If you really want the Internet to play a part in marketing your business, search engine optimization will be a big part of your plan. And while many will tell you that it’s easy to hire SEO out and never worry about it again, we would argue that as a business owner or manager, it’s important that you master the concepts to a degree for yourself.
By understanding SEO, you’ll know more about building it into your strategy. You’ll also know when someone is attempting to rip you off.
SEO is your baseline. You can’t build a website with plans of adding SEO data later. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Instead, everything you do in the online world should be infused with your SEO strategy.
You have to know who your ideal customers are, what they want, what they are looking for, and how you’re going to reach out to them. While your message can vary when you’re speaking to them directly or placing an ad in a magazine, it’s different online. Your message is integrated into the system in many different ways. And if you don’t have the “right” message in place, it will never be heard in the places where it can bring in the most results.
A good SEO company starts with your message. They will ask you what you think your message is and move on from there to verify that your prospects and customers agree with you. While your message may be clear in your mind, it might not be to your customers. They may be searching for things in an entirely different way than how you present it.
But that’s okay. Because there are many approaches to reaching out – that’s what SEO is all about. Keep in mind that SEO is a journey. You can’t do it once and never expect to do it again. It’s a process, and it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
Let’s look at it from three different angles.
If you know anything about SEO, you know keywords are an important aspect. And they are. In your business, you probably have a list of keywords that are commonplace within your industry, and that is a good place to start.
Keyword research takes it a step beyond. This is where online marketing professionals find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines. The root of any good SEO plan is keyword research. Keep in mind that keyword, as it’s used here, refers to both keywords and key phrases – both are equally important when finding your customers online.
It can be easy to lose yourself in keywords that are prominent to your industry. Ask a doctor what keywords are popular in her field, and you’ll get a considerably different list than if you ask her patients what they search for. That’s why keyword searches are so important; they cut through human bias and find what people are actually searching for. But it is a good place to start.
To create a keyword list, the best place to start is to create the list. Brainstorming can give you common keywords that are known to be a part of your industry. You can go back to your marketing, to customer emails, or think back to the most common questions your prospects may have. Use Wikipedia. You can even use sites like Amazon to find different terms.
Yes, you may have a list that goes on and on. But eventually, you’ll start seeing patterns and similarities. You can group them in different ways. A good SEO plan starts with around 10 to 12 keyword phrases to reach out to their audience effectively.
Of course, this way of finding keywords is guesswork on some levels. There are many tools out there that SEO professionals use to take a snapshot of what search terms are used. When it comes to keyword research, using the Google Keyword Planner is the tool of choice. Why not use a free tool provided by the place where most searches occur? This tool is available to anyone who has an AdWords account. It allows you to type in any search term and it will give you recommended keywords and the number of searches it receives each month. It also shows you suggested bids, and how highly searched a term is.
On Page SEO
Now that you have refined your keyword list, there’s another important part of the SEO process to consider. On page SEO refers to the tactics you use on every page of content you create with the hopes of it being found in search engine results. This isn’t a time to use every keyword on every page. Instead, this is a time for clear focus. Every page should have its own content strategy; the more you can narrow it down, the more likely you’ll rank higher in Google.
On page SEO refers to placing your keyword content throughout an individual page. You do so in the:
- Page title
- Header tags
- Meta description
- Alt text
While using your keywords is important, you don’t want to keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing was popular years ago when Google was less sophisticated. When it ranked solely on how many times your keyword was used, it became commonplace to use it as many times as possible.
No more. Google’s algorithms are intricate enough to detect when your keywords are out of balance. It knows when you’re attempting to use them for marketing instead of for education. And it will penalize you for it.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re also concerned with ranking locally rather than for anywhere in the world. And rightfully so. Why would an HVAC company care about ranking more than a few miles from his business for example? A technician in Seattle is never going to drive to work on a furnace down in San Francisco. It just doesn’t make good business sense.
You do business in your own community, and you want your marketing to reflect that. Good news is that a solid SEO plan will work for you too.
Google knows that when people search, they want relevant results. So if they are looking for a great Italian restaurant, they don’t want results several hundred miles away. They’ve built the concept of local SEO right into their algorithms. And they give you the tools to help you rank better within your community.
Have you claimed your business listing in Google? You should make sure your name, address, phone number, and category are all correct and verified. You should make sure you have some reviews. Adding images and video is a bonus. And make sure you have only one listing – multiple can cost you.
Have you put things like your local address, local phone number, even a Google map into your website? People want to know where you are. So does Google.
Have you created local content? If you run a local hotel, why not talk about local things to do? Of course, you should keep your keywords in mind too. But Google wants you to be a resource within your community. It wants you to be well loved by the people who might do business with you. And it gives you credit for it too.
See? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Creating an SEO plan doesn’t have to be complicated. By mastering the recommendations above, your search engine strategy will be well on its way.