Wouldn’t it be great if your website came up at the top of people’s search results no matter what they were searching for? Of course it would, but that’s not ever going to happen. If you listen to some of the SEO companies out there, however, you might think it could. They’ll promise you guaranteed results in climbing the search rankings, a claim that the folks at Google surely chuckle about every time they hear it.

A client of mine recently received an email with these kinds of claims and promises from an overseas SEO outfit, so I thought I would try to explain to the uninitiated a little bit about SEO. It’s not some unknown mystery of the universe.

NECESSARY EVIL

First, let me say that I detest SEO but realise that it is a necessary evil in the digital marketing space. I find it hard to believe that anyone would actually enjoy optimising sites for search engines (SEO is search engine optimisation, by the way, making sure your site is found in searches), but then again I also find it hard to believe that anyone would want to be an accountant, so maybe it’s just me.

More annoying than the actual idea and process is overcoming the perception of what SEO is and how it works. No one can guarantee you search results! No one. No, not even that company that sent you an email promising that they could. It just doesn’t work that way.

SEO is as much an art as it is a science, kind of like meteorology. You try to determine the most likely search terms and keywords that relate to your business, and then place them strategically on your website, in your articles, on your social media, and so on. Then you see how your traffic and search ranking looks over time and tweak your methods to improve the results. That’s a very simplified description, but it should get the idea across.

NOW WHAT?

So, should you hire an SEO company to help your business online? Maybe, that depends on your situation. In general, however, I would advise to use a social media and digital marketing agency that incorporates SEO. SEO is not the end-all-be-all, it’s a piece of a bigger pie. If you don’t use an agency, there are things you can do yourself to improve your search rankings. Here are a just a few free things you can do to boost your visibility online.

TIPS

  • Use Google Adwords or some other keyword tool to find the words and phrases (long-tail keywords) that fit your niche and target customers well.
  • Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are incredible resources for managing your website in a lot of ways, including SEO.
  • Make sure your website has a sitemap on it. Google wants you to have one.
  • Make videos. Google gives preference to video content and automatically bumps them up the results a bit.
  • Make sure that your business is on Google Maps if you have a physical location.
  • Claim your business on review sites like Yelp and make a complete profile.
  • Maintain social media accounts and update them regularly, with links to your other accounts, website, and blog.
  • Write a blog, or have someone write it for you. Post new content at least once each week.
  • Update your website regularly. Including your blog on your site helps, but having them separate gives you more outlets. Your choice. Don’t consider your website done after it’s built. It’s an ongoing thing.
  • Don’t forget to include your keywords in everything possible.
  • Don’t forget Yahoo and Bing. I don’t use them and I don’t know anyone who does, but they’re both still in existence so somebody’s using them somewhere.
  • Make your website responsive, which means that it’s mobile-friendly. Mobile searches are taking over the web, and Google just started punishing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly by lowering their rank in mobile search results.

HIRE A MARKETING AGENCY

All of the above tips are free or inexpensive, but they do take time and require some education on the topics. Most small businesses don’t have the time needed to invest in proper social media and digital marketing, so hiring an agency to handle these things for you is highly recommended if you don’t have a dedicated someone in-house to do them.

 

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