Establishing a website or e-commerce store is just like establishing a physical business. That is, no one knows you exist to begin with. Just as you would want to drive people to visit a brick and mortar store you need to drive people to visit your virtual store. Similarly if you want to find a website you use a search engine. But how do you compete with everyone else to get your site near the top of the list? In this guide we will be discussing what SEO and SEM are and how it can help your website become popular.
A search engine is a program that based on using a keyword will identify websites on the internet. Google is a search engine.
Search Engine marketing (SEM) is internet marketing that increases a site’s visibility through organic (unpaid search) search engines results and advertising. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is increasing the amount of website visitors by getting the site to appear high on results returned by a search engine.. SEM includes SEO as well as other search marketing tactics.
WHY use SEO and SEM?
Imagine we have moved into a retail store in a busy street. We make everything amazing inside the store but leave the outside with blacked-out windows and no signage. Will customers walking by come in? No!
So you have a new or existing website, now is the time to get more visitors to it and ensure that it is optimised to give you an advantage over your competition. Put more simply, help your small business drive more sales.
The best way to do this is to ensure you show up on a search engine when people are looking for your goods or services. Have you ever noticed how many results come up when you do a search, thousands if not millions? Your goal is to be on the first page as high up as possible.
WHAT you need to understand about an internet search?
Search engines like Google make their money from advertising. You will find that the top searches are advertisements that a business has paid for. The good news is search engines also want to be helpful so they understand that if all they published was advertising then people would not use them. Thus you will find organic or unpaid search on this same page to ensure they are providing the searcher the best results. Getting your business in this organic search is key but how the magic formula works at Google is a secret. It is a secret to stop people manipulating the system and always being on the top of the list.
Google’s formula is thought to consider over 200 ranking criteria believed to be segmented into 3 categories, Technology, Copywriting, and Backlinks.
Technology – refers to how well a website works and includes things like the ability to represent itself just as well on a smartphone as a desktop PC, the speed a page loads, if all the links work, etc.
Copywriting – refers to the words used on the website to describe your business and offerings. Those keywords relating to a topic, the length of information, the context of your content, even page titles, and pictures will make a difference.
Backlinks – this is an incoming link from another site. If you are receiving links from other websites then others consider your website important thus Google makes the same assumption.
HOW do I do SEO and SEM?
You have to decide how much money, if any, you will invest in SEM and how SEM will be integrated into other activities. For example if you run a newspaper advertisement and the call to action is to visit your website then this is an example of SEM. Investing money can be in advertising or using the expertise of others to improve your website.
The most common form of SEM is to pay to have your site appear higher in a Google search result. The process is:
- You select a keyword/s to associate with your business. Think about what someone would type to search for your business.
- Decide where you want your ads to appear. Just your town or the whole state or country.
- Create a message around your benefit to the customer
- Decide a budget
- Decide when and what times of the day you want to be live
The cost of doing this is based on how many other people want to do it at the same time and how much they are prepared to pay for that keyword. Thus a bidding process determines the cost. You can also pay based on reaching many people or for results. When someone clicks on your site, the latter being more expensive. Google has many tools to help you spend your money and help you drive the best results. The key for you is to review what you spent and measure if you saw a corresponding increase in sales (Return on Investment – ROI). If you did, it worked, if you did not, try something else.
For both SEM and SEO there are 3 ways to get it done:
- Do it yourself – further research and tools provided by Google and others
- Domain Hoster – the firm you have used to host your site that potentially helped you build it via a template or website builder will have additional packages around advertising to help you
- Hire an expert – This specialist will know all the tricks and for a fee will advise you on your best options
If we now look at how to get the best out of your website by using SEO there are several steps you should follow:
Begin with research – Ensure you are optimising for the search terms to attract the best traffic to your website. You must research keywords and competitors. A handy tool to use is Google’s Keyword Planner https://ads.google.com/intl/en_au/getstarted/. A free tool that gives you keyword ideas along with information on search volume. Just type in keywords that are relevant to your small business. Keyword Planner will generate a list of keyword ideas, along with information on search volume and competition for each keyword. You want keywords with a high search volume but low competition. The other part of SEO research is looking up your competitor’s SEO activity. You will want to understand the keywords that they are using as well as the websites that are linking to their site. This competitive information will allow you to refine your approach to SEO. Use a tool such as MOZ or SEMRush to find your competitors’ keywords.
Optimise your website– Take your list of keywords and include them into your page titles and descriptions, headers, web copy, and URLs.
Optimising your site for search is not just about keywords. Characteristics like site speed, usability, and mobile-friendliness will affect your ranking. Test your site on your mobile. Get your friends to visit your site and see how fast it loads and give comments on its appeal and usability.
Content marketing – Creating relevant and educational content allows you to engage your customers, and also positions you as a trustworthy expert in your space. This content relating to your keywords will boost SEO rankings and encourage others to link to your site. Consider what people want to know including their questions and concerns. Ask yourself, is this engaging to the customer? (remember you will be biased)
If a competitor’s website is appearing higher in the search results than yours, you might find it difficult to rank with the same keywords. In this case, look for other keywords.
When creating content for your site avoid just using what your supplier/manufacturer has sent you. Instead, come up with engaging copy that will resonate with your audience.
SUMMARY – SEO and SEM to drive sales
For your website to be found you will need to promote it. This can be done at a cost or organically.
You can start simply and then build on your SEM and SEO activities but ensure you plan from the beginning and use the information contained in this guide to maximise the effectiveness of the design of your new or improved website. Which in turn will help promote your small business and drive sales!