These days, small-business owners have little choice but to delve into the online world as part of their overall business plan. The Internet provides a wealth of opportunities for savvy marketers, but it can overwhelm those who aren’t familiar with the basics.
Here is a primer on one of the most important elements of successful online marketing: search engine optimization (SEO).
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the practice of creating online content that succeeds within the parameters set by search engines (such as Google and Yahoo!). “Success,” in search engine terms, means a high page ranking. Web pages with effective SEO appear among the top results when a person searches a relevant term.
For example: a small-business owner interested in learning how to market to boomer clients might search a phrase such as “marketing to boomers” on Google. The top pages that Google displayed (and thus the pages that the user saw) would be those that had earned the highest rankings according to Google’s algorithms.
Those pages, because they were pleasing to the search engine, are considered “optimized.”
How does SEO affect my business?
If you conduct a significant part of your business online, or if you hope to attract new clients over the Internet, you must pay attention to SEO. Properly optimized online materials rank higher in search engine results, and thus draw more traffic from potential clients interested in those terms.
Internet materials that are not optimized for search engines will appear much farther down the search results displayed, and will therefore not attract the click-throughs that translate to more business.
How can I optimize my online materials?
Incorporating SEO into your online materials should start with keywords and meta tags:
- Keywords: As you know, search engine users research based on key words or phrases that interest them. In order to connect with clients who are potentially interested in your goods or services, it’s essential to know what keywords your potential clients are searching. Once you have determined the keywords relevant to your business (hint: start the process with a free service such as Google’s keywords tool), you can optimize your web materials for those terms.
- Keyword optimization: In order to optimize for keywords, include them in page titles, sub-headers, and sprinkled throughout a page’s text. Avoid cramming your keywords in unnaturally, though, because this reads to search engines as spam.
- Meta tags: After incorporating relevant keywords into your online materials, it’s important to compose meta tags for each page. Think of these tags as the card catalog system for the search engine: you describe the page’s title, its content, and the keywords or phrases most relevant to the page. Search engines use these tags to assist in their process of ranking and evaluation.
Can I do SEO on my own
Any entrepreneur can master the basics of SEO with some research and a little time. If you’ve gotten past the basics and are interested in advanced SEO tactics to improve your rankings and online conversions, it may be time to hire an SEO specialist or work with an Internet marketing firm to update your online materials.