Five things that are worth knowing about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.
— Matt Cutts, Google's Head of Webspam

Let me start by saying that I am not an SEO expert. I don’t claim to be able to put your website to the top of Google rankings, or to help you fend off all of your competitors with some keywords and a magic wand. For a newbie, SEO can feel like a daunting subject to get to grips with.

However, because copywriters are important figures in today’s marketing I’ve spent the past few months trying to learn as much as I can about SEO. I’ve been on courses, spoken with other freelancers and read useful blogs by Google’s Matt Cutts and Moz as I try to get to grips with this subject. The quote by Matt at the beginning of this blog is from an interview by Eric Enge for Stone Temple Consulting.

The list below is not a definitive guide to SEO but I think these are all useful things to know, particularly when optimising webcopy. 

  1. SEO is much more than trying to fit as many keywords into your copy as possible. In fact, stuffing your content with keywords is likely to damage your search engine ranking. Instead, try to identify three or four keywords and weave these into your copy as naturally as possible. Sites like keywordeye.com and keywordspy.com can help you to identify relevant keywords.

  2. It’s all about backlinks. When a site posts a hyperlink to your website, that’s a backlink. Backlinks are a bit like a vote, and they are good because they signal that your website is authoritative. However, this is only really helpful when the site that’s linking through to you is authoritative itself.  I use Majestic (no, not the wine people) to check the authority of a domain, and generally trust websites that have a trust flow rating of 20 or higher.  

  3. Use Google’s Console to make sure Google’s bots crawl and index your website, looking for changes to your content. Googlebot crawlers look at webpages, going from link to link to capture the data and bring it back to Google’s servers. Once the bots have gathered this info, Google can look up your search terms in the index to find the appropriate pages. Keeping your content fresh and regularly updated will help boost your ranking.

  4. Speed is important. I was surprised to learn this, but webpages that take a long time to load can rank lower in a search engines results. Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your page can be downloaded. A web developer should be able to help you if loading speed is an issue.

  5. Remember that slow and steady wins the race when it comes to SEO. It can take several months to build up a decent presence in a search engine. You could be penalised if you try to cheat the system by buying backlinks or stuffing your website with irrelevant keywords. I once heard about a company that did this and they were swiftly dropped from Google’s frontpage. This cost them thousands of pounds in lost revenue.