be lower, the description is more exact and your website pages will be more relevant for the user when they land and so you're more likely to make a sale. ​With the term 'Women's Shoes' we don't know what that searcher is specifically looking for. If they want work shoes and you don't sell them, then you don't meet their requirements.

More keyword considerations

​To help us filter and select further:

  • Look at the terms that your key competitors are all using - you'll notice a cross over of the terms they are all targeting

  • Look at the intent of the keywords does it have:

    • a ‘research’ intent - 'which are the best women's party shoes',

    • a ‘transactional’ intent - 'buy women's party shoes',

    • are they are looking for a destination on the internet - 'buy women's party shoes online',

    • or do they want to visit a local destination - 'women's shoe shop near me' .

  • Look at the search difficulty - in other words the amount of competition for that word. What they call the ‘fat head’ terms e.g. the shortest ‘catch all’ terms so ‘shoe shop’, ‘coffee shop’, ‘accountants’, ‘consultants’ ‘plumbers’ ‘travel insurance’ etc will have the most competition, and in some cases you may never rank for this term, nor may you want to. The longer-tail keywords where the search intent is more specific, whilst the volumes will be lower, the relevancy of your offer to their search may be more appropriate and the competition (ease in which to rank) may be significantly lower. Look for keywords where the difficult score (or competition) is low - LESS THAN 60%. As an indication, search difficulty is seen as:

    • High 80%+

    • Med 60-80%

    • Low – under 60%

You should now start to have a pattern emerging of the keywords to use. These will likely be falling in to categories, of ‘fat head’ terms like ‘Shoe shop’ and ‘longtail’ terms like ‘Buy ladies shoes for black tie event’.

Each page on your site should have it's own keywords

The final task is to consider the keywords you want to use for each individual page on your site. Although there may be some cross over, there should be differences according to the main focus of the content on that page. For example:

  • your home page will likely be targeting the main ‘fat head’ terms,

  • some of your pages will be there to provide information for people researching your product/service area which will be matched to keywords with a ‘research’ intent,

  • and finally your individual product / service pages will be targeting longtail keyword terms to meet the needs of people with a very specific purchase intent.

You'll notice that our worksheet (which we will explain in part two) includes a row to enter for the keywords for each page.

Once you’ve done your keyword research, pop back on to the SME Marketeers 'How to' guide to SEO and watch our video on next steps to take.

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