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What is SEO and why should I care?

By - Posted under Search Engine Optimization |

Search engine optimization or SEO is one of the more complex marketing techniques available to drive people to your website. As a result, many small businesses either ignore it altogether or pay ridiculously high fees to have "SEO experts" do it for them.

This is not to say that you shouldn't consider outsourcing your SEO or bringing in an SEO consultant. If getting quality traffic to your website is a top priority for your business and you have the budget, finding the right SEO consultant can pay off in dividends.

But if you're like many small businesses, your marketing budget is limited to non-existent. So we've put together some quick SEO tips to help get you started on the road to search engine visibility.

First off, what exactly is search engine optimization? According to Wikipedia, "search engine optimization is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine's natural or unpaid (organic) search results". Essentially, it is a process for optimizing your website so that it appears as high as possible (ideally on the first page) in search results for the keywords and key phrases that are most important for your business.

Tip #1: Identify your most important keywords and key phrases

These are the words and phrases that people use to find the products and/or services that you sell. One of the more common questions I get regarding SEO is "how do I get on the first page of Google?". Given there are an infinite number of search queries that can be entered into any search engine, the more important question is "what search terms are my prospects and customers using to find the types of products and services I sell?". Identify these and half your work is done.

Try to put yourself in your prospects shoes and think about what you might type into a search engine to find your product or service. Enlist the help of friends and colleagues as well. And if you have existing analytics on your website, you can find information on what search terms people have used to find your site. There are several free tools available for doing keyword research, one of the most popular being the Google Keyword Planner. You'll need a Google AdWords account to access it but you can set one up for free without having to engage in paid advertising.

If you have a limited number of products or services, identifying the important keywords and phrases for your business should be relatively easy. If you have a large number however, just start with one or two of your top ones to get familiar with the process and test your results. Be sure to check the competition for the keywords you choose though. The more competitive the term, the harder it will be to rank high in search results. Try to focus on terms and phrases that are more focused and specific to your business.

Tip #2: Incorporate your keywords and phrases in your content

Make sure all your web pages are doing their best to help your search engine rankings. Having high quality, well-written content is absolutely critical to getting noticed by the major search engines. Your content should always be customer-focused and relevant and the effective placement of your keywords and phrases within your content will help search engines determine the subject of your page and rank it accordingly.

The important thing to remember is to be natural in your placement of keywords. Stuffing keywords (i.e. repeating them many times throughout your content) will only have a negative affect on your rankings and should be avoided at all costs.

The key areas for keyword placement are:

  • the url of the page - that thing that starts with http://
  • the page title - this is what you name the page in your content management system and not necessarily your page heading
  • headings - particularly top level headings
  • within the top section of your body copy

Tip #3: Write useful and relevant content

This one is pretty straightforward. Great content gets shared and linked to and search engines take this into account in their ranking algorithms. The more your content is shared on social networks and linked to by other websites, the better your ranking will be. This is one reason having a blog as part of your website is great for SEO. It helps keep your site fresh (another plus for search engines) and it's great for attracting links and sharing.

Other types of content that are great for sharing and linking to include:

  • how-to articles or guides
  • eBooks or whitepapers
  • case studies
  • research papers
Just remember to always write for your audience and focus on what's relevant for them.

Tip #4: Test, review, refine...repeat

If you have analytics on your website, such as Google Analytics, you can see what keywords and phrases are leading people to your website. Use your analytics to check how you're doing against the keywords and phrases you've identified. How much traffic are they generating? Is that traffic leading to a purchase or contact request?

If the generated traffic is not producing any valuable results - people arrive but then leave right away - you may need to refine your content to make it more relevant. And if you're not getting enough traffic you may need to refine your keywords to make them more targeted.

Be sure to set some goals at the outset so you can measure your results against them. Remember though, that SEO is a process. That means it will take time for your efforts to start showing meaningful results - from several weeks to a few months. Patience is required!

There is obviously a lot more about this topic than can be covered in one blog post, but the aim was to give you a few tips to begin the process of search engine optimization for your website.

We hope to provide more on this topic in future posts. And you can always contact us if you have questions.

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