“If you build it, they will come” may be a relevant strategy for sports marketers and baseball enthusiasts, but in the competitive trenches of digital marketing it’s unlikely to drive more than a bare trickle of qualified traffic to your company’s website. A quality SEO, or search engine optimization, effort is absolutely critical to attracting prospective customers searching for information about the products or services that your business can provide.
Even that marketing mainstay for many businesses, word-of-mouth referrals from existing customers, is not immune to the Internet revolution. While 85 percent of small businesses continue to cite word-of-mouth referrals as the number one method of finding new customers, an estimated 87 percent of those prospects who receive a referral will conduct an online search about the company being referred.
Exactly How Does SEO Work?
SEO is simply the process of tweaking your website so that it more closely matches the ranking factors considered by the search engines when deciding where your site should appear in the search results. Google’s ranking algorithm alone contains more than 230 factors that are felt to be important in delivering the most helpful results to its search users. The key takeaway here is that the more relevant and useful your website is believed to be, the higher it will appear in the results and the more traffic your offering will receive.
Build Your SEO Strategy Around the “Big Four”
While SEO might appear to be overly complicated and confusing for the novice marketer, good results can be obtained simply by staying focused on the four basic elements of best SEO practice – proper keyword selection, creation of truly useful content, correct on-page optimization of your webpages, and building relevant authority backlinks.
1. Keyword Research.
Keywords should be selected that are actually used by prospects searching for information about your product or service category, have a decent number of monthly searches, and not be overly competitive or difficult to rank for. Remember that more natural-sounding “long tail” keyword phrases are now in wider use by search users than shorter variations. Think more like “emergency plumbers in Denver” as opposed to “plumbers Denver.” If you’re just getting started, focus on a maximum of about five good keywords.
2. Good Content.
Once you’ve settled on a list of keywords that you wish to rank for, you need to create one page of content for each keyword that relates to the intent and needs of the users searching for that keyword. Your target keyword should appear naturally within the context of your content no more than two or three times. Anything more than that runs the risk of a “keyword stuffing” penalty from the search engines.
3. On-page Optimization.
After your content has been finalized, add the relevant keyword to each page’s URL, the page title, the meta description, and the header tag. The meta description is the 160-charcter description of your webpage’s content that search users see when your listing is displayed in the search results – and should be carefully crafted to “sell” users on clicking on your listing.
4. Relevant Backlinks.
Links from authority web sources pointing to your web content remains one of the best methods of “proving” that your web page contains relevant quality content, and is a critically important factor in search ranking. Just remember that the search engines consider that backlinks should be “editorially earned” based on content quality – and may penalize your site for irrelevant, low-quality backlinks that appear to be occurring “unnaturally.”