SEO Basics for Beginners – Part 1

SEO for beginnersIf you have heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but are not quite sure what it involves and what exactly it means for your online business, then we hope this quick guide outlining the basics of SEO will help get you started.

Having, at the very least, a basic understanding and working knowledge of SEO is essential for any online business, since fundamentally the process of improving your ranking and visibility in search engines will result in more ‘quality’ visitors to your website.

In Part 1 we’ll look at what SEO actually is and why you should be building it into your marketing strategy and in Part 2 we’ll examine some tools to help get you started.

What is SEO ?

Definition

So what exactly is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?  In a nutshell SEO is the process of improving the position of your businesses ‘natural’ listing in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Basically put:

  1. The search engine user  (potentially your customer) enters a keyword or keyphrase into a search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo)
  2. The search engine results pages (SERPS) lists the results in order of relevancy to the keyword/keyphrase query entered by the search engine user. The most relevant and closest match will appear at the top of the ranking.
  3. SEO can help your business improve its natural ranking position on the search engine results pages.

Natural and PPC listings

Okay, so I mentioned ‘natural’ listings, these listings are also referred to as ‘organic’ or ‘unpaid’. They are arguably the most important listings to appear on the search engine results pages as they are the listings the majority of users click on. Natural listings are the ones you can improve by putting some time and effort into SEO activities – essentially what we’ll be looking at in Part 2 of this blog.

Before we go further with SEO, it is also important to mention the listings you usually see directly above and to the right hand side of the natural listings on the search engine results pages.  These are paid or sponsored listings and are known as ‘PPC’ (Pay Per Click) or ‘paid search marketing’. When a specific keyword or keyphrase is typed into a search engine then a pertinent PPC advertisement appears on the SERPS – a fee is paid to the search engine for each click through to the advertisement.

The general rule of thumb is that about that about two-thirds of search engine users click on the natural listings – so you can see why it really is important to put time and effort into SEO to improve your SERPS positioning. However, bear in mind that if two-thirds of users are clicking on the natural listings, this means that a third of searchers are still clicking through via the ‘paid’ advertisments. Ignoring PPC completely could mean you miss out on a significant proportion of potential visitors. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and so in order to maximise visitor traffic you may want to consider a mixture of both paid and non-paid search engine marketing.

What is in it for my business?

Right, back to Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is an essential process for driving good quality visitors to your business. Higher visibility on SERPS will drive more traffic to your website therefore, working towards getting your website on the first page of listings for search queries related to your area of business should be a priority. When you put a query into a search engine,  how often do you trawl through all the results pages the search engine lists? In all likelihood probably not very often. The majority of users look at the first search engine results page only before going back to try an alternative keyphrase search.

SEO does require time and effort but the good news is if you do the groundwork you are more likely to sustain your position long term. Once you have reached a good ranking page through SEO work with an on-going commitment it is then easier to maintain your position.

What is the search engine looking for?

So, what exactly is the criteria the search engine looking for when a user types in a search query? It actually considers numerous factors but the most important thing to the search engine is who can provide the closest, most relevant match from the most authoritative source. So essentially those websites considered authoritative with closest matching relevant content are going to score higher with search engines.

In days gone by websites could improve their SERPS rankings by simply packing their websites full of relevant keywords and sometimes involved manipulative practices now considered black hat such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. These days search engines are a lot more clued up and penalise business that don’t follow their recommended guidelines.

A good solid principle to follow to ensure you don’t fall foul of search engine criteria is quite simply to ensure you create fresh, relevant and authoritative content. We’ll be looking at ways to do this in part 2 of this blog.

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Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you’re not using Twitter to promote your online business, then you are going to be losing out on sales for your online store as a result. I’m going to tell you how to use Twitter as an effective marketing tool to generate sales for your business.

Twitter social media marketing sales channelTwitter is one of the most popular social networking websites there is and if used correctly can help send more visitors to your online store to buy the products and services you’re selling. Take note of the very important part of the last sentence “if used correctly” as this post is about how to get the best out of Twitter to sell online to avoid wasting your time, and ending up frustrated and giving up.

How not to use Twitter to sell online

If you think that Twitter is all about you posting a tweet with a link to your products and telling people to buy your product or service because it’s great, then you’re going to be wasting your time, even if what you’re selling is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Why? Because it is the equivalent of standing on a soap box on a busy high street and shouting at people. People have already switched off as they see you and avoid the message despite maybe even needing what you’re selling, they don’t like being sold to in this way.

How to use Twitter to sell online

So am I saying you shouldn’t post a link to your products and services and tell people how great they are that they should buy from you? That’s not what I am saying either. Tricky hey!

The clue is in the title, it’s about first and foremost being social and building a connection with people to establish a relationship with an audience. When you have a connection with people, they are going to be more likely to listen to what you have to say. When you do occasionally tell them about the great things you sell, there is a chance they will check it out.

There is a balance you need to have between connecting, sharing, contributing and selling, get this right and you can make Twitter an effective marketing sales channel.

How to make a social connection to people on Twitter

Before anyone can hear what you have to say, you need people to follow you on Twitter. A good starting point is to include a link to your Twitter profile in your web site and at the bottom of the emails you send. This is a good passive way to build up followers.

To actively build followers you can start by following others, some of these will return the favour and follow you back. I often take a look at someone who’s followed me to see who they are and what they are about. So by following someone, it can often lead to them checking out you and your website and then following you back. Try following a range of people and organisations which you are interested in, and follow organisations and events to do with your business sector, as Twitter makes suggestions based on the types of people you follow.

  • Follow businesses you already sell to, you might spot an opportunity for a sale at a later date if they tweet a message about a need they have or a problem they are trying to overcome that you could come to their rescue for with a solution.
  • Follow the businesses whose services and products you use yourself, as its a good way of keeping up to date on what is going on with the things you use and rely upon. As one of their customers, if you’re tweeting about your positive experiences using their products and services they may re-tweet your messages to their followers giving your more social marketing exposure.

To follow is one thing, to interact is better

I don’t follow just anybody who follows me, if someone follows me I like to actually have a look at their tweets and make sure I have some interest in what they tweet about. This helps me avoid Twitter spammers, like those just out to tweet you endless messages about ‘Buying 1000 Twitter followers instantly’ and other junk message tweeters. If you’re understanding the message here that Twitter only has real value when there is real social interaction, you’ll see that buying instant followers gives you no real interaction with real people, so will have little benefit to your business.

Following people is one thing, interaction is another. If someone you are following posted something that sounds interesting, you can re-tweet it. Effectively re-publish it on your own Twitter time line to your followers. It’s like saying, “Hey, I thought this was interesting from someone I follow, take a look and see if you think so”. People like it when you re-tweet their stuff, they may even say thank you, and it puts you on their radar.

Go one step further, reply to their tweet with your opinion on what they wrote, they want to know what they are writing is being read just as much as you do. You don’t always have to agree with them either to reply, Twitter is a public forum, as long as it’s not offensive, you’re entitled to your opinion.

Tweet links to articles on other people’s blogs or news sites that you found interesting and say why you liked it. These can be of general interest, but if it’s also relevant to your business sector, even better.

Tweet links to useful articles and competitions on your own website that people might be interested in.

When do you sell on Twitter?

So now people are interested in you and your interacting with them then you can drop in a tweet about the products and services you’re selling with a link to your website. This shouldn’t scare people off because they know following you is so much more than just sales messages, and they also know your a business at the end of the day. The ‘hard sell’ part should probably only amount to no more than about 10 to 20% of your activity on Twitter.

How to use Twitter as social media marketing sales channel

If you try and treat Twitter as a one-way advertising channel you will fail. Today’s modern marketing landscape is that you need to give people something valuable for free to get them engaged. When I say “Something valuable” I mean, giving people information has value if it is interesting, useful or even entertaining. Socially interacting with others makes you valuable to them making them more likely to return the favour, which expands your audience beyond just your own efforts, creating a social butterfly effect.

The final part is that you need to do this on a regular basis otherwise the positive effects fade away as quickly as they arrived. Good luck and get social marketing today! Sing up for a Twitter account now if you don’t already have one: http://www.twitter.com/

We look forward to getting a Tweet from you @shopintegrator on Twitter 🙂