What Your Business Needs to Know About SEO
So what is all the noise about SEO, and why should you care? You probably get lots of spam emails promising you stuff regarding SEO, but then you get lots of spam emails for Viagra too, and both get promptly deleted.
Unlike Viagra though, everyone having a website needs some SEO – and this article will try and cut thru all the hype and explain why, and then give you some very direct things you can do to improve your ‘web presence’ so that you are noticed more by Google.
Why is SEO important?
The reason you should care about SEO (search engine optimization) is the SEO traffic coming to your website is free. Everyone has a website nowadays, but just because you have one doesn’t mean people know about it. So without having to pay a dime to anyone, you get all this wonderful search engine traffic coming to your site.
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of “optimizing” your website so that search engines like Google will rank it higher than other similar websites. By optimizing your website you tell Google what you are about, and ‘recommend’ to them what keywords you should be ranked for.
While there are lots of SEO techniques marketed on the internet, they can be boiled down to two basic areas:
1) “off-site SEO” is primarily concerned with getting backlinks to your site, and
2) “on-site SEO” is arranging your site so that it is ‘optimized’ for the desired keywords.
All of the hype nowadays is about getting backlinks – but just as important (if not more) is to make sure your site is optimized for your keywords as well. You cannot expect Google to just magically know what your site should be ranked for – you must be proactive by writing and arranging your site to remove any doubts.
It Starts with the Keywords
The backbone of any SEO effort are the keywords that you use, and this part can get tricky so sometimes you might need professional help, especially if you have lots of competition. And to be clear, a ‘keyword’ can be more than one word, like “accounting software”. Here are the basic things to know about how to use keywords:
- You want your website optimized for the keywords people are using – not the company name. You are going after new web traffic – so think like someone who is searching for the services you are offering, and use the keywords they are most likely to be searching for.
- Use keyword ‘themes’, or related keyword groupings, because people don’t always use the same exact keyword to get to where they want to go. By having a broad keyword theme you will “catch” more traffic coming into the site.
- Don’t optimize a page for more than 1 keyword theme, except for the homepage. The homepage is your storefront so needs to be a bit generic, but all your other pages have a specific purpose. So if you have three different products or services – have a page for each and optimize each with the appropriate keyword theme. And then get some backlinks going to those pages using that keyword.
Can anyone perform SEO for your website?
Anyone can do the “off-site” SEO work, because you don’t need any special training to get someone else to link to your website. All you need to know are two main points:
- Optimize the backlink. The link placed on the other site should be ‘optimized’ with your keyword – which means you want the link on the other site to use your keywords in the link like this: Great Business Accounting Software. Don’t do the link like this: click here. The first link tells the search engines what they might find at that location – it reinforces the SEO effort.
- All backlinks are not the same. Get backlinks from websites that are both relevant to your site, and of quality. Ideally if you have an accounting website you want to get backlinks from other accounting related websites. Second you want the backlinks coming from quality websites, websites that will lend some credibility to your own. Because one relevant quality backlink is worth hundreds of bogus ones.
Most people can’t do the on-site SEO stuff because they don’t know how to work a website, to deal with the code. The site has “meta tags” that need to be set, the navigation and page content needs to be optimized for your keywords, etc. A company would be well advised to have their site given a good going over by a professional, and finding someone is pretty easy to do – just do a search in Google!
Which is more important; the on-site or off-site SEO? Just a few years back I would have said the off-site SEO was more important with maybe a 70 – 30 percent weight towards getting your backlinks. Nowadays I am thinking the on-site SEO factors are more important because Google is trying to make it so that no one can ‘game’ their system, and things like backlinks are influencing the results less.
Finally remember that SEO is more art than science. Google and the other search engines do not produce manuals telling you how to become number one in the rankings. Know that you can go online and find all sorts of conflicting information. Also be aware there is some danger with SEO particularly if ‘black hat’ techniques are used, which can result in your website being banned. If you hire someone to do your SEO, find out how they plan on doing it.
Here is a checklist of things you should do so that your website is ranked better:
- Know what your best keywords are, have a list of your top 5 or 10 listed by priority, and make sure they are being used on the website.
- If you have 5 distinct keywords you want to be ranked for – make sure you have 5 pages on your site that is optimized for each.
- Look at each page of your website and know what its keyword is, its keyword theme should be obvious to you.
- Make sure your site navigation is using your main keywords, as the navigation links are also important indicators to Google.
- The single most important SEO factor on your web page is the meta title, which can be seen in the bar at the very top of your web browser, so make sure it includes the keyword.
- If you suspect your website is not optimized for SEO, then find out for sure by having it looked at. There are many SEO companies that will evaluate your website for free – simply google the term “free SEO evaluation” and ask someone to take a look.
- SEO in Practice – an online SEO guide for beginners
- UITest – a website having lots of online tools to test / verify your site.
- Google Keyword Tool – use Google’s keyword tool to make your keyword list
- Website Management Services – a shameless plug for someone offering SEO services – me!