What is SEO?
In case you haven’t noticed, the past few decades have seen a tremendous change in the way people advertise their businesses. Once upon a time, if you owned a plumbing company, for example, you named your company something that started with the letter “A” so that you would be first business listed under plumbers in the Yellow Pages. Since the Yellow Pages have essentially gone the way of the do-do bird, it’s important to know how to get the most bang for your advertising buck. Nowadays, no other form of advertising is as popular as internet advertising.
Don’t have a ton of money to invest in internet advertising? That’s okay; if done correctly, you can actually manage your advertising yourself. Undoubtedly, it will take a great deal of time and effort to properly construct and maintain your online advertising, but it can be successfully done!
Initially, you will want to immerse yourself in SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization. The major search engines like Yahoo, Bing and Google, all rank the content on the internet, so that when someone types in some words in the search bar, the ones that the search engines deem the most appropriate are ranked first. What is the big deal about being ranked on the first page? As Gary Cole’s character from the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” once asserted, “If you ain’t first; you’re last”. This declaration may have been meant for fictional race car drivers, but it especially holds true for internet marketing—if you’re not on the first page of the search engine results pages (SERP), you might as well be on the last, at least in terms of advertising. Research shows that potential consumers will generally select a business from the first page of an internet search, regardless of what the search entails. Oftentimes, there are so many “matches” to a search query that there are hundreds of pages of content for consumers to filter through. If your business does not pop up in one of the first few pages in the SERP, you are much less likely to have someone click on your website. Just like the Yellow Pages of yore; a customer was more inclined to call “AAA Plumbing” as opposed to filtering all the way down to “ZZZ Plumbing”.
With so much emphasis placed on the desired first page of the search engine results, the question for any savvy business owner is—how do I get on that first page? There are several ways, including buying ad space on the front page or even resorting to “black hat” methods, or ways to cheat the system and get your content to shoot up the ranks. However, these “black hat” techniques are usually short lived in their efforts and can sometimes led to the search engines marking your content as spam, which removes you from the rankings. If your company cannot afford to pay for ad space on the first page—and often you are bidding for that space against your company’s competition—the best way to secure a spot on page one is having a solid website full of interesting information. The SERPs are based on keyword searches, and the keywords in your content. Too many keywords and you’re accused of “keyword stuffing”; boring, bland content and no one will visit your website. Since the exact algorithms used by the search engines remains a mystery, the safest way is to provide content that is relevant to your website.
The search engines employ “spiders” or “crawlers” to review content on websites to ensure its relevance and to check for “black hat” techniques, like keyword stuffing. The content on a website is indexed in the search engine, so anyone searching for “plumbing” will get a multitude of website links offering this particular information. However, the spider/crawlers are mainly interested in written content, not audio files or video, so websites that feature little in the way of written content might be overlooked when indexing a site, even if the information provided is relevant and entertaining to the consumer. One way to accentuate your website, even if you employ video and audio content, is to place a keyword in the title of each of your website’s pages. If your website is about plumbing, you will want to mention plumbing in your page’s title and find various other words that equate to plumbing, so it does not appear that you are adding erroneous mentions of the same word (i.e., keyword stuffing). The most important information should appear on your “landing page”, the first page that appears when someone opens your website. While many companies construct or even pay someone to make them a website, they do not maintain it properly once it is up and running. Changing the relevant content and mixing up the keywords can help move your site up the ranks. If a particular keyword or phrase isn’t working for you, you can try more specific wording, such as “commercial plumbing” so that when a business wants to find a company that is not a just a residential plumber, your website might jump up the line because you offer a specialization. Or, if igloos had plumbing and you offered that specific service, anyone looking for “igloo plumbing” would readily find your niche website.
Not prepared to commit the hours of work it takes to tweak your website to optimize its SERP ranking? There are reasonable SEO companies that can assist you with webpage layout, word selection, and can work to get links from other websites that offer similar content to link to your page. For instance, if you use a certain plumbing supply company for your parts, you could have your page link to theirs and vice versa. This way, anyone who visits their page will see your affiliation and can click on your link from their page. This is another “white hat” approach to moving your website to the top of the SERPs! If you intend to utilize the services of an SEO company, just make sure they are the guys wearing the “white hats!”