You probably think you can just put up a website and you’ll have customers wander in. If you build it they will come, right? Besides, it’s how we’ve done business for years. Build a storefront and hope people decide to stop in for a peek.
The internet doesn’t work that way. When you set up a business online, you have no physical location. People aren’t walking the streets of the internet because there are no streets.
It’s more like wandering the vast reaches of outer space. To get someone to your location, you have to be intentional or you will be a very lonely business.
This is where search engines come in. They’re the navigational tool people use to wander the internet. And you can move up on their navigational menu. But it takes some work.
SEO will help you get there. So, let’s look at a few ways to use SEO for this very purpose.
1. What the Hay is SEO?
According to the Moz: “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”
Aaaaand that tells you bupkis. Right? SEO people have a bad habit of talking above everybody’s heads without realizing it. Me included.
Let’s look at that Moz definition for a moment. Organic search engine results have nothing to do with some farming practice. Organic simply means natural in this context.
Organic search engine results are the results of a search that isn’t paid for. At the top of each Google search page, you’ll notice a few results labeled “Ad.” These are non-organic search results.
Those positions are paid for positions. Anybody below those are organic search results. Results filtered through Google’s algorithms.
The closer to the top of the first page your page appears, the higher your ranking or SERPs.
How Does Google Decide?
To an untrained observer, the results you get when searching Google might seem arbitrary. As if some guy at Google sits there and separates the goats from the sheep at random.
But Google actually uses computer programs called crawlers to gather information on all websites and index that information. Then, when you search for something, an algorithm compiles search results from that index.
So, essentially, when we talk about SEO or search engine optimization, we’re talking about appeasing the Google algorithm gods. We want to get our pages and websites on the first page.
And lately, the algorithm gods demand a lot of things for entrance onto the first page. Plus, the target is always shifting. Google comes out with algorithm updates all the time. And it’s an SEO expert’s job to keep up.
But right now, it all seems to boil down to quality. Quality content, quality links, and quality networking (in a social sense).
So, let’s look at a few ways to optimize and appease.
2. Keywords Are Still a Thing
Google uses words to find your content. While their machines can now look at things like syntax and context, keywords are still useful. And it’s still possible to rank for specific search strings.
But not all search strings are equal, or useful. Some are much harder to rank for than others. This is due to a multitude of factors like competitiveness and quality of the sites who rank there.
If you’re just learning about keywords, one area I’d say you should focus on is the long-tail. The long-tail is a set of keywords that are easy to rank for because the search volume is comparatively low.
The non-long-tail set of keywords racks up search numbers in the millions. Things like Facebook, condoms, and Adele are going to take up a large chunk of search engine numbers.
Long-tail is about specificity and ease of ranking. Use a keyword tool like KWfinder.com or Google’s AdWords keywords tool and sort by the easiest to rank for.
Then find keywords specific to your niche and that will catch people closer to the tipping point when it comes to sales. Frame an article or video content around this keyword and go!
Just be sure not to keyword stuff. One keyword every 100 words is sufficient. Less is more.
3. Quality Content Forever
There once was a time when you could get away with a page of keywords and links. Sparse content was king.
But Google quickly figured out that they actually have a customer base to please. And in realizing this, they began to police their search engine.
The penalties were dire. If you trespassed Google, you would get buried so deep in the rankings, you would never see the light of day again.
Google now looks closely at your content. If it features too many errors, too many irrelevant links, too dense of content, it gets dropped.
Quality content for small business SEO purposes includes content that’s scannable and useful. Google has basically told webmasters and SEOs to stop worrying about SEO (which we won’t) and focus on quality content (which we will).
Essentially, Google has forced SEOs to adopt content marketing. Which isn’t a bad thing.
To get ranked, write longer form content that gives your customers or leads something valuable they can use. Make sure your paragraphs and sentences are short. And maximize the entertainment value.
Nobody wants a boring sales pitch. They want to be entertained while they shop. So, give them what they crave and they’ll reward you.
4. The Internet is a Network
You might be thinking, thanks, Captain Obvious. But wait a second. A lot of people don’t realize the internet is a network. And without connections, it fails.
The same is true for your site. Google uses your reach and your connectedness to rank you. This means backlinks.
When people link back to your content, you can call that a backlink. Garnering backlinks is hard. It means you have to network.
Social media has exponentially improved our abilities to network. And if your content is shareable, you’ll garner a lot more backlinks.
But you can reach out to other small businesses and blogs and review sites in your niche. This is probably the most effective way of networking and garnering backlinks.
Also, link out to other sites in your niche. Sites will notice when you link back to them and you could open up networking opportunities.
Conclusion: SEO isn’t Complicated
SEO takes work, plain and simple. If you’re worried you won’t be able to understand SEO, don’t worry. It’s actually easier to understand than you think.
Are you using SEO for your small business? Let me know in the comments below.