Why is SEO (search engine optimization) arguably the most important part of your online marketing? When potential customers are searching the internet for products or services that you offer, you want them to find you. It's that simple. They can't see why you're better than your competition if they only know about your competition. But be prepared to be in it for the long term. Search patterns change and web crawlers look for new content. The good news is that paying attention to SEO will also help you focus on other areas of your marketing, keeping your brand and message consistent.
Here are some tips to increase SEO that, while time consuming, won't break the bank:
- Research keywords. It all starts here. You need to understand what your potential customers are searching for online in order to optimize your web site to capture those searchers. Use a keyword planning tool (Google's Search-based Keyword Tool is a good one) to give you ideas for the best keywords for your product or service and to help you identify which keyword combinations attract the greatest traffic. You should go through the exercise for each page or section of your website, not just the homepage. This will help send web surfers to the page on your site that is most relevant to them. And remember, what customers search for now might evolve over time, so it's best to do this research two or three times a year.
- Use web tools. Both free and easy-to-use, such tools (again, Google has their Webmaster Tools) provide lists of the most popular search terms driving traffic, the keywords on your site that are drawing (or not drawing) traffic and other web sites that link to yours. In addition, you can use these tools to identify broken links and submit and verify site maps.
- Create a strategy for content. Good SEO content is not about determining the best search terms and peppering each page with as many as you can. Not only is that ineffectual, it can make for annoying text that nobody wants to read. Instead, start with a big picture view. Is it easy for potential customers to find everything they are looking for easily? Is your site architecture intuitive for web surfers and easy to navigate? Is there additional content about your product or service that would help them in their decision-making process? Then focus on developing specific content that will engage site visitors, including text, images and possibly even video. Make it easy for them to drill down for more information and be sure to create links to help them easily navigate throughout your site. As far as incorporating keywords into your website text, a quick rule of thumb is to include your main keyword phrase or phrases in the title, first sentence and last paragraph of each page. You can use more main keyword and secondary keyword phrases throughout the body text as long as it reads well and delivers the information your customer seeks.
- Add new content often. As with keyword research, you should always look to refresh content on a regular basis. Search engine crawlers look for new content and rank accordingly. New product/service news, industry developments, how-to videos and white papers are examples of content that can be regularly added not only to boost SEO but also to give site visitors, including existing customers, a reason to keep coming back.
- Submit site maps. Tell search engines about your site by sending them your site map, which gives them the ability to easily spider your site. If you don't already have a site map, create and submit one. Again, Google Webmaster Tools work well.
- Focus on building links regularly. External links from other websites boosts SEO. But choose carefully - you want to be linked with relevant, authoritative third party sites and blogs, not "link farms" that could end up damaging your reputation. One strategy is to include reciprocal links - a link on your site to a web site that, somewhere in its pages, carries a link to your site - but again, be discerning as a link on your web site implies a level of endorsement. There's no need to be shy about it. To show the company you approach that you want to present its site as a useful resource, post its link and any accompanying text right on your site, tell the site owner what you have done, and state that you are willing to leave the link there if they provide a reciprocal link to your site. In addition, contribute to forums, discussions, blogs, and submit articles with links to your web.
- Encourage bookmarking and sharing. Add social bookmarking/sharing tools to your site. These are the symbols you'll often see on a web site, usually near the top of a web page, that allow readers to email the page, Tweet about it, send it to their Facebook pages to share with their Facebook friends, etc. Not only does this encourage your customers to do your marketing for you, but sharing also boosts the chance of increased search engine pickup.
By paying close attention to your SEO strategy and using the free or inexpensive tools out there, potential customers will find your site much more easily, making all your other marketing spends more effective. (If you lack the time, there are companies that specialize in SEO, but be sure to work with a credible one that's been referred to you.) And check out other ways to save money on your online marketing, while at the same time improving the experience for your site visitors. Primus offers Shared Web Hosting, PrimusCloud™ Server, and numerous Managed Services that allow you to spend less time worrying about infrastructure and more time running your business.
By business content provider Susan Baka, Bay Communications & Marketing Inc.