Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Setting up a company website or blog is an important promotional tool for many businesses, but simply launching a site isn’t enough. To achieve your online traffic and conversion goals, you also have to shape your site’s content to make it easier for search engines to identify what your site is all about.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is often painted with layers of mystery, but the basics are pretty straightforward. If you provide interesting or valuable content that people want to read, and include keywords that describe your company’s offerings accurately (especially in page titles and article headlines), you’ll be out-ranking competitors.

A strong search engine ranking can also help small businesses dilute the potential negative effects of less-than-flattering comments on local business review sites. A blog that places you on the first page of a search engine results page can provide a lot more influence than a rude comment left by someone who’s criticized your company online.

Determine Your Keywords

A good starting strategy is trying to identify the search terms (known as keywords) more likely to direct online searchers to your company’s site. Start with the products and services you provide, and put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes and ask what terms they would use to find what you offer.

When you have a potential list of keywords, you can use free services including the Google External Keywords tool to get real-time indication of the most popular searches for your search terms. This can provide valuable insights in how you describe your business online. For instance, knowing that "auto repair" generates nearly 10 times the monthly search volume as "automotive repair" can signal the importance of using the former term instead of the latter.

It’s also important to include your geographic location on your website to capture visits from people who include a city name in their searches. With more online consumers using location to narrow their search results, it’s helpful to highlight this information on your home page.

While you want to include keywords in your blog posts and other website content, it’s important to do so as naturally as possible. You’re trying to include helpful information on your website, and you want your site to read as if it was written to help people, not just to boost search engine results.

Some other important factors that can improve your site’s rankings:

  • Update frequently - One of the factors search engines consider is how often a site is updated. This favors blogs more than static Web pages, but also provides an incentive for site owners to update their sites on a regular schedule.
  • Get involved with social media sites - The desire of search engines to include real-time search results means participating on Twitter and Facebook can provide SEO as well as engagement benefits.
  • Attract links - Providing good content, as well as links from sites that find your content interesting or valuable, is important in attracting Web traffic. One good strategy for attracting links is providing your own links to interesting content, in the hopes that other publishers will link to your site. Joining link exchanges where sites simply trade links isn’t a productive effort, since search engines ignore those kinds of links.
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