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As Search Engine Optimization is highly technical, there are many specialized terms used when discussing this topic. I'll list some of the most commonly misunderstood terms below, starting with SEO/SEM (and the difference between them).

1.    SEO/SEM

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization." It's a set of techniques used by a SEO Consultant to improve your website's rankings in the search engines for a particular set of keywords, or keyword phrases. (more on this topic in a bit)

SEM stands for "Search Engine Marketing" and is being used more and more by search engine professionals. In addition to the standard SEO techniques, SEM Consultants also specialize in:

  • Creating Pay-Per-Click Campaigns on the search engine of your choice... primarily Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Buying paid "inclusions" from the search engines. This is paying a search engine company for a guarantee that your website will be included in their search results.

2.    SERPs

SERPs stands for "Search Engine Results Pages." It's the page that is returned whenever someone conducts a search through a search engine.

SEO techniques are used to improve your web page's ranking amongst the other "organic" listings in the SERPs with the ultimate goal of increasing targeted website traffic.

3.    Keyword Phrase

It's extremely important that you grasp the concept of the "keyword phrase" as it is the backbone of SEO. A keyword, or keyword phrase, is the word(s) entered into the search box by an internet user.

As the search engines return the web pages they believe to be most relevant for the keyword phrase entered, it's vital that you understand the concept and do your best to optimize your pages for the keyword phrases you want to be found for.

4.    Backlinks

Last, but not least, is the subject of backlinks. Most SEO Consultants agree that the creation of backlinks (aka links, link building, one-way links, etc.) that point to your pages should be your primary objective.

You need to build quality links, that contain your targeted keyword phrases and you need to do this on an ongoing basis. SEO is not a "once and done" type of activity, it requires continual improvement/management to be truly effective.

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Before you spend a lot of time and money on your search engine optimization efforts, you should consider marketing your website with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising?

Why?

Well, there are a number of benefits including:

  1. It will allow you to get a more accurate picture as to how much search volume there is for the keyword phrases you are targeting. Although most keyword tools will report search volume data, you'll frequently find conflicting information.
  2. If you track your conversions, you can quickly see which keyword phrases yield the highest return on your advertising dollar. These "money" terms can then be used when performing SEO to your site.
  3. If you haven't already created a PPC campaign it's possible that you will be offered a certain amount of free advertising credits by the search engine of your choice. Google frequently gives out $100 worth of advertising credits to those who create an Adwords account so you might as well take advantage of it.


In addition to the benefits listed above, it will also allow you to get quick exposure for competitive keyword phrases. Instead of waiting for weeks, or months, you can show your ads the same day you place them.

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Every successful SEO Plan is designed around the keyword phrases that will be targeted. 

Do this right and you'll likely get the results you are looking for... improved rankings for the terms you've optimized for and an increase in targeted traffic.

Do this wrong, however, and you will have wasted a whole lot of time (and possibly money too!)

Keyword research is what separates novice SEOs from true professionals. Most anyone can find keywords using a tool like that provided by Google but few know how to sift through the junk to find the treasure.

It would be impossible for me to teach you the intricacies of keyword research in this short blog post but I will give you a "top level" explanation of the three main aspects.

1. Search Volume

Behind each keyword phrase, there is an associated "search volume." The search volume is an approximation of how many times the keyword phrase is searched upon in an average month.

So, if you optimize a page around a term that has a listed search volume of 100 searches per month, you can't expect a first page ranking to bring you much traffic. After all, you should never expect your site to receive all of the available "clicks."

2. Keyword Intentionality

When choosing keywords it's important that you try to get inside the mind of the person doing the search. You may think that the keyword phrase clearly conveys what the searcher is looking for but this is not always the case.

There are many sophisticated techniques used to determine the "intentionality" of each keyword phrase but here's a simple tip... enter the keyword phrase into the search engine you care most about and look at all of the results.

Are there a number of sponsored ads on the page? This can indicate that the keyword phrase has a "commercial intent."

Are the organic listings what you expected to see? If most of the listings are relevant to your business, you're on the right track. If they're not, you probably don't really understand the intentionality of the keyword phrase.

If you search Google.com for the keyword phrase, "how to save a life," you might expect to see listings on first aid, CPR, the Heimlich Maneuver, etc. Instead, however, you will find information on the song, "How To Save A Life," by The Fray.

3. Determining Your Competition

This may sound a bit harsh, but it's true… if you want to rank on the first page for a particular keyword phrase you are going to have to kick one of the current listings off!

Because of this, it's important you know what it is going to take to accomplish this before deciding to optimize for the term. In some cases, you will find that the work will be easy and in others, near impossible.

There are many factors that come into play when determining your competition. It's not just about the strength of the competitor's website/web page, but also your strength in comparison.

This topic is a lengthy one but here are some of the questions you must ask:

  • What is the domain age of my competitor and how does that relate to mine?
  • How well optimized is their page and how does that relate to mine?
  • How many links does their page have and how does that relate to mine?


While there is more to it, the answer to these three questions will give you a general idea as to whether you can compete or not and what you must do to improve your chances.

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