SEO – or search engine optimisation – is the process of helping to get your website ranked well for key terms in the search engine results pages (SERPS). For almost any business universally, it is Google’s results that matter the most. The process of SEO involves three main stages: first, optimising your website so that the search engines can best understand what it is about; second, adding unique quality content to the website around the subject of your business or interest, and thirdly, acquiring links to that content. If you add fantastic content, the links take care of themselves over time, as people naturally want to link to good material – but in the beginning, you may need to reach out and encourage people to read, share and link to your content. SEO is a bit of a catch 22. Google tells us that links should be natural, i.e. people will link to what you have if it’s good. But people can’t find what you have unless it has links going to it. That’s why you have to reach out to start off with and give the process a little encouragement. However, what you shouldn’t do is buy links or participate in any spammy link building process or scheme. Although you may earn yourself a little traffic short-term, Google spends billions detecting this type of activity and you’ll quickly find your site plummeting out of the SERPs altogether.
So how do you get started with SEO?
Your first move is going to be to decide whether you want to do the work yourself or pay someone to do it for you (or a combination of the two). SEO is fairly technical and so if you haven’t got a technical mind at all, the first option may be better for you. You also need to be a good writer to do your own SEO – as there’s a lot of writing involved! Before you make your mind up, have a read of a few SEO-related articles to see whether the concepts start to make sense for you. We suggest:
If you’re reading through and thinking – yes! I get this! – and you think you’ll be okay with the writing side too, then perhaps doing your own SEO is the right decision. You’ll also need free time, of course, as SEO is a time consuming process. As a minimum, an hour each business day will get you by. You’ll want to be writing a fresh piece of content for your website at least four times a week at the start, and then spending the rest of the time on optimisation and link building. So the time requirement is pretty important and you’ll need to decide now if it’s something you can meet.
If you decide to go down the SEO agency route, you’ll need to have a think about your budget. You’ll need a bare minimum of £250 (about $420) per month to have any impact at all. SEO experts and agencies charge very varied fees so how far this budget goes really depends on who you hire. In the UK, you can expect to pay from £45 – £120 per hour for SEO expert work (although Angel Digital charges just £35 per hour). You can make this SEO budget go a lot further by doing some of the work yourself, and there’s plenty you can do, even if you’re not technically minded. In fact, Angel wrote a good article on this recently which you might find useful to read: SEO services – are they worth the money? A guide for SMEs. It covers the very important topic of choosing a good SEO, and also avoiding the SEO cowboys, of which there are many. But besides that, it also covers the sort of work you will be able to do yourself, even if you’re not getting too involved with the technical side of your SEO – such as writing, sharing, contacting customers and building valuable relationships with people in your industry who are not in direct competition. This work will help your SEO expert’s efforts go further and will help make more of an impact with your small budget.
Learning SEO for yourself
If you had a squizz at the Moz SEO guide and decided that this is for you, there are a number of ways to get yourself started in the industry. One thing you do need to remember is that SEO is constantly changing. Google updates its algorithms almost weekly (you can view the main changes here) and so you have to stay constantly on the ball to keep up to date with SEO best practice. That’s one of the reasons why SEO is so time consuming. So although we’re going to direct you to some great guides on the web, you need to keep in mind that these guides may well be a little out of date and you’ll have to keep reading to stay in touch with what you should be doing now. But they are a good place to start and they give you the foundations of SEO. So which guides would we recommend besides the beginner’s guide to SEO? Here are two more:
Besides those great guides, there are loads of blogs where you can stay up to date with what’s going on in the world of SEO and it’s essential you put aside some time to read them every day. Yep, every single day. Because that’s how fast things change. SEO experts wake up in the morning, notice that Matt Cutts has tweeted about some new algorithm change and have to get straight onto making any necessary adjustments. The reason for this is that Google don’t tend to tell us what they are changing. They give us hints at best. Even when they do make a change, they don’t ever give us the ins and outs of what’s been changed. It’s always something like, “oh, we hit spammy link building”. Nobody knows how Google’s algorithm works or what it really assesses except for Google. The best we have is the webmaster guidelines that they give us, and the string of clues that their head of spam Matt Cutts leaves us in regular videos and posts on the web. Who, by the way, you should definitely be following on Twitter and through his blog, if you’re planning on doing your own SEO.
So back to the recommended list of blogs…
Recommended SEO blogs
There are hundreds more that we could recommend but we’re keeping it short, just like your time. Aside from following those blogs and keeping an eye on their updates, it’s a good idea to subscribe to them on Twitter, and as mentioned, make sure you have Matt Cutts on there too. That way, you can keep an eye on the latest developments in SEO even when you don’t have the time to read as much.
Keeping up spirits
SEO is an ever changing game and can be extremely disheartening for someone who is first entering the industry with no experience. If you’ve worked in a business or profession before where the results you get out are at least equal to if not greater than the effort you put in, this is not like that. In fact, sometimes you’ll put a tonne of effort in and you’ll get nothing in return. To be successful in this game, you have to be persistent and not take any short cuts as they can cost you a lot more time in the long run. Don’t expect quick results, and if you get them, don’t expect them to last. Above all, don’t give up – it’s actually a fun game once you learn how to play it well, and there are plenty of great teachers out there just waiting to share their SEO gems with you.