You don’t always need to invest in high-end search engine marketing services to get found on Google™, Yahoo!®, and Bing™. In fact, many small businesses only need to follow a few basic steps to get discovered by search engines. The practice of getting higher rankings for your website is known as “search engine optimization,” or SEO, which can have a lot of different variables and nuances. At the heart of every ethical SEO campaign, however, is a set of basic principles that are the same whether you’re using DIY SEO tactics or hiring an agency for an enterprise-level search engine optimization program.
Here are seven basic principles of SEO . . . and some details about how you can make your site more search engine friendly:
- Choose your keywords wisely. Remember that you have to be very focused on your audience, since your SEO expectations should be relative to your budget and goals. If you are a SHEETROCK® contractor in Jacksonville, for example, then “Jacksonville Sheetrock” is an acceptable keyword. Google has a free keyword tool that can tell you how many people searched on certain keyword phrases in the last month, and it can also suggest related keywords.
- Put a different title on every page, and make sure each one is relevant. Normally, the title on the homepage is the most general topic for your site, with the interior pages using more specific titles. If you’re a plumber, you might include the name of your town and the term “plumber” or “plumbing” in the homepage title. On the interior pages, you would list your major services, and the titles would reflect those services. For instance, “clogged drain and sink” services might go on one page, while “bathroom plumbing” might go on another page. If you reference your service areas and your services on each page, you are more likely to get found when someone is looking for those services.
- Make sure the page content matches the title. Many people compare SEO to a library card catalog, where the meta title of the page is the “card” in the catalog, and the content on the page is the “book.” If a search engine like Google can’t find the “book” with terms that match what’s on the card, then your Web page is not going to get the best consideration. You should write content that is user friendly and references your keywords, but you don’t have to go overboard.
- Write a good description. Also known as the “meta description,” this feature is not directly considered by search engines, but they usually put a snippet of the content in the description beneath the link to your website. If you have enticing content (less than 255 characters) in this area, you can help potential customers understand your product or service offering.
- Get links from other websites. Most search engines use outside links as a way of understanding how websites relate to each other. A link from another website is considered an “endorsement” of your own site. In fact, a single link from another site can help your site get found even if you have not submitted it. (In fact, you normally don’t have to submit a website to Google to get it found, and once it is cached, you don’t need to resubmit it.) If you know other people with websites, ask for a link. As a side note, you shouldn’t go linking to websites that solicit links from you unless you trust the content and would go on record endorsing the site. Links to “bad” sites can cause your website to lose search engine rankings.
- Build the kind of site you’d like to visit. Lots of sites on the Web are nearly identical. The sites that generally get better search engine rankings have good information for users, are easy to navigate, and make peoples’ lives easier. If your site can be a resource for its topic matter, then you are more likely to get links without even asking for them, and you will get the traffic that comes along with it.
- Watch out for shortcuts. Although there are ways to improve link popularity and search engine positions through paid programs, you may need an SEO expert to help you make the distinction between “white hat” and “black hat” tactics, depending on your line of business. Normally, the people who send you unsolicited emails or offer “guaranteed SEO results” are the ones to look out for. Most ethical search engine optimization consultants won’t guarantee a #1 ranking on Google because they know that Google results can change several times a day.
Bonus Tip: Let the search engines help! Google and Bing both offer free webmaster toolkits that will help you understand how they see your site. You can get a lot of information from the search engines about what you can do to make it easier for them to categorize your site, which in turn gives you better rankings.
At the time of this writing, Google is using more than 200 different factors in its algorithm, which is the formula it uses to determine what ends up on a results page when you type in a keyword query. The age of your site, number of links, readability, content, and numerous other factors contribute to a good search engine position.
With all that being said, it is still possible for a small business site to get competitive rankings as long as all the rules are being followed. For people who may not want to invest the time and energy in search engine optimization, or who want to get guidance from experienced SEO consultants, Web.com offers several services that can do the work for you. Whether you need basic search engine visibility or competitive SEO consulting and execution, a Web.com adviser can help steer you to the proper strategy for improving your search engine rankings.
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