Yesterday, I attended a Natwest Boost event at the Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol. There were loads of great speakers there, but the one that got everyone scribbling on their complimentary notepads was Patrick Cutliffe, an expert in digital marketing, online advertising and analytics.

Ranking high on a Google search can become almost an obsession for business owners who want to drive organic traffic to their sites, so it’s no surprised we were all dying to hear what he had to say. Trying to figure out the magic formula that will get Google on our side is a quest on a level with the search for the Holy Grail, so any inside help is welcome.

The first thing Patrick talked us through was how SEO actually works. In simple terms, Google’s bots ‘crawl’ websites, analysing the content they find and categorising it. They then use over 200 questions to determine the relevance of that site to any given search criteria.

What those questions are, however, is what Patrick called “Google’s secret sauce” - no one’s giving up that particular secret. But there are still plenty of ways to get the bots on side, even if you don’t know exactly what questions they’re asking. Here are some of Patrick’s key points.

1) Run key word research

Key words are still a fundamental part of search engine optimisation. You need to know what your potential customers and clients are looking for when they want your products or services, so that you can ensure your site contains them.

Direct research (ie asking!) is a great way to find out what your customers are searching for, and eliminates the need for guesswork. Another one of Patrick’s tips was to visit competitors’ websites and see what they’re doing. By right clicking each page and viewing the source information, you can find out what words they use in their titles, meta data and potentially even key words themselves.

2) Register on Google My Business

If you’re not on Google My Business, you’re missing a trick. Not only is it a great way to give potential customers useful information about your business, from opening times to detailed directions, it’s also something that will help rank you more highly. Plus your listing will come up in a box to the right of the search page rather than simply as a link within the list of organic search results.

3) Verify your website with Google

The other way to help Google be sure that you are who you say you are is to verify your site. This is a very simple process that links one or more individual users to a given site, but it’s a step many businesses forget. By verifying your site, you not only boost your credibility but you can access a tool called Search Console, which allows you to test how Google reads your site and see how you rank.

4) Optimise your website for mobile

Mobile internet browsing has now overtaken desktop browsing, so you really need to be thinking about how accessible your website is from a mobile device as a starting point. Load times and navigability are two key factors. As Patrick said, “You should be making it so a three-year-old can navigate your mobile optimised site. Any more than three clicks and you’re going to lose a lot of your potential customers.” He recommended a tool called Test My Site, which evaluates your site’s mobile loading time and caculate the potential level of customers that could lose you.

5) Create great content

I’ve said it so many times, but it’s nice to have an SEO expert like Patrick confirm it: “Content and content marketing is so, so important.” He’s right. Google’s algorithms are really very clever indeed. They can’t be fooled by irrelevant copy that simple has a few choice key words stuffed into it at random points. As Patrick pointed out, a search engine is essentially a matchmaking service, with the goal of bringing together information seekers with the most relevant information for their enquiry. Genuinely good content will always meet that need, you just need to sign-post it properly.

Patrick shares a lot more great information, but I hope that’s given you a flavour of his talk. You can find more information about what Google wants in their free Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, available to download as a PDF.

And if you need help creating genuinely helpful content that will drive visitors to your website or blog, contact us today to find out how we can help.

***

Did you enjoy this article? Share it with your colleagues now on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+.

Read More