A recent Dilbert comic depicted SEO (Search Engine Optimization practitioners as pantless weasels. Most SEOs I know are pretty good people, but there are a few that will give you bad information at best and steal your money at worst. Too many times I’ve seen good Cleveland area small businesses get slapped by Google for trying to game the system. Usually it was because they were misled by an Internet guru or telemarketer.
The practice appears so full of voodoo or black magic that many people are wary of getting started.
Fortunately Google looking out for consumers. Their search tool is no good to any of us if it returns useless and annoying junk. So they’ve begun to wage a war against scammers, cheats and copycats.
Think of yourself. When you search the Internet, what do you want? If you’re like everyone else you want a quick answer relevant to your question or problem. Google wants assure that happens on all searches.
Here’s the good news. Good SEO for a small Cleveland based business is not complex. If you follow three basic fundamentals then you will be well on your way to improving your search results. It’s not easy, it’s not quick, but over time it works.
The three pillars of effective search marketing are Content, Keywords and Links.
First let’s clear something up. If you believe that by publishing a publish a website a stream of qualified prospects will magically find your business…you will be sadly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, many businesses create web sites just to show customers and prospects that hey exist. And that’s perfectly fine. But if you want potential customer to find you and take action, then you have to work at it (or hire someone to do it).
Content is simply the information we are looking for whenever we search for online. It can be a page of information, a blog post, video, audio file, document or order form. Google looks for original (not copies of somebody else’s site), quality and fresh content. That’s why blog posts do so well in search rankings.
In terms of your business think about the common questions customers and prospects have about your product or service. Then write quality pages or posts about each subject. Don’t use this to sell stuff, use it to inform. This will go a long way to establish you as an authority in your field which over time can result in more traffic to your website.
These are the words or phrases that you enter into the Google , Bing or Yahoo search box. Individual pages on your website should target one or two keywords or phrases (those questions people have about your business.) Just using the keywords in the title, headlines and body copy will go a long way to “optimize” your page for the search terms. Also you want to be sure images in your site contain the keywords in the “alt” tag (more on that in another post). How do you find these keywords? Just knowing your business and customers is most important. But when you’re ready to dig deeper there are lots of free tools to help you find the ones with the most potential.
In order to rank well your website must have “Authority” in the eyes of the search engines. They determine that by the number and quality of links point to your site from other websites. Those links can be of high or low quality. Just think, a link to your site from CNN will have more authority than one from your neighbor’s personal blog. It only makes sense.
Trading links with others won’t work (Google has been on to that for years) and buying them from others is also a no-no. There are lots of underhanded ways disreputable marketers use to create links for unsuspecting business owners. Some including hacking websites and adding links without the owner’s knowledge. If and when you receive unsolicited telemarketing calls offering to improve your search rankings…hang up.
But quality links are worth developing because they can really increase your authority and traffic. It also requires work and patience.
For example, our company is active on a few select online forums frequented our target customers. By being active and answering questions we have generated a lot of traffic and new business over the years.
In later posts we wild get into the how-to of Link Building and other online marketing best practices for Cleveland area small businesses.
The bottom line is to make your website friendly and useful for real people first and search engines second. When that happens…over time you will reap the rewards. But if you remain a voice in the wilderness, then it will be a lonely place.