From remote working to furloughed staff and redundancies, lockdown has been difficult for businesses in almost every sector. But with the vaccine rollout reducing serious cases of COVID-19 in the UK, we have a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
As things return to normal, it’s more important than ever that companies are ready to attract consumers and generate new business. And what better source to find new customers than via Google?
With over 90% of the global search engine market and 40,000 searches per second, your target audience is using this platform. The question is – how can you win Google’s favour and direct traffic from the search engine giant onto your website?
That’s where search engine optimisation (SEO) can help.
Read on as we explore the importance of search engines for your business and how SEO can help your brand thrive.
The importance of search engines
There’s no two ways about it. Web searches are on the up. Compared to fewer than 100 million searches pre-2004, Google’s annual search volumes have shot up to over a trillion in the last decade. That’s continued to rise in the last year, with cyber security firm Akamai reporting a 30 percent surge in global internet traffic in 2020.
Most importantly, people aren’t just searching for the latest weather forecast. According to the Global Statshot report from Datareportal, a whopping 81% of internet users searched online for a product to buy or service to use. From fashion and food to tech and tourism, customers are searching online for products and services just like yours.
The problem? If your site isn’t optimised for search engines, you won’t be showing up on the first page of search results (or even second, third, fourth – you get the idea). Even worse, with the first page of Google capturing between 71-92% of traffic, those potential customers won’t be going searching for your company. Instead, they will be clicking on competitors’ sites and buying from them.
That’s arguably even more important as we head out of lockdown, with brand loyalty in a state of limbo. While most consumers had certain brands they stuck to pre-COVID, research from McKinsey suggests that 63% of UK consumers have tried new shopping behaviours since the start of the pandemic. That means more consumers will be open to finding new sellers, suppliers and service providers going forward.
Improving your search engine rankings
Clearly, it’s more important than ever before that your business ranks for relevant search terms on Google. The best way to achieve that in the long run is through SEO.
In short, SEO refers to a range of techniques used to optimise your site for search engines and those all-important search terms. It includes content-based optimisation, identifying and including the right phrases, but also more technical tweaks – like making your site faster, mobile friendly or improving crawlability.
In fact, Google’s algorithm takes over 200 ranking factors into account, which are continuously being updated and amended. But for your sanity, here are some of the most important:
- Secure – Google doesn’t want to send its users to dubious sites. Having HTTPS is an easy way to make your site that bit more secure for users, and more attractive to Google.
- Fast – Site speed is an important ranking factor for Google, with 40% of users abandoning sites that take more than 3 seconds to load. This is incredibly important for ecommerce sites. That said, it doesn’t have to be lightning fast, with 3 seconds or quicker the benchmark to aim for.
- Mobile-friendly – Since their 2015 update, Google officially takes the mobile version of a website into account when calculating their rankings. That means your site needs to be just as fast and easy to use on mobile as it is on desktop.
- Optimised content – Let’s not forget about the content. When crawling your site, Google is looking for original, relevant content throughout your website to tell it what each page is focussed on, as well as building an idea of your business as a whole.
- Meta data – As well as the content on page, there are a number of technical areas where keywords can be added including the title tag, meta description and image alt tags.
- Back-links – Google prefers sites which have good authority. To achieve this, external websites need to link back to yours. Each link is a vote of confidence from the web. However, be wary of low-authority sites (usually links which you pay for) as they won’t have the desired effect.
- User experience – Above all else, Google wants to send users to sites they will like. To get an idea of that, they’ll look at how previous visitors have used your site. Factors like the click through rate, bounce rate and dwell time will all contribute to your overall ranking.
Above all else, your site needs to work well and be relevant to the searches people are using when trying to find products or services like yours.
Playing the SEO long game
Compared to pay-per-click marketing, which offers instant results but continues to charge you for every one of them, SEO is something of a long game. Businesses that are serious about improving their rankings need to be in it for the long haul too.
As discussed above, there are a wide range of fixes for your site that can improve its performance on search engines almost instantaneously. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To see real results, you need to combine optimisation with ongoing content creation.
For one, because Google tracks how often your site is updated. As the world’s leading search engine – by some margin – they don’t want to be sending their users to stagnant, derelict and neglected websites.
Google wants to know that sites are relevant, current and active. Blogging is a great way to show exactly that, adding fresh, unique content to your site. It can also help with back-links, as other sites might link to your blog posts if they’re particularly interesting or helpful, for example.
But that’s not all…
Creating an effective content strategy
While blog posts are an effective way to keep your site active with original content, the content itself can also be used to target keyphrases and add to the initial optimisation mentioned earlier. While there is still some value to blogging naturally about industry trends, company news and general views (tread carefully), keyword research can be used to steer your content topics for ongoing SEO.
The best way to do so is typically through long-form content. While definitions vary from 700 words to upwards of 2,000, long-form content refers to more detailed blog posts which explore specific topics in more depth than a usual blog post.
Another difference with blogging comes in the phrases you can target. While your home page, service pages or product pages will usually be targeting short, broader keyphrases, long-form blog posts can dig into long-tail keyphrases which are more specific. While these phrases have lower search volumes, they also have fewer sites competing for them, making it more likely that your site will attract some of the traffic.
Principally, if you ask the question – how can I help my target audience? – then your content strategy is on the right track.
Come out of lockdown on top
SEO can play a huge part in your company’s success as we return to normality. At Rapport Digital, we take a holistic approach to marketing, combining expertise in SEO and content marketing as well as social media, pay-per-click and email.
With our help, you can improve your site’s rankings both short- and long-term to ensure your business makes the most of post-lockdown opportunities. To find out more, simply contact our team.