A valuable marketing tool for all businesses is to make sure they are applying the principles of search engine optimization, or SEO, to their websites. SEO is a free way to get your website found by consumers. To clarify, there is another branch of marketing called search engine marketing, or SEM, but that focuses on paid ads. If you have ever searched on the Internet for a product or term, you have no doubt seen ads, which generally appear at the top of the listings in a slightly pink area (in Google) or to the side. The organic results, which appear below any ads, are based on SEO. This post focuses on SEO.
There are many things you can do to improve the way search engines find your website, including:
- Do keyword research. Keywords are the terms that people use to find products and services for businesses like yours. These aren’t necessarily the terms that you would like your business to be known for, but the actual terms that real people use every day. You can find these terms by doing research using a tool like Google’s free Keyword Tool. This is a tool aimed at people who are creating paid ads on Google AdWords, but the tool works well for SEO terms, too. You can enter phrases close to what you think might be popular. The tool will show results for that phrase and also show you a list of similar terms and their results. You are looking for phrases that have a combination of high search volume (the “Local” column is the US) and low competition. You’re more likely to get found using these terms. Adding the geographic area you serve, if applicable, can also help. And, another great source of keywords is to ask your own customers what terms they have used to find you online.
- Make sure you use a title tag for each page that includes good keywords for that page. The title tag is very important to search engines, as is the description. Make sure these are accurate for the page they describe and that they use important keywords.
- Make sure to fill out the metadata tags on each page you want to optimize for SEO accurately and completely. You might not need or want to optimize all of your pages for SEO. Do the pages that contain the most important information about your company first. Don’t know what meta tags are? If you have a webmaster helping you with your website, they will know what these are.
- Write your website pages for humans, and then do a light rewrite for the search engines. Search engines like to see that the page includes keywords, but don’t overdo it. The search engines will penalize you if you use the keywords too often on a page.
- Make sure to include keywords in headings, subheadings, and links, when it makes sense. The search engines value these words in these key areas, but don’t try too hard to put the keywords in these areas. Remember you are still writing for humans, and headings, subheads, and links need to make sense.
- Add good-quality content to your site often. Search engines like new, good content. You can add content to your site through ways like blog posts.
These measures just scratch the surface of what you can do for SEO. Here are some other sources of information for you to consult:
- Google publishes a brief guide about SEO, and an even briefer one-page guide. Both are worth reading.
- If you have a business that relies on local traffic and search, then it could be very beneficial to take SEO measures that work for mobile. A good percentage of mobile searches are performed by people who are out and about looking for a product or service near them. This article from CIO.com provides some great mobile SEO strategies and things to think about.
- In this blog post from Constant Contact, an email service provider for small businesses, you can find some great advice about how to use your social media presence to strengthen your SEO.
The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything at once. Start with some basic steps and then build on them. SEO is a constant process of refinement, and you should revisit your strategy and keywords at least every six months. By doing this, you can drive more and better traffic to your website.
Finally, here’s an infographic outlining the simple steps to SEO: