A few people have asked me recently about the value of SEO and whether it really is that important for your business. How much of an impact will optimising your website content actually have, and what are the “golden rules” of SEO for someone just getting started?

Well, the first thing to remember is this: everything you’ve learned about keywords is probably wrong! Back in the early days, Google ranking was all about keywords. If you’re a gardener and your site mentions gardening over and over again, you’d expect to rank higher than your less repetitive competitors. But these days it’s not that simple.

It pains me when a client who has asked me to quote for optimising their website comes back a few days later saying (and I am quoting here), “sorry, we’ve found a company in India that can do it for £9.”

There are so many reasons why that is a bad idea: Firstly, the reason these companies are so cheap is because they will literally stuff your page with keywords. The content is useless to the visitor as it makes no sense and, more importantly, you WILL get penalised for using such tactics.

Search engines are constantly evolving to make sure that websites are playing fairly with one another. Google’s update in 2011 changed the face of SEO overnight and has been catching keyword cheats out ever since. Using sophisticated algorithms, Panda determines the quality of websites based on content and user experience.

If your site doesn’t meet the quality requirements, has a high bounce rate or too much advertising (amongst other things), your site will automatically be sent to the bottom of the list. So, the primary thing you need to know about SEO is this: make your content relevant to visitors and make sure it’s good quality.

These days, emphasis (quite rightly!) is on the quality of the writing and relevance of the content rather than keywords. It’s vital to remember that you are not just writing to please Google’s social media channels play a key role in generating traffic too, so if you want your site to be easily found and shared, good SEO copywriting is essential.

When writing web content, think about your own search habits. What do you look for in a good website? Content. Good, interesting, useable content.

If your site has a high readership, lots of traffic, a low bounce rate, people liking your content and sharing it with friends, you will see your ranking improve over time. Plus, if you add grammatically correct, well-researched content regularly, your site will gain credibility from Google for being an active provider or relevant, quality, user-friendly content.

Think of your website as you would any other business. What makes a shop or hairdressing salon more successful than their competitors? Look at the list below and apply each point to a local shop or service you use:

  • Provide good, sound advice
  • Show authority in their field in order to build up trust
  • Popular with other people in your peer group
  • Friendly, welcoming and personable
  • Able to offer recommendations of other relevant goods and services
  • An easy to find, uncluttered shop/office

Now apply them to your website. How does it measure up? Do you provide your customers with relevant content that will be useful to them? Do you back up your claims with evidence? Do people share your content and recommend you? Is your site easy to find and navigate with clear signposting? Do you offer other services and give advice?

Of course, keywords and key phrases are still important; they are at the heart of all Internet searches. Visitors will quickly scan your page for the keywords they typed, before assessing the relevance of your content. Make sure you validate their search quickly and satisfactorily by conducting thorough keyword research and giving customers what they want.

Always keep your customer in mind. There is no substitute for good, well-written content.

And please, don’t be lured into the trap of keyword stuffing or paying next to nothing for a quick fix: it is a false economy, which could hurt your business reputation in the long run.



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