Digital Marketing • 12th May, 16
Applying proper search engine optimisation to your site is like arriving early at the craft market to secure the best, most visible spot for your stall: it takes a little extra effort, and sure, it’s only a start; but it gives you some highly valuable visibility amidst a sea of competition, and, while nothing is ever certain in business, it could well be the difference between your business taking off or dying in its cradle.
SEO is, of course, something anyone who’s so much as dipped their toe into the world of online marketing knows about. Not only is it free, it’s enormously valuable – when it comes to publicity, appearing on the front page of a Google search for their services is one of the best things that can ever happen to a business (and being relegated to the sixth or seventh page – well, that can be a pretty heavy blow).
Now, obviously, there’s a whole ton of nifty little tricks one can pull to nail down some solid SEOing. At the same time, though, there’s also a whole ton of stuff you really, really need to not do. Online promotion follows the same rules as any sort of brand PR: done right, it can be the push that shoves your business forward into international prosperity; done wrong, and it can be a great big scarlet letter branded right across. Yep, a great big “B” for boycott that you just can’t scrub off.
In short, when it comes to optimising your business’s online presence for search engines, what you don’t do is often as important and what you do. And, well, since most of us in the modern business world are already decently familiar with most of the stuff we should do, here’s a few pointers to nudge you away from what you shouldn’t do.
Stuffed Keyword, Side of Spam
Keyword stuffing. Or spamming, if you prefer. Either way, it’s the worst thing. The worst thing. Doing this is the online marketing equivalent of being that twelve-year-old on World of Warcraft who Ctrl-Vs that same Dolan joke over and over again: it’s easy, and it gets you attention, but it also awakens primal fury in anyone nearby.
There is literally nothing that makes keyword stuffing okay. No, it’s not okay if you keep the forced keywords out of the main body of the text. It’s not okay if you hide them in the tags, or the URL, or in the background, or in some barely-visible text area. It’s not just cheating – it’s the laziest, cheapest sort of cheating.
And on top of all that…well, in PR terms, it’s just a bad investment, at least in this day and age.
See, people are getting more and more tech savvy. There’s probably some stats on it somewhere, but basically put, the average computer user – at least within a certain age range – can, nowadays, often do stuff that would, in the earlier days of the PC, have been considered the domain of specialists.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how well you think you’ve hidden it; if you’ve stuffed your site with keywords, they’re gonna find it. And when they find it, they’re gonna make it known – probably online as well as off. In business, word of mouth is of tremendous value; in modern business, word of chatroom post is of even greater value.
And once they’ve done that – well, it may not sound like much, but trust us, it’s not going to do your public image any favours. Among other things, potential customers really don’t like to feel like they’ve been tricked into clicking something; the average internet user already has to suffer through enough deceptive efforts to make them buy stuff every day. Seriously, now, it can get them very sour.
Of course, we’ve got nothing against keywords themselves. We love keywords. They’re the foundation of search engine optimisation. But keywords are like antique furniture: used in proper amounts, and at proper intervals, it’s profoundly effective; jammed into every corner, used over and over again whether it fits its surroundings or not, it just looks tryhard.
Just…temper it out, okay?
Planning is Key to Keywords
You’d think it’d be a pretty simple matter, wouldn’t you? Finding keywords, that is. Just pick some stuff your business sells, along with some appealing adjectives like “cheapest”, “best”, “fastest”, and whatnot, jam them together, and work them into the copy – carefully, of course.
But really, it’s just not quite that simple.
Like we’ve established, keywords are the building blocks of search engine optimisation – and that’s why it’s so very important not only how often you use them, but precisely what they are.
See, thing is, including promotional buzzwords and the names of what you sell is great; but it’s rarely enough on its own. Fine tuning has to be done, and a helluva lot of things – the unique elements of your business not least among them – have to be accounted for.
Perhaps most obviously, you can’t be too generic. And keywords describing your general area of business…that’s too generic. Regardless of what your banner ad taglines may say, no business is that unique; and if you’re in the business of, say, gardening services, simplistic keywords like “gardening” and “horticulture” aren’t going to do much more than touch upon an entire, globally omnipresent subsection of business – unless you’re a household name, or unbelievably lucky, tying yourself simply to generic, broad keywords like that will get you precisely nowhere.
No, what you’ve got to do is focus on the singular aspects of your business – combine your general area with the aspects of your approach to it that make your company unique; your specialisations, your discounts, your gimmicks. A keyword like “gardening” is gonna relegate you to the tenth page, if you’re lucky; a blend of keywords like “gardening vegetable decorative rock specialisation first day discount” – well, perhaps expecting it to push you as high as the first page without extra payment is a bit much; but it definitely ups the odds.
Of course, don’t get too whacky – throwing together an absurd blend of words that nobody would think to search for is hardly going to be any better for you in terms of search engine results. Research is important – tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can help you pin down what people looking for your particular services might be using.
Also, location, people, location. Of course, if you’re offering goods and services across the globe, then keep your eye on global trends; but if your business is more restricted to a particular region (returning to the gardening example – well, remote gardening isn’t quite a thing yet), it’s in your interest to keep that in mind persistently. In many ways, it can do a lot for you on the SEO front – region-specific keywords are one of the most efficient at drawing the attention of your target market.
Anchors and Calls
We’ve discussed it on this site before: there’s a lot of value to a good call to action. It’s simple, it’s direct, and it pulls in those precious clicks.
But sometimes, well – sometimes it’s best to forgo them.
See, anchor text is really only effective once your potential customers have actually found you online. And as we’ve made clear – if that’s going to happen, you need solid SEO work.
That’s why, sometimes, it’s best for a business to forgo sticking the classic Call To Action stuff on their site – the big, bright “Click Here!”s and “Order Now!”s and “Sign Up Today!”s. Sure, they catch their eye once they’ve found you; but sometimes, in the name of ensuring that they do find you – of ensuring truly solid search engine optimisation – it’s in your businesses best interests to opt for something that’ll snag the attention of the search engines.
In other words, sometimes, it’s necessary to replace Calls to Action with anchor text.
It might be best to replace “Click Here!” with “peruse our horticultural services”, and “Sign Up Today!” with “subscribe to our newsletter for weekly gardening tips”. Sure, it’s drier, quieter, and it draws the eye less; but it also helps ensure that they’ll be there to click on it.
There’s nothing precluding you from having both Calls to Action and anchor text on your site, of course – in fact, a balance is really what you should opt for. A site that’s full of thrillingly bright Calls to Action is hardly going to do your business much good if nobody ever drops by to be drawn in by them; but nor is a site that pops up on the front page of a Google search that looks too colourless and unremarkable for potential customers to wish to hang around. Front page or not, they have a ton of other options.
As with most things in life, it’s best to try and strike that happy medium.
Perhaps saying that search engine optimisation is a delicate art is overstating it a little. Still, there’s definitely nuance to it, you know? Sometimes, it needs the odd bit of careful crafting; come at it clumsily, and you could leave some permanent scuff-marks on the business.