When dipping your toe into the murky waters of search engine optimisation, many people will think that the key to success is simply to appear in search results.  “I don’t need to be SEO’d, whenever I Google myself I appear at the top” is something that our directors hear on the phone pretty often. The assumption is that appearing high in search results for your own company is enough to succeed online. We often assume with Ray Kinsella-esk optimism that if we build the website, they will come. Well, I am afraid that this is not the case.

Whilst you may be resting on your laurels and basking in a bubble of optimism, the facts are that your customers are shopping for your products and are finding them elsewhere. In short, you have to compete for the business.

For me, this is what makes SEO so challenging. It’s easy to set up a site that will attract and convert traffic from an impression to a sale.  Bit of web-sense combined with ethical & sales oriented keyphrase targeting will do that nicely. But in order to smash the glass ceiling one must be able to understand at the very least the basics of optimisation, and how to reach customers who are ready to buy. To borrow a quote from William Butler-Yeats (and attempt to rekindle my high school English poetry repertoire) “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”
So to that end, I give you 5 pointers that are fundamental in order to establish a solid SEO base and presence in your desired vertical.

1.Ensure that you are indexed in the search engines.

Believe it or not, this is still a genuine issue. I refer to search engines as plural, because although 1 search engine holds an 80% market share there are at least 2 more worth mentioning available to the UK public. So, while you think that splitting a 20% market share may not be a lot, that’s 20% of billions of search queries so it does add up. It pays to have your pages correctly marked up, and this includes images too. Social sites such as the currently fashionable Pinterest can drive traffic from relevant images from your site. So be careful when telling the search engines what they should categorise. There are also benefits in being indexed in the other search engines, and as I will explain later in this piece the harmony between your social world and your search world is beginning to be more in tune. We suggest having an XML sitemap to help search engines index your full website. Plus this helps to highlight any indexing issues, where comparing sitemap URLs to the actual number of indexed pages.

 2. Content is King.

There is a very good reason why this is the most over-coined phrase in the search marketing world.  No amount of technical wizardry and back link ninja-ery can compensate for quality, evergreen content. Put simply if your website isn’t offering value to your visitors, they won’t visit. From a SEO perspective, adding content to your website will get you big thumbs up from the search engines too, so it’s worthwhile enlisting the assistance of a professional to ensure that what you are saying about yourself and your products is impartial, informative and worth reading.

3.Cater for readers, not robots.

Little bit of an extension from my previous point, but this is a very common mistake and it can take two forms.

Many people think that by dropping a few keywords into your title tag, and cramming your keyword and description tags with words that relate to what you do can get a lift in traffic. But in this instance, I really would recommend that less is more. Let me explain…
Being a fanatical gym goer, I will see on a regular basis guys attempting to lift massively heavy weights over and over to get a desired physique. They have seen the results of lifting big weights and go into the gym with the philosophy that if I lift very heavy weights, all of the time, I will get the bigger, desirable look.
Well as any gym nut worth his salt will tell you, getting a desirable physique is a combination of eating well, having a good programme, and setting out small, achievable goals. Essentially doing the small things well.

Within this school of thought you will also find the perfect keyphrase strategy. In much the same way that lifting lots of weights won’t get you massive, throwing lots of high traffic keyphrases at your domain will not result in high traffic; quite the opposite in fact. You have to be selective in what phrases you choose, and in doing so do not choose lots and lots. All this will do is affect your ranking and harm your site. Be commercial and authoritative in your choice of keywords.   Consider what keyphrases will get you more buying-orientated traffic, rather than the “just looking” visitors. Be geographical in your targeting and reap the rewards of dominating a less competitive vertical. Much the same way as conditioning your body to look fitter, streamline your keyphrase strategy to get the desired results.

4. Create a social presence

It’s very easy to simply pop in a reference to social media and say how important it is. It’s more than simply being there because it’s “where the kids are at” and to “bring your brand into the social sphere in order to maximise customer engagement.”

Corporate BS aside, it is important from a search perspective, to have a presence.
Social channels are an absolute goldmine for backlinks. You can drive targeted, relevant traffic to your webpage and by creating a fan of your brand you can set the tone for conversations about your brand online.

A lot has been published about Google and their “search your world” mantra. And to be honest in my opinion the effect will be minimal. Google giving preferential treatment to +1’d pages will not rock your search world. Google+ users, while in the tens of millions (estimated at 65.8million), represent a fraction of a single digit percentage of all Google searches. A tiny fraction of billions of queries being affected by the search your world update. However Bing and Yahoo have been using social signals for quite some time now when returning search results, and Facebook will return Bing results when something is queried within its network. So for these reasons, it is important to have a presence, linked reciprocally to one another. SEO doesn’t exist in a bubble and will work better when it’s integrated with your social campaigns.

5.Sign up for Webmaster tools

By doing this you can monitor your website and assess any potential technical, link or keyword optimisation issues. This will also stand you in good stead when developing a PPC campaign, as you can gauge what keywords bring traffic and allows you to find out at what point people are bailing from your site.

You should remember that SEO is an on-going process. Link building takes time and while minor changes on site will see a small jump in relevant traffic, you should never rest on your laurels. By its very nature the SEO goalposts are constantly moving, so being aware and moving with them will allow you to remain competitive in some seriously strong verticals.