Ask HNW: What is SEO | Search Engine Optimisation (And Why Should I Care)?

Q: “What is SEO or Search Engine Optimisation and, as a start up business owner, why should I care?”

A: SEO or Search Engine Optimisation can either be; one of the most powerful free online tools a start up business can use to get new customers, or one of your competitor’s greatest advantages over you because you’re not using it.

It can drive traffic to your website, get you noticed by people who are looking specifically for what you have to sell (products or services) and, if you keep your website content SEO-friendly, you can rely on Search Engine Optimisation to help keep your business moving, and customer interest high.

But the problem is that most start up businesses either don’t understand it, fail to follow the process through, or more often than not simply ignore the free benefits of SEO without a second glance – as if it were a marketing gimmick.

And that’s a bad mistake to make.

The fundamentals of Search Engine Optimsation are actually quite simple, logical and easy to use.

It’s also free (a big bonus for start ups) if you’re willing to spend a bit of time on something that can literally transform your business’s visibility and growth.

In fact, SEO should be considered an absolute necessity for any startup looking for customers to engage with their products and services.

Oh, and ignore it at your peril – with the failure rate in the first five years for start ups continuing to hover around 80%, you need every advantage you can get to make your company dream a long-term reality. 

The First Steps Towards Profitable SEO

HNW suggests the following two options to help you take advantage of what SEO can bring to your business:

  • Sign up to receive HNW’s free weekly SEO update: How to Put Your Business on Page 1. Each week you’ll receive tips and advice that are easy to understand and implement about how to make the search engine optimisation work for you and your business, and there’s no cost involved.
  • See our short SEO Basics article (just below the How to Put Your Business on Page 1 sign up form) to find out how to start making search engine optimisation work for your business by following a few easy steps. You don’t need to be technically minded. You just need to be interested in making your business grow.

First, enter your email address below to receive Ask HNW’s free weekly SEO update:

SEO How to Put Your Business on Page 1

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HNW’s SEO Basics

So, what is this thing they call Search Engine Optimisation or SEO?

SEO has been described as a “marketing discipline” that helps grow your company’s visibility from the words you put on your website or blog.

This happens through search engine results that improve rankings (getting on or near to page one), drive traffic, and increase awareness.

It also determines how other sites link to you on the web and helps to structure your site in way that those all-important search engines will understand.


But that doesn’t really tell us very much about search engine optimisation and how it can improve your business by bringing in new customers, now does it…

So let’s make things a bit clearer about what we mean by “marketing” first.

There seems to be about a million different definitions of marketing out there, and each one sits somewhere on the spectrum between “incomprehensible corporate literature” and “the mystical arts of coding and algorithms.”

For me, I prefer how Seth Godin describes it, because it makes the most sense from a practical business perspective:   

“What is marketing? If marketing is the act of overcoming fear, telling stories, doing work that matters and engaging with a world that’s going through revolutionary change, then sure, I’m flattered to be a marketing expert. My job, I think, is to highlight things we already sense, and to help people push themselves to do the work they know they ought to be doing.” – Seth Godin

So when we talk about marketing, what we’re really doing is taking a common sense approach to helping customers overcome their fear of buying from you.

And don’t ever forget that: People buy to solve a problem or resolve some sort of pain. Without getting into the psychology of it, that also includes “happy” purchases. Really clever marketing points out “pain” that consumers and businesses didn’t even realise they had! (There’s more on that when you sign up for How to Put Your Business on Page 1 above). 

And Search Engine Optimisation is a very important part of that marketing process, because it helps people resolve that pain point more quickly by getting them to the right place faster.

In fact, HNW sees SEO as a pillar in the foundation of start up business growth, and one which has been largely overlooked now for far too long.

Practical SEO for Beginners

As above, SEO is a way that you can grow the visibility of your business for free through the use of search engines like Google and Bing.

Now here’s what I mean by that:

If someone is searching online for anything from; a bar of soap, a good meal, specific corporate legal services advice, or even niche research on some obscure topic like Apoptosis and cellular senescence, they are going to use specific words and phrases to try and find it, right? 

In practice, someone looking for information on one of these topics might write the following phrases into a search engine like Google: 

  • “Where can I buy non-allergenic hand soap?” or
  • “What is the best seafood restaurant in St Andrews?” or
  • “How can I find legal advice on corporate shareholding disputes in London?” and
  • “How to fight cell deterioration or senescence caused by aging?”

That makes sense, right? We all do it – we look for things online by putting a search term or phrase into the free text area of Google or Bing in order to get the answers, products or services we’re looking for.

Your favourite search engine then instantly gives you those results (based on ever-changing algorithms), ranking them in order by page. 

Then folks either: find what they’re looking for on the first page or two, or decide to put in a slightly different search term.

That’s because most of humanity now has the attention span of a semi-retarded gold fish and gets frustrated if the information they need does not immediately appear in front of them in a millisecond. 

But that’s exactly where the competitive advantage in search engine optimisation lies for startups.

That magical little piece of modern era Internet Darwinism – Those who serve the laziest, survive – that makes search engine optimisation so valuable for your business: People won’t look past Page One (or maybe two for the more adventurous types) on a search engine. So you need to get your business onto Page One…and keep it there!

Let the Search Begin 

So, what if your company actually makes non-allergenic soap, or offers legal advice on things like corporate shareholding disputes, and you want the people who are searching for that product or service to come to your website or blog?

How then do you get them to find you and get your advice, opinions, products or services over and above those of your competitors?

Well, you start by NOT doing what most other businesses do. That’s because what they do (in the majority) is create a website that extols their own virtues instead of focusing on what their customers are searching for. 

It’s madness.

They also forget the Golden Rule of online activity: The primary purpose of your website or blog is to get an email address.

If your website is designed to do anything else other than that, then 99 out of 100 times it’s not working well for your business.

But when you combine effective search engine optimisation with a website focused on delivering email contact information you’re giving your business a far higher chance of success and longevity. 

In simplest terms what you should be doing is using the same words and phrases on your website or blog that people are putting into Google and Bing. 

So you need to start by figuring out what those phrases are that people are using to find products and services like yours, and most importantly, which ones make the most sense for you to use on your website.

SEO Competition vs Interest

The key to effective search engine optimisation is the balancing act between the volume of people using a specific search term or phrase and the number of businesses competing for those search terms and and the customer contact they hold.  

Let me show you what I mean by that:

If you put the search phrase “Where can I buy non-allergenic hand soap?” into Google, you’ll probably see that it brings up about 726,000 results, which is actually not a lot relative to some search phrases that can run into hundreds of millions of results.

That 726,000 essentially tells you how popular your search term is. 

What you can see from the Snippet below is that there are a number of sponsored (paid-for advertising) links just beneath this search term from leading brands of non-allergenic soap, the total (726,000) results, and the approach taken by the top ranked non-paid for website: 

First, there is a fair bit of competition for this phrase from some very high profile brands. And those companies I would be competing against (if I decided to try and use it to gain a first page ranking) will likely have far larger marketing resources than I do if I was going down the paid-for advertising route. 

But what’s very interesting from a non-paid-for perspective (pure search engine optimisation) is the approach taken by the website is about solving a pain-point – in this case it’s about the all-too-common problem associated with skin conditions related to the use of soaps and cleaning agents…and how this option can fix that problem.

Notice that it’s not one of the global brands but a very clever user of SEO!

This is a great approach and shows the power of search engine optimisation even when pitted up against global brands.

Now, if you liked what you’ve read and want to either; find out more about SEO or get tips and advice that could help your business grow fro free then sign up to HNW’s weekly SEO guide How to Put Your Business on Page 1 right here:

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