Hey Northampton! Is SEO still relevant in 2016?
Well, Yes & No.
Search Engine Optimisation is the process of ensuring code and content adhere to web standards and fall inline with your market position. On it's own it forms the basis of a well-coded website. What it means to search engines is much more. It allows search engines to properly index your site, analyse it's content and find out what your site's about, while deciding it's rank amongst your competition based on relevant topics.
How Search Engines Work
The two main things a search engine does is crawl and index.
Crawling is the process of finding new sites and taking snapshots of your website's code, to be stored in massive datacentres across the world. The crawler will follow links from existing sites in it's database, or new ones that it discovers, each link having instructions in their tags stating whether crawlers should follow the link or index the page it points to. Typically these are 'no index' and 'no follow' which is often used in blog comments for example, where people are likely to spam with links to their own site for better chances of being 'found'.
Indexing is the organisation of these sites in their database. They do this using complex algorithms that determine how relevant your information is for a given topic. There are many factors that contribute to this algorithm from number of links pointing to your site, to the title tags, meta information, site structure, mobile compatibility and more importantly, depth of content. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it's the foundation of what helps your site gain traffic. When a user inputs a term into the search engine, it's job is to display the most relevant & popular results.
Why Search Engine Optimisation (Marketing) Is Needed
Because search, is the new Yellow Pages.
Every year billions are spend on marketing (estimated $77 billion this year), which combines a plethora of different techniques to increase a site's visibility and create valuable leads. SEO is relatively cheap and it's impact is vastly under-valued. Growing an audience organically and ensuring your website is top of the listings (or at least, first page) for any given keyphrase instills trust in your buyers through popularity. Being at the top or on the first page isn't just vanity, it has a purpose. It provides the greatest amount of traffic and drives the online economy.
The Basic Requirements of SEO
The automatec crawlers or 'search bots' have to inspect your code and decipher it into something they can then organise and rank. They all operate in a similar way and look for specific elements in your site's code. Traditionally that will include page title, H1, H2, H3 tags, the first and last paragraph of text in the page and the meta description. Getting these right is the head-start you need before promoting your site through campaigns and marketing. A site with poor code or missing tags has historically ranked lower for quality and therefore it's position will be superceeded. Bad code is not limited to this handful of tags either. Errors with scripts or security issues can affect your visibility too. Problems crawling your site may include pages hidden by logins may not be crawled, robots.txt files in the root directory may indicate that the site is not for inclusion and duplicate pages confuse them leading to lower rankings or worse - de-indexation. This is because they're looking for original content that is easily indexed and follows a basic format. Correct linking between pages and through urls and titles.
"What do you want to rank for?" Is not something we usually ask. Generally because if we're with a client who's a letting agent, they'll reply 'property to let'. Good luck with that! You'll be competing with companies who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to rank for exactly the same. This is why keyword research and identifying local opportunities is likely to bear more fruit. Reason being because you're limiting the scope of maybe one page on your site to a specific region or group of people, making it easier to optimise within one region, than trying to take on the world's letting agents at once. Keyword research is primarily used to generate ideas for pay per click advertising. It allows you to see what sort of traffic (how many searches) a key phrase has per month and how competitive the market is for that phrase. From there you can start to create and optimise your brand to fit in with terms that are long-tail (a string of words that make a phrase) and are less competitive.
What's more relevant in 2016 is inbound marketing on the whole.
Inbound marketing is a buzzword relating to the promotion of a business through blogs, podcasts, video, ebooks, newsletters, whitepapers, social media and of course SEO. It's purpose is to generate traffic to your website and create leads and returning customers at different stages of the purchasing 'funnel'. It's a far less intrusive and interruptive way of grabbing potential customers' attention. Compare it to direct mail, radio advertising, TV ads, cold-calls and traditional ads which are all outbound mediums that companies will use to reach out for buyers' attention. It's much more about enticing people in!
To find out more about our complete inbound marketing solutions including SEO, Social media management, Paid advertising, Email marketing, Mobile & Content Marketing and more, contact us and we'll talk you through our best solution for your business.