Getting to the top of Google

Here are my top Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tips that can have a big influence in where your site ranks, not only on Google, but for all major search engines:

Turn your USPs into ‘keyphrases’ for targeting
Whether you decide to work on SEO yourself or have a company do it for you, you will need to identify which keywords/ phrases to target.

Go back to marketing basics – why is your company different? What are your unique selling points (USPs)? Who are your customers? Then string these 3 or 4 keywords together for your main products/ services to create keyphrases.

For example, you may offer a massage service. Rather than target the general term ‘massage’ use a keyphrase such as ‘sports massage London’. If you still find yourself with a lot of competition and way down the ranks, go even more detailed: ‘women’s deep tissue sports massage London’. It’s a balance though – the more detailed you go, the less people will search for that term, but the quality of the people visiting your site will be higher, they’ll stay on your site longer and Google will regard that site as being helpful and boost it up the ranks.

To get the balance right, try [ilink url=””]Google’s keyword tool [/ilink] which provides an estimate for how many people search for key terms and phrases.

Integrate your marketing strategy
Editing your website is not the only way you can boost your search rankings. You should be looking at your full marketing strategy and integrating both online and offline activities.

Love it or hate it, Google pays a lot more attention to social networks and video platforms, so signing up for Facebook, Twitter or YouTube could be the way to go. Note however the word ‘could’! An active social or video platform is going to influence the search engines, so don’t just create one if you are going to leave it dormant.

If tweeting isn’t for you, you can build a presence on social networks without even signing up. Instead add share and like buttons to your web pages. This allows other people to share your content for you – a great bit of delegation on your part!

Believe it or not, it’s not just online activities that can boost your search rankings. If you get a good bit of press in the newspaper and lots of people visit your website from it, then Google will notice the increase in visits and rank your website higher. Therefore, it’s important to include a call to action on advertisements, PR and any other offline communications. It could be a simple “visit our website for prices,” or perhaps a competition or offer. Either way, you will be keeping your potential customers engaged and giving your Google rank a little boost in the process.

Share your expertise
You know your business better than anyone else, and as you start writing down, even the tiniest bits of your knowledge, you will probably be surprised at how often those key phrases you identified earlier crop up.

So, suddenly, you have lots of content that you could use for new web pages that are packed full of your key phrases. You could add this to your website in the form of a blog or perhaps just little “how to” articles (how often do you find yourself going to the Internet and typing, “How do I…….?”).

Add some social sharing icons to the page too and you’ve started integrating different marketing platforms already!

Avoid using an SEO agent that promises you the top spot
So all of this sounds great but there’s one problem – time! You already run a business, you’re already stretched, so researching key phrases, writing articles and running social networks just isn’t going to fit in to your work schedule.

That’s where SEO companies come in. The problem is, there are a few dishonest ones out there and it’s only a matter of time before Google changes its algorithms and suddenly your site drops off Google altogether.

Google has its own set of guidelines to help you choose an external SEO agency and one thing that should raise alarm bells is an SEO agency promising you the top spot – especially if they give you a short timescale for doing this. Some SEO agencies have found loopholes to get sites ranking high, but they often use bad techniques, referred to as ‘black hat’ to achieve this. Remember, Google’s purpose is to return the most relevant search results for the customer, it doesn’t take kindly to websites that try to trick the results and it can penalise you heavily when caught.

It’s a little clichéd, but SEO is a marathon, not a sprint! Avoid the quick fix options and choose an SEO firm that can help you achieve long term results.

Remember, Google is not your customer!
Google is great, and ranking well in search engines can generate a lot of revenue. Don’t become too obsessed with rankings though – at the end of the day, Google isn’t the one that buys your product or uses your service and you should be careful to never lose sight of your marketing message.

[box]Helen Boggs has worked in digital marketing for over 5 years. Having provided digital marketing strategies for global organisations, she has now established her own company, Pineapple Web, providing affordable web design, SEO and social media strategies for start ups and small businesses.[/box]