SEO 101: the basics of search engine optimisation for start-ups

As a small business owner, you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. From running pay roll to getting sales in, managing staff and keeping clients happy to taking responsibility for budgets, taxes and marketing, it can seem overwhelming.

The field of digital marketing alone is one that requires time, expertise and experience – it’s something that as an SME, you can’t afford to ignore either as digital marketing is for most businesses, the primarily route to modern consumers.

If you’ve invested money in a new website design, you’ll need it to be visible on Google – not just to create an ROI on the cost of the site but to ensure that your business has a steady stream of new business and can hold its own against rivals. Google visibility comes down to one thing: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Knowing the basics of SEO is vital for any startup. Without some level of regular SEO activity, it’s likely to be a very long time (if ever) before you start to see your site appearing prominently on the search results pages. That means you’ll be forced to invest in advertising and other marketing to even be visible to your target audience. When you consider that the majority of purchases now involve a search engine, you’ll need to do all you can to gain that valuable SEO real estate.

SEO can roughly be split into two distinct areas of activity. On page optimisation and off page optimisation.

On page optimisation

On page optimisation covers the work that you do on your own site to aid your quest for Google rankings. It covers all of the content and code on every page of your site. Within that, considerations such as which keywords you use on a page, where you place them on a page, how much text you have, the quality and usefulness of your next, what your page title is, what your H1 header says, the types of links you have on the page and even how you name your images plays a part. In addition to auditing every page of your site for all of those considerations, you’ll need to regularly add new pages of optimised content to keep your SEO campaign ticking over.

Off page optimisation

Off page optimisation covers everything that goes on off your site that effects your search positions. For the most part, when you hear digital marketers or SEO professionals talking about off page optimisation, they’re essentially referring to link building. Here, the focus is on acquiring good quality links back to your own website. Those links should be from decent websites, in the same or related field to you. The links you build should be from a range of different sources, and the links should point back to a whole host of pages within your site, with a range of link text (also known as anchor text).

On page and off page SEO are connected of course. The more good quality content you have, the more likely you are to acquire good quality links.

Local SEO

Over the last couple of years, local SEO has increasingly become part of the SEO conversation. The reason for this is simple – we all use our mobiles and tablets to access the Internet. Often, it’s because we want to find something when we’re out, such as the nearest garage or closest restaurant.

Local SEO is all about appearing for those local search terms to attract local traffic.