Nearly every business owner we talk with asks about SEO.
Few really have a good understanding about what it is, how it works, and why it’s important.
SEO, ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is both a science and an art. Done well, it helps guide prospects to your website who are interested in what you offer and increase your site’s ranking with search engines such as Google and Bing. It involves keywords on your pages, links to other sites, and other sites links back to yours. The structure and hierarchy of your website also play a part as they allow easier ‘communication’ in a language that is understood by search engines.
Why do you need to use quality SEO? If Google doesn’t rank your site well because you don’t have all of the above, the people you hope to reach can’t find your site.
Do you need to hire a professional? The right professional uses a very large bag of tools to create SEO for your unique business, and constantly tracks and adjusts the analytics to be sure it’s working optimally. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do some SEO yourself. Quality SEO is time-consuming, ongoing and tedious, and therefore can be an expense a very small business or solopreneur simply can’t justify. Master the basics yourself, and you will at least see an improvement in your analytics.
We’re breaking down the basics for you into a series of lessons.
Lesson #1. How Search Engines Work
You’ve probably heard the terms ‘crawling’ and ‘indexing’. It’s the job of a search engine like Google to ‘crawl’, or search the billions of sites, videos, and other media on the web for information. The easier you make it for Google or Bing’s robots to find and understand your information, the better your site will rank. People searching on the internet don’t want to work very hard, so a better ranking means that your information is more likely to be seen.
Think of a freeway with large signs that tell you what exit to take. Now think of a country road with many twists and turns, and a road sign that’s nearly impossible to read. If you don’t want to spend all day driving, you’ll appreciate the large, clear signs.
Search engines also build indexes – these are exactly what they sound like. Envision an index in a book. It provides information in logical and relevant order, so you can turn to the chapter or page you want without having to read the whole book to find a detail.
It’s their job to give you the most relevant responses to your search by using the structure of the web. Search engines decipher code from pages and store that code in database storage facilities.
When you search for something through Google, it automatically uses your search terms to find the most popular and relevant answers for you. How you influence the search engine’s interpretation of ‘popular’ and ‘relevant’ is through properly executed SEO. Search engines use mathematical algorithms to sort through billions of possibilities and give you the answers which fit your query best. These algorithms use hundreds of variables, or ranking factors, to assess which sites have quality information, are updated with content regularly, and provide the best information.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to get you started:
- Create your website and pages for real people.
- Make sure your site has a clear hierarchy; that the categories make sense, it’s easy to find what you are looking for and easy to return to ‘home’
- Write clearly and concisely. Add new content regularly
- Make sure your page titles are accurate and clearly describe what is on the page
- Use long-tail keywords (phrases -more on this later) to create URL’s that people actually use.
- Remember that search engines cannot ‘read’ photos. Use ALT attributes so the algorithms know what they are
- Avoid duplicate content. Algorithms reward original content; duplicated content can be penalized. Ask your website professional to help you with ‘301 redirects’
- Don’t try to ‘stuff’ keywords in your content. Make sure they are used where they make sense and are natural to the overall content
- Don’t bury content inside Adobe Flash or other images where it can’t be found by crawlers
- Most importantly, don’t try to ‘fool’ Google or Bing. They’ll catch you and your site will be punished by being sent to the bottom of the list
That was pretty easy, right? You’ve just finished lesson 1 of the basics. We’ll go on to lesson 2 next month.
Did reading about SEO make you want to run screaming from the room? Contact us for an appointment. We will tackle the SEO monster for you.