Many of my clients are still unaware of what SEO is or why it matters to their small business… so I am posting this to go back to basics. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of being found and getting traffic to your websites via the free or organic listings found on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. When someone searches via one of these major search engines, the search engine scours the internet to find the best match for their users search. This is different than SEM or Search Engine Marketing Techniques where business pay to try to get top results. The results for SEM show up on the top and the far right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The advertisements are labeled and usually shaded. The organic listings fall below the top ads and below the local results (a bit different than organic results but still not paid) and have proven to be the most important listings and tend to get more clicks by users.
So how do you get ranked high on organic searches? The search engines operate on many different algorithms and look for certain things on your website that are relevant to what is being searched for.This changes very rapidly. The main thing to keep in mind is that the search engines want their users to find the most relevant information based on the search they entered in. If you asked a Google employee what to do to get a better ranking they probably would tell you to have a really good business and a really good website that communicates that business as best as it can.
SEO is not about cheating the system. It is always about delivering the best content. If you feel like you are doing something or paying someone just to get higher results in the search engines and not concentrating on the customers, STOP. This is probably going to be looked at as black hat practices or “cheating” the system.”
You want most of your efforts on delivering good content for the customer. There are a few things that you want to keep in mind while you are delivering this content. These are:
Keywords – Keywords are the words that are entered into search engines as users seek out information. As a small business you should be researching what your main Keywords or Keyword Phrases are for each page. What would people type into Google when they are looking for your service or product? You want to organize your website so that each main keyword has its own page. For example if you have several services you will want to have separate pages for each service instead of one main page listing each service. On each page you DON”T want to over use the phrase or word, but simply use it so that it reads well for your customers.
Website Structure – A small part of website optimization is about structure. You need to have certain things in your website in order for the search engines to index your site. This can get complicated and some SEO professionals will get very deep into this process. The main structure oriented items include unique and keyword orientated title tags, unique and easy to understand description tags, one H1 headline tags per page with your main page keywords, keyword structured permalinks and xml sitemaps. For additional help your web design company can help you or contact the Iowa Western SBDC for further instruction.
Fresh Website Content – Your website content needs to be optimized for the search engines AND for your user. You should have your keywords in the content in prominent places but you need to make sure that the content is still useful and relevant for the visitor. Fresh and useful content that your users can use is the number one way for you to insure your website is being found by your customer. In addition to your regular website pages add new content by regularly posting in a blog. Content should be about the customer and what your customer wants as far as information. Content should not be about sales or about the company unless that is what the customer is searching for.
Good and Bad Practices. It is important to understand that Google and the other search engines are becoming smarter and smarter every day. They have ways to distinguish between good SEO best practices (white hat) and less reputable tricks. Remember a simple rule: If you are doing something on your website solely to increase your ranking and NOT to please your customer, then it is probably a black hat tactic.
I hope that this very basic introduction to SEO was helpful for you and your business. If you are very new to the concept of SEO, a good place to start is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” and SEOmoz’s “Beginners Guide to SEO”. As always feel free to share your comments and questions below and if you are in the Southwest Iowa area call the Iowa Western Small Business Development Center to help you with optimizing your website.
The Small Business Development Center is a free resource for small businesses and startups in 7 counties in Southwest Iowa including Pottawattamie, Mills, Fremont, Page, Cass, Shelby and Harrison. We offer free counselling services to help businesses start grow and prosper.