What is SEO?
The beginner's guide to search engine optimization (SEO) and why it matters for your website.
In our digital age, nearly every American business has one thing in common. Wondering what it is? They all have a website. As a society, we seem to agree that having a presence online is a key part of running a commercial enterprise in 2018.
Have you ever wondered how your prospects find your website instead of your competitors? It's not magic, and it's not random chance. It all comes down to employing the best practices of search engine optimization, more commonly known as SEO. So what is it? And how can your business use the power of SEO to trounce its competition online?
What is SEO?
When a user wants to find something online, they go to a search engine. You probably have your own favorite search engine, whether it's Google, Bing, or some niche one your coworker showed you. Since Google is the most commonly used search engine, I'm going to use it as my example. Let's say you type "dinner in Ventura, CA" into Google. The list of results it returns to you is called a search engine ranking page, or SERP.
How does Google know what to put at the top of each SERP? It has a very complicated algorithm and a whole army of robots called web crawlers. These guys crawl websites all across the web looking for cues that a site offers information on a certain topic. If they see a word or phrase recurring on your website, they'll log that info so that when someone searches for that word or phrase, you have a shot at coming up. Those words or phrases are called keywords.
Let's say you're a restaurant in Ventura, CA and you have a dinner menu on your site. The crawlers can see the words "Ventura" and "dinner" and will note them as keywords. This gives them an idea that you might be a good result to return when someone searches Google for dinner in Ventura.
But you're probably not the only restaurant with a Ventura address and a dinner menu on your site. So Google looks for other clues. They'll check your URL for the keyword. They'll see how often you used "dinner in Ventura" on your website. Did you just mention it once, or is it all over your site? Is it buried halfway down the page, or is it in your page's header? They'll even check some areas most people don't think about, like your photo's alt tags and your page's meta description.
There are other, non-keyword SEO factors. If your site runs well, Google will think it's better for users and rank it higher than slower sites. If other websites have linked back to your website, it hints that you're legitimate and can boost your ranking. And the list goes on. If you want to delve this topic deeper, I'd recommend Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO.
How does my business use it?
Ready to start leverage SEO to beat out your competition and rank #1 on Google? These tips will help!
Get clear on your keywords. Before you can start winning the top of Google, you need to decide which pages you want to try to win. It won't do your Ventura restaurant much good to rank #1 for "Parisian decor" unless you're targeting a very specific demographic. Start thinking about what people would Google to try to find you. Did a word or phrase immediately come to mind? That's a great keyword! This keyword picking guide from Entrepreneur can also help you get started.
Go local. Notice that I've been using a location in my example? That's because it's a lot easier to top a SERP for restaurants in your area than it is to top a SERP for all restaurants in the entire world. Including a location in your keywords can be key to unlocking meaningful SEO results.
Learn where to put your keywords. There are a few key places your keywords need to go in order to win SERPs. Check your title tag (i.e. your webpage's title) and URL first. Make sure you use the keyword recurrently in your page's content and include it in backend features like the aforementioned alt tags and meta descriptions. This Orbit Media checklist will help you ensure you've got your keyword everywhere it needs to be.
Build landing pages and blogs. When you were brainstorming keywords, you probably came up with a handful that people would use to find you. Use them! Just don't try to cram them all into one webpage lest you confuse those web crawling robots. You can build new pages on your website with a specific keyword in mind to grab people searching that term. These new, keyword-specific pages are called landing pages. Or, if you don't want to get too into the weeds with web development, you can always write blogs and optimize them for keywords. This is an easy, low-investment way to build landing pages on your site on an ongoing basis.
Find some help. You don't have to become an SEO expert to employ SEO best practices on your site. If your site is built in Wordpress, there are plenty of great plugins available to help you. My personal favorite is Yoast. And if you're in the process of hiring a web copy or blog writer, look for someone who has SEO experience.
Do you want help with your site's SEO? I'm here for exactly that reason. I have years of experience navigating the often muddy waters of search engine ranking. Let me distill everything I've learned to deliver targeted content to help grow your business. Whether you need SEO web copy or blogs, you can contact me today!