You know that sinking feeling when you dash into your local supermarket to pick something up in a hurry, and they’ve changed everything around? All you can think is: great, all I need is a carton of milk and a tin of cat food, but now I’ll have to waste twenty minutes wandering about trying to figure out where the hell they’re keeping it today.
Now imagine that this supermarket doesn’t just have some annoying redesign every six months or so – they do it every single day. Every morning, when customers arrive, they’re faced with thousands of products spread over dozens of aisles, and no idea where to find what they want without help.
Every day, billions of new pieces of information are thrown onto this mammoth pile, and search engines like Google have to figure out how to organise them so that users can navigate to what they need.
If you were one of the brands whose products are stocked in that supermarket, you’d want to make sure that the overworked shop assistants could tell immediately what each item is and where they should put it. You’d want to make your products jump out and look familiar so that customers can locate it in a hurry. And you’d want to do plenty of research on how the supermarket organizes and directs people around the store, so that you can label products in a way that fits with their system – and your stuff doesn’t end up left in the store room gathering dust.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and that’s exactly what it does – it optimises your content for search engines.
When someone searches for a particular term, Google (or Bing, or whatever search engine you’re using) scans through millions of websites looking for matches and suggests the ones THEY think are most relevant. If the person searching for that term clicks their suggestion and stays on the site, they take this as a sign they’ve got it right.
If a lot of people clicking the link take one look at it and leave immediately Google takes this as a sign that the page wasn’t much help – and pushes it down the list of suggestions for next time.
Firstly, you need to clearly label your content using the same language as your intended audience – the terms they enter into the search engine – so that Google knows where to put your stuff and who to show it to.
Secondly, you need to make sure that when people click through to your site, they get useful, relevant, high quality content that’s easy to find their way around.
There are a whole bunch of tools you can use to figure out what keywords and search terms to focus on.
These tell you how many times a particular term is searched each month, giving you a better idea of how your potential customers frame their queries – and how to word your site.
For example, imagine you’re a geospatial company that specialises in remote sensing technology.
According to Google AdWords, the term “remote sensing” gets 40,500 hits a month, but the term “remote sensor” only gets a measly 2,400.
This means that, in theory, you could show up in nearly twenty times as many searches, simply by changing this sentence:
“We specialise in remote sensors for mapping the surface of the Earth”
“We specialise in remote sensing technology for mapping the surface of the Earth”
Search engines understand that different elements on the page carry different weight. Google will pay more attention to a keyword that shows up in a title or header than to keywords that turn up in the body text.
That’s because putting a keyword in a header makes it clear that this is the main focus of the page or section – it’s not just a passing reference.
So, to use the example above, if you have a header on a page (marked out in HTML with proper <H1> or <H2> tags so that the search engine KNOWS it’s a header!) that says: “Remote Sensing Technology for Geospatial Analysis”, Google feels pretty damn confident that someone searching for “remote sensing” and “geospatial analysis” will find your site useful.
To a lesser extent, putting a keyword in bold, italics or a bulleted list also sends the message to your search engine that this is more important than the others, i.e. that this is an important term that shows what your site is about.
Using a keyword a couple of times on the page helps to make it clear that this the point of the site, too. Just don’t go nuts, as we’ll look at in a moment.
Oh, and make sure you include keywords in the file names of any images you use – and in the ALT text for that image, too – especially if you’re using the image to link to another page. Search engines gather clues about what the destination page site is about from what the links to it say. This also means that text links are generally better than images, as they provide more information!
Put simply, If you stuff your site with keywords but don’t deliver answers, solutions or helpful information, the visitor will “bounce” straight off it.
Then, Google’s robots will think, uh-oh, this site isn’t great, so let’s push it further back in the queue of search results.
This means that simply squishing in as many keywords as possible can actually do you much more harm than good.
Case in point: if you’re more worried about replicating a search term than writing like a human, your audience will spot that, and they’ll be suspicious of your site. Plus, by chasing the most popular terms instead of the most accurate ones for your site, you could be attracting the wrong audience.
For example, let’s say you sell drones to the geospatial industry for site scanning and surveying.
The terms “video drone” and “camera drone” are a LOT more popular than the terms “drone surveying” and “site scan.” But if you try and shoehorn in references to “video drone” or “camera drone” where it doesn’t really flow, your readers will be put off.
And, of course, you’ll also get tens of thousands of hits from ordinary people searching for videos taken by amateur drone filmmakers, or who are looking to buy a drone off Amazon for a couple of hundred quid. You might get more traffic, but it’s useless to you.
Better to get 100 potential customers finding you by searching for “drone surveying” than half a million who turn out to be teenagers searching for cool drone footage!
Having outsiders link to you is one of the best things you can do for your SEO. Basically, the more times Google or Bing see a link back to you, the more likely they are to think you’re a trustworthy site and push you up their rankings.
This can only happen when you produce top quality content. That’s why blogging, as well as other forms of content marketing, are so valuable – they give people a reason to post links to your site, boosting your credibility and making you more likely to show up in searches in the long run.
Here’s how Peter Kent, author of SEO for Dummies, sums up what you need to do for effective SEO:
“Here’s the ideal optimized page:
Lastly, remember that this stuff takes time and effort. Great SEO is essential, but it takes effort. You need to win people’s trust, give them plenty of first rate content, and take the time to test out what works.
There are no cheats to it – but when you get it right, it’s worth the work. I promise.
Ready to take your geospatial marketing to the next level? Give me a call today on +447825 517 850 Skype: elaine_ebtm or email elaine @ elaineball.co.uk for a chat about how we can help!