How to use SEO effectively

  • 12 Feb 2021

By Cordy Griffiths, CEO of tech agency Ballou

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a relatively low-cost way of improving visibility online and growing sales. It is about understanding how search engines index and rank content, and when the visibility of your website is maximised your site becomes more visible to your target audience.

So what types of content need to house your SEO terms? ‘SEO terms’ means the words that people are going to use to find your site. Listicles (‘10 ways to…’, etc) are infinitely clickable when they crop up in search results. Engaging blog posts are always an easy and effective way to create a stream of SEO content, as are articles and how-to guides. A glossary, giving explanations of technical terms and, of course, a product page can also be invaluable in terms of SEO. 


As an SME looking to get on board with SEO, there are a couple of different routes to go down.

Is your business ready for SEO?

First, ask yourself is SEO viable for your organisation and how much work will it involve. How far can you afford to go, and how much can you afford to spend, in terms of back link acquisition, creating content and updating the content regularly and in enough depth to push your organisation up the rankings? Don’t underestimate the work involved…

Know your market

Begin by investigating the market. Who are the leaders? Be aware, it may not be who you think it is. One of the most common scenarios I’ve come across in my career in SEO is when you ask the owner of an SME who their biggest competitors are, they will confidently reply, only to discover that online it’s a completely different company, totally unknown to the client. As an example, Skyscanner, the travel booking site, was built from the ground up with SEO in mind. They were quick and nimble at a time when the competition wasn’t, and as a result have dominated the travel industry for years organically.


The key message to take away is that in SEO not every market behaves the same. Find out which companies are in the spots you want to be in, and try to understand what their differential might be. Before long, you will notice a pattern between the companies that perform well, and the ones who do not.

What are your organic KPIs?

You have to be clear on what your KPIs are; when do you want to appear? What search terms do you want to be found under? Inspirational key searches will mean you appear in a general “curiosity” search.

The alternative is a direct search where people know exactly what they are looking for. For an SME it may not be viable to commission content that resolves customers’ needs at every stage of the funnel.

Empower yourself

Dev (development) teams do not come cheap. Tinkering with your SEO to maximise the visibility of your site requires work. It’s not something you can fit and forget. Therefore, the ideal situation is for you to empower yourself to monitor and manage your own content. 

For a business to fully realise its organic potential, every department needs to be pulling together. For lack of a better term, the left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. The content, development, PR and reporting teams all need to be pulling together and be given visibility of your various internal roadmaps – for content creation, development work and outreach.


SEO audit

Run a technical SEO audit to make sure that you’re putting all this lovely content on a solid technical base. If your website is not fundamentally sound then then you’re going to experience difficulties. If you decide to run with an agency, look for one that will provide you SEO solutions based on what you can feasibly achieve with your CMS and dev team, prioritised with what is important in your market and by what will have the most impact.

If there’s one piece of advice I’d like you to take away with you, it’s to know your market. Basic, yes, but by researching and understanding how your competitors are working online, you will gain an understanding of what works in your market. Online marketing is not the same across all sectors and regions, just as bricks-and-mortar businesses are not. Understand your market and empower yourself and you’ll work your way up the charts. 

Never forget that at the end of the day you are looking to provide a good experience for users who have typed a query onto a search engine. Consider what keywords you want to rank for and whether your business fits the needs and expectations that come with that search.

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