Search Engine Optimization (SEO) = Marketing
With the market shifting from traditional marketing strategies to the online realm, business owners such as yourself need to be aware of what exactly SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is and what the internet marketing company is doing for you. If you search the web for general information you will find so many different answers. It can leave many business owners confused, while wondering what is the right way, the wrong way and the best way to make sure your site is search engine friendly.
In my opinion it is easy to break down what SEO truly is. Marketing. That’s it old fashion marketing. While the platforms have changed the marketing practices remain the same. From branding (banner & text ads) & product knowledge (content, blogs etc.) to referrals (link building) & ROI (revenue-expenses), without marketing knowledge your campaign will have an uphill climb.
A lot of SEO companies try to use terms that confuse business owners to make you think what they are doing is truly an amazing thing. While the truth is, what they are doing is marketing your business. Just like some ad agencies are really good at what they do and some ad agencies are not so good at what they do, the same applies to SEO firms.
So lets take a deeper look into the world of SEO Marketing:
SEO = Search Engine Optimization: SEO consists of several on site and offsite factors. Making sure you have all the pieces of the puzzle together correctly is one of the functions your SEO team will handle:
Important parts of your Onsite SEO:
Website Structure – making your site easy for the user to find the information you are displaying. You have spent lots of time sharing the information on your website, organize it so users can easily find and enjoy all of the information you have shared. This is very important for the search engines to find your information as well. A well organized site, brings a better user experience. If the user gets lost on your site or can’t find the information they were looking for they leave. If you have been lucky enough to get these users to your site you need to make sure you capture their business, or at least have a shot at doing so. Website Structure is the best way to ensure your site is easy to navigate.
Meta Tags – Basically your meta tags are the portion of your website that tell the user and the search engines what the specific page is about. In your title tag you want to use under 70 characters to explain what the topics on this page are (try to stick to only 2-3 topics per page). In your description tag use 160 or less characters. In this portion you want to explain what the page is about & maybe use the last sentence on why they should choose you for this specific product or service (e.g. available 24 hours a day, lifetime guarantee etc.). I look at the title tag as the headline and the description tag as a taste of the article, with a reason to click.
Content – Don’t worry so much about getting keyword X in the content as many times as you can. Instead write your content about stuff your potential customers or clients want to read and share. Most inexperienced SEO’s say you need to target the search engines and users will come. The veterans know that if you write your content for the users the search engines will come. However, you can’t throw all caution to the wind. To make sure your site is user and search friendly make sure each page of content only has 2-3 related informational pieces. example: if you are writing a piece about plumbing, you may also include drain cleaning and sewer lines. These are related to the field and gives your users more information, information they may have not of known they wanted or needed.
Blogging – A lot of business owners feel they don’t have the time to write articles regarding their business, as a fellow business owner I use to feel the same way, and I do internet marketing for a living (shame on me I know). Truth is, you need to make the time to share your knowledge with people online. Why is blogging so important? Not only will blogging allow you the opportunity to stay in front of your customers and let your potential customers know you are an expert in the subject, but it also helps you explain to your customers what you do. Share tips about your products or services, offer advice on subjects you specialize in and it is amazing how much this can help your SEO efforts. If done correctly, you should not only see an increase in your search engines rankings but also your traffic and conversions.
Heading tags – Just like traditional marketing (think newspaper) you want to make sure you use heading tags. The heading tags are what separate the different pieces of content. This allows the user to scroll down and see what portion of the content or article they wanted to read. A user will than see all the different parts you have on that page and may continue reading other sections they didn’t even intend to read. It is basically the separator. If you look at the example above (in content) you may have 3 different heading tags. 1) Plumbing Service 2) Drain Cleaning Service and 3) Sewer Line information. You would than use an h1 tag for your main content of your article, h2 tags for the other two pieces or maybe use an h2 and an h3 for the less important piece.
Important parts of your offsite SEO:
Link Building – This has always been a large part of any SEO campaign. This hasn’t changed, and I don’t think will change anytime in the near future. The things that have changed is the value of the link. When you do link building you will want to make sure the links you are spending time acquiring are related to your product or service. In other words, if you are a plumber in San Diego your links should be from plumbing related websites (e.g. plumbing suppliers, other local contractors, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) The search engines prefer you get the links “naturally”, that means other website owners have found your information useful to their visitors and that website owner added a link to your site “Vouching for you” for a lack of a better term. The more quality sites that link to you, the more the search engines see you as a relevant source to provide to their searchers.
Directory Listings – The importance of directory listings have diminished somewhat. There was a day where even Google said build links to directories, in order to get your name out and their search bot can find you. Times have changed. These days you need to make sure the directories you are listed on are “good directories”. The best ways to tell if a directory is good or bad is by asking yourself, if the search engines didn’t exist would I want to link myself here? If the answer is no, than obviously that directory has no true value to a user, or you as a business owner. Directories you want to list yourself on are the big named ones, the ones who actually get traffic (Yelp, CitySearch etc.). Also, make sure you list yourself in directories that are related to your product or service, however use caution. If a directory allows everyone to sign up, and allows you to place yourself under categories you don’t service without verifying don’t waste your time. That directory is probably headed in the wrong direction, and 5 mins is 5 mins 🙂
Press Releases – These are a great way to get your name out and get natural links. Use Press Releases to your benefit though. Create great content that people on the web will find intriguing. A good way to use a press release is when you are doing any of the following: Launching a new product or service, Offering a promotion, under new ownership anything that is newsworthy. The goal with the press release is not just to get it pushed out to all major online medias, but to get them to pick up the story and make it viral. If a story is newsworthy you will start seeing several incoming links, see your release all over the web and most of all start generating more business.
Social Networks – Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pintrest are great places to stay connected with your customers. As a business owner you always want to make sure you have contact with your customers and potential customers anytime you can. With Social Media your reach can easily extend beyond your “local service area”.
This is another opportunity to offer free tips, product reviews etc. Make sure to stay active though. There is not much worse than seeing a business online with social media outlets that aren’t being updated. If someone is following you, give them a reason to continue following you and referring their friends to follow you. In order to maximize the use of the social media outlets make sure you are involved. Don’t just go on every time you have a new product or service and post that in hopes someone may buy. Use the opportunity of your potential customers allowing you to post on their walls to gather information to help your business. Run contests, get feedback, post advice, post reviews etc.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) isn’t a magic trick, but instead a well thought out plan of action that produces a return on your investment. If done correctly, it will reward you with more than just being listed high on the search engines. If done correctly, search engine traffic will just be the cherry on the top. If done incorrectly, you could lose the whole sundae and be left holding a bag of rotten cherries.
Choosing an SEO company is as important as hiring an accountant or person running your company. Make sure you trust them, make sure they have proven results, know what they are doing in advance, and offer some tools to show your progress in rankings, traffic and results as a whole.