What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it important?
You need customers to discover you when they ‘google’ for what you sell. Optimizing your presence online can make that happen using informed decisions to craft your website’s content — and to guide you in what to do elsewhere on the Web, as well.
For many small business owners, search engine optimization (SEO) is something they know they should invest time and money into, but don’t really know much about — and some don’t care to. The details of performing SEO can be confusing or, frankly, uninteresting in nature.
Whether you have an eCommerce business or you use a website to showcase your work portfolio-style, you want — and need — customers to find you and you’ve heard SEO is the answer. You want to be on “page one of Google,” right? Well, search engine optimization is definitely part of the answer, but not everyone can soar to the top.
In some ways, SEO is more complicated than it used to be years ago when online publishers would stuff keywords in meta data with whatever they wanted, regardless of what content a particular page offered the viewer. Remember, not that long ago, when we’d come across a slew of spammy sites almost any time we searched for something? Today, there are best practices for optimizing content, outlined by Google (the search engine most of the population uses over Bing, Yahoo, and others) as it seeks to enforce integrity among publishers and provide users with accurate search results. It involves following a bevy of guidelines to create content and configure your page(s), but it may only get you so far in getting discovered by search engines because Google’s search algorithm is driven by onsite AND offsite factors.
So, what is SEO and why is it important to small business marketing? In the plainest of terms: you need customers to discover you when they ‘google’ for what you sell. Optimizing your presence online can make that happen with informed decisions used to craft your website’s content — and what you do elsewhere on the Web, as well.
More About Onsite (Search Engine) Optimization
Onsite optimization involves creating content that includes keywords and key phrases used by potential customers when searching for goods and services on Google (and other search engines, too). Thus, it’s prudent if these trends have been researched beforehand, or as the content is being created. It’s preferable to identify commonly used search terms that aren’t being over-utilized by search engine marketers — this is really the first, most important thing to consider. Conceptualizing and contextualizing your content in ways that are more focused and granular is ideal, unless your product or service is, by definition, objectively unique. Researching with any number of online tools can help you make those decisions. Once the key terms have been determined, this information should be edited into the content and inserted into the meta data (e.g., image tags) and into other page/post settings.
Optimizing content after it’s been created is possible, too, however, one needs to be conscious of already established inbound links to this content — part of the optimization process involves inserting key terms into the URLs of your pages.
NOTE: As the search algorithm has evolved and improved, exact matches have become less important. The tools available to publishers (like Google’s Keyword Planner), however, only reveal data of terms used in actual search queries, not any other information that enables a search engine to find content without an exact match.
Offsite (Search Engine) Optimization
Just as important, but a little trickier to achieve, is offsite optimization. You may hear about it as “link building strategies.” Basically, the force of offsite optimization is driven by the number of — and quality of — inbound links coming from sources like press mentions, social media, and directories. It’s time-consuming and it somewhat tedious, but obviously worthwhile. If you’re a local businesses and hope to get featured in “Google’s Map Pack” — that box that appears at the top of some search pages for nearby businesses — it’s best achieved by recognizing which directories are most important to your business and creating identical listings on all of these sites.
If you’re operating in a competitive market, especially one where the big box players dominate, your challenge is great — to somehow stand out in the fray that is the super-duper-gigantic World Wide Web. It may seem daunting, but it can be achieved and it’s important to understand that the effects of SEO may take months to come to fruition. You may have to include content development as part of the strategy.
Do you need some guidance about coordinating a content strategy that involves search engine optimization? We’d love to chat with you! If you decide it’s something you want to take on yourself, The Moz Blog is a great place to start and continue learning about SEO.
In addition to SEO, you should consider the following to build a solid online presence: