Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Fundamentals for Business Owners
Target Your Digital Marketing with SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO), content, backlinks, plug-ins, keywords, analytics – all these terms can be pretty confusing if you’re a business owner who’s trying to determine the best marketing strategy for your website. After all, you just want to run a successful business, and you know your website should help customers find you. Helping customers find you is exactly what SEO does. Having a basic understanding of SEO and its prominence as a marketing strategy is important for business owners who are working with website developers and marketing professionals to grow an online presence. The good news is that SEO doesn’t have to be confusing or overwhelming.
SEO is first and foremost a targeted online marketing effort. Just like any other marketing plan, SEO will have many different pieces that work together. The behind-the-scenes coding on your website, links to and from other websites, and the content you include on your site should build a comprehensive SEO platform to market your business. Like other marketing plans, SEO takes time to implement and to see results. It’s not a quick-fix solution to boost traffic to your business immediately, and it’s not a one-time effort. In a world with rapidly changing technology, even digital marketing professionals at Search Engine Land made note of a Google search engine update by saying it “shakes the SEO World.” In reality, though, the world of SEO is based on a set of fundamentals as Bridget Randolph cites in her blog post for Moz about the myth of changing SEO. She says, “there are certain fundamentals of SEO that change very little over time, and which a non-specialist can easily understand.”
You Used to Put up a Sign—And You Still Do
Technology changes quickly. The internet itself is a relatively new tool as are devices that many of us rely on for everyday activities. For instance, the iPhone has only been around for 10 years. In a world of ever-changing technology, we have new ways to do age-old business. Customers now use the internet to find products and services (and rate them), and business owners have had to change the way they advertise to attract an online audience.
Before the introduction of the internet, business owners would put up a sign and might place advertisements in print publications to tell potential customers about their products and services. In fact, the most fundamental marketing effort of all is putting up a business sign, and SEO will rely on this marketing fundamental as well: signs that tell potential customers who you are and what you can offer. In the simplest of terms, SEO is an overall plan to place “signs” for a business to attract online attention. Those “signs” communicate with search engines and will be embedded in coding on your website, will appear in the words you use to describe your business on your website, and will be inferred from links to and from your website.
How Search Engines Work
Search engines are looking for your business signs. No, search engines aren’t driving along the interstate looking for a billboard advertising your business, but they do drive by, or “crawl,” your website looking for signs that tell them what your site is about. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing are always working behind the scenes to compile a library of information so they can present a list of practical results when someone searches for something online. When a person types a question into the search engine, the search engine pulls a list of results from its information library. Search engines want their users to feel confident that they will get good answers to their questions, so search engines are designed to provide the most relevant and authoritative results. This crawling and compiling of information is done with highly secret and proprietary algorithms developed for each search engine.
What we know about these secret algorithms, though, is that they are geared to give answers and recommendations in the same way most of us would make recommendations to a friend. Before we would recommend a product or service to a friend, we want to know that the source is trustworthy and has a good track record. We would also take into account whether or not a trusted resource is relevant. We wouldn’t recommend a great plumber to a friend in need of a really good dentist. Neither would a search engine. So, first, search engines are going to give only relevant results from their information libraries.
Search engines will also look for signs that a resource is trustworthy and authoritative. The most fundamental sign that points to your website’s authority and credibility is that you say what you do. If you are an accountant, for instance, everything on your website refers to the business of an accountant and not something totally different. Other signs that your site is credible and trustworthy are links to other sites and from other sites. Using the accountant example, if your site provides links to established and recognized accounting organizations, those links give your site credibility with search engines. Likewise, if your local Chamber of Commerce has a listing for your business with a link to your website, the search engine sees that as a sign of credibility. A good SEO marketing strategy will ensure that your business “signs” are posted in the right places to help the search engines find you and find your site relevant and authoritative for your business sector.
What’s in a Keyword?
Keywords are exactly what they sound like: a word or words that are the key descriptors of your business and each of your website pages. There is no shortage of articles and advice on how to write content (text) for your website using keywords. When thinking of SEO, remember that your content will always have a dual purpose. You want search engines to help promote your business and make it easy for people to find you, so your content and use of keywords is part of an overall SEO plan. Your ultimate goal, though, is to connect with a real person who is a potential new customer. That means your content not only needs to get the search engine’s attention, but it also needs to be what the human reader expects.
All content “counts” when search engines are gathering information from your site, so consistency is crucial. The search engine (and your human audience) will expect the information on your page and on your site to be about the same topic. The keywords in your title should be repeated in the content on the page, in photo or video descriptions, in the short description that appears in search results under your business listing, and in any other pertinent places on your page or your website.
As search engines and their algorithms become more complex and their capabilities expand, SEO strategies must respond. No longer is a keyword here and there the most appropriate way to get a search engine to notice your site. Search engines are increasingly able to read for context, just as a human reader would, so the best SEO strategies now take into account longer keyword phrases and overall context. As WebCEO’s recent post “Semantic SEO Strategy: How to do SEO in 2017” points out, “Ideally, you will need to learn how to read your targeted audience’s minds. But in real life, you will need to optimize your website for LSI [latent semantic indexing] keywords and contextual clues instead of standalone keywords.” Using keywords and a semantic SEO strategy as part of your SEO plan isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but it does take specialized knowledge and research to be sure the search engines are reading all the right business “signs” for your website.
Ready, Set, SEO!
Now that you know SEO is not a mysterious being or alien concept, it’s important to start thinking or re-thinking how an SEO plan can promote your business. You may want to consider these questions as you work with a partner such as Hexalinks to strengthen your online presence.
· What are the most effective keywords and phrases for your type of business?
· How are your competitors using SEO?
· How can SEO complement other marketing efforts?
· What links can give your website more credibility and authority?
An effective SEO strategy gives you, as a business owner, the ability to shape the way the online world sees your business, and that’s a powerful tool. Whether you’re operating from a local storefront or selling products online, SEO is the best way to hang out your business shingle and start bringing in new customers