Website developers, digital marketers and ad agencies throw around the term SEO in everyday conversation. Ever since Google began dominating the search market, businesses big and small have been searching for ways to get found. We now have companies built specifically around finding ways to utilize the various algorithms and get their clients ranked #1 in search. But for a small business, what does SEO actually mean, and what do you really need to know about it?
Put very plainly, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your website to rank for desired search terms without paying for it. In this age of technology, most people are researching their choices online before making any decision. They want to make sure they know a business inside and out, and that it will fit their needs before they make a purchasing decision. So how can you, as a small business, begin to show up if someone searches for your product or service? Below are a few, very basic tools that are awesome places to start.
1. Make sure your website is up-to-date and relevant. Do an internal audit of your website. Do you have enough content on your site? Is it full of keywords? One of the first places to start is on the front end of your site. Make sure it’s full of content, photos and videos (if you have any) that describes you and your business and makes it easy for both the consumer (and Google) to figure out what you actually do.
2. Add relevant links. Google wants to know that you’re a real website, and one of the ways it can do that is by seeing that you are associated with other real websites. Creatn content such as adding a news page linking out to websites that provide useful information related to your business or a page that shows off a list of your clients and drives traffic to their site. Ask your clients to do the same if possible. Finally, make sure you put your website on legitimate social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to add some more links back to your page.
3. Speaking of social media, get on it! If you don’t have a presence on multiple social media sites, you are doing yourself a disservice. Sites like Facebook and Twitter already carry huge weight in the SEO market and provide another place for people to find you and your brand. Not only that, but they provide a place to post relevant, shareable content to help spread the word and keep people updated about your product or service.
4. Do the backend work. Filling out data correctly on the backend of your website (or data not seen by you and I just by looking at your site) can make a huge difference in your ranking. While this is absolutely something you can do on your own, a lot of business owners prefer to have someone with more experience do it for them. If that sounds like you, we've got some things you should be looking out for when interviewing prospective candidates:
- Meta titles and descriptions are the most important. A lot of companies still focus on “meta keywords” which aren’t relevant anymore to Google. Find a company that knows that and understands that a majority of their focus should be on creating rich titles and descriptions (in full sentences!) and that every page should have different content. A huge “no-no” is putting the same title, description and keywords on every page.
- Make sure they will index you in webmaster tools, and know how to do it. Webmaster tools is the best way to tell Google that you are a relevant site with rich content. Submitting your URL to index and your site map are things that any SEO expert should know.
- Ask what else they can do for you. Outside of adding your meta data, ask them what other outlets they can get you on and other tools that make make sense. Does blogging make sense for you? Do you have a lot of videos? Maybe a YouTube page would work well. Ask them to help you out with suggestions beyond that basics.
5. Be patient. These things take time! You’re not going to start ranking right away and you’re not going to immediately generate leads. Know that this is a longterm strategy for you. Be patient and it will pay off.