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Search is hard. Even for those that are experienced in the discipline, the new technologies, best practices and algorithm updates make for an ever-evolving landscape that’s increasingly difficult to master. Of course, the hardest things in life are often the most rewarding, and when it comes to SEO and your business, this is certainly the case.

Good SEO is essential to your online presence, and we recommend every business seeks out the help of a search expert to ensure the success of your site. But it’s also important for key stakeholders to have at least some awareness of search. A little knowledge can go a long way, allowing you to understand the core concepts, communicate well with the specialists, and ultimately secure a more effective search strategy.

We’ve pulled together a list of some of the basics – five key things that you should know about SEO.

1. Bigger isn’t always better

Over the past few years, Google has been blatant in its penalization of big sites that use underhand tactics, actively promoting a more level playing field in the SERPs. However, despite stringent penalties and the opportunities that are now offered to smaller players, Google is still much more likely to favour a household name over a start up.

An eCommerce site that sells cushions, for example, is very unlikely to outstrip the likes of Next, John Lewis and Dunelm. With that being said, most sites will see a lot more success if they optimize for small, niche terms. Choose “handmade cushions” or “designer scatter cushions” over the big volume terms. You should also spend time searching out alternative keywords that are still relevant but less competitive, and of course optimize for your own brand name, securing the top spots for when you really take off.

2. Less is more

Continuing along the line of keywords, you should also forget about ranking for dozens of terms, and instead focus your time and effort into specific phrases. Generic keywords are highly competitive, and though they may bring you visitors, a smaller handful of core terms will lead to better quality traffic. Choose your terms carefully, taking into account your products or services and target audience.

Of course, sites with a diverse offering will want to rank for a wider variety of terms, but those with a particular niche should choose quality over quantity. And as your brand grows and gains authority, a larger collection of more competitive keywords will become more effective.

3. Content isn’t as easy as it sounds

When it comes to content, many businesses wrongly assume that an article here and there suffices. While any quality additions to your site are worthwhile, a solid content strategy involves more than an occasional blog post.

In order to see the best results from your content, you need to invest. Identify your target audience, allocate time for creative sessions, recognize competitor content (especially if it’s working!), and utilize great writers, designers and PRs. Big budgets aren’t obligatory, but investment in time and people are a must for a sound content strategy.

4. Links aren’t always valuable

Another common SEO faux pas involves links. Incoming links are valuable, of course, but when they’re irrelevant, paid for, or derive from a site with an authority problem, you can run into serious issues.

Underhand methods caused Interflora and the BBC to topple from grace, and Google will punish your site in the same way if you dabble in spammy tactics. Avoid penalization by being mindful of your link earning strategy; ensure there’s purpose and value behind every piece of content that’s shared, don’t pay for links, and steer clear of untrustworthy sites. Even if all the rules have been followed on your part, when you receive a link from a dodgy domain, it will do a lot more damage than good.

5. Trust is the foundation of every relationship

… And that includes your website’s relationship with the search engine! There are a number of ways to earn Google’s trust. By gaining social shares and comments on your site, you’re demonstrating that it’s high quality and engaging. Keep your blog up to date with fresh, interesting content, and make sure you steer clear of duplicates. You should also offer official About and Contact pages, Ts&Cs and Privacy Policies. Using other sites as sources and linking to them will also earn you respect, as long as it is relevant, of course.

Don’t try and trick Google into trusting you – it’s far too difficult to outsmart nowadays. Instead, take the time to build up an authentic, quality website that offers visitors real value. When you earn Google’s trust, your site will rank well. Simple.

Want to know more? Find out more about our SEO services by getting in touch on 0113 2180 109.