• Search Engine Optimization: A Guide for Small Business

    14Nov

    Search Engine Optimization: A Guide for Small Business

    As a business owner, you’ve undoubtedly seen the term Search Engine Optimization — or SEO — many times. In fact, you probably see several messages in your spam folder each week from people offering you SEO services “guaranteed” to get your website to the top of Google’s search results pages. You may even have the impression that SEO could be a scam.

    Real SEO isn’t a scam — and there’s no trick to SEO. You can think of SEO more as an overall mindset that should influence every aspect of how you manage your website and its relationship with other websites. Even if you follow all of the best practices of SEO, there’s no way to guarantee top search engine rankings — particularly not overnight. If you follow SEO principles in every aspect of operating your website, though, you will almost certainly see increased search engine rankings over time.

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    What Is SEO?

    In short, SEO is the practice of building or modifying a website so that every page of the website has the best possible chance to rank well on search engines. You can apply SEO principles, for example, to your website’s text content, its images and its menu system. Connections between websites are the essence of the Internet, so other websites can affect the SEO of your website as well.

    Search Terms

    SEO begins with the search terms that people use to find content online. What are the search terms that people might use if they wanted to find a business like yours? Let’s suppose, for example, that you own a computer repair shop in Bridgewater, NJ. “Computer repair in Bridgewater” is a search term that would likely bring your company many customers if your website ranked first on the results page. In fact, there might be hundreds of search terms that could potentially bring customers to your business. Identifying relevant search terms is the first step in a strong SEO strategy.

    Website Content SEO

    Once you’ve identified the relevant search terms for your business, the next step is to create website pages — or modify existing pages — to target those terms. In the past, a website could rank well for a search term simply by creating a page using that term in its text as many times as possible. Today, though, Google’s algorithms are much better at detecting truly relevant content.

    Writing content for SEO purposes isn’t just a matter of writing articles that use specific keywords. To maximize the effectiveness of your content, you’ll need to understand the intent of the target keyword phrase and create an article that would delight a user searching for that phrase. It isn’t necessary to worry about specific keyword usage; Google can detect synonyms and keyword variations. Write for the user — not the search engine — and you’ll be successful.

    Website Structure SEO

    When Google crawls your website, it doesn’t only look at the content of individual pages. It looks at the structure of the website, as well. Does your website’s structure allow individual articles to reinforce the website’s primary topics? Let’s suppose that you have a website selling dress clothing for men. Articles about how to choose the right dress shirt for your body type, how to choose the right cuff links for a dress shirt and how to choose a shirt that’s fashionable in any season all reinforce the idea that your website is a good source of information about dress shirts. Categorize those articles accordingly, and put articles about jackets in a different category.

    Website Usability SEO

    Google’s algorithm has the ability to identify a website that provides the type of experience that users want. Does your website load quickly? As many as 40 percent of potential customers will leave a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Google knows that a slow loading time equates to a poor user experience, and its algorithm ranks slow websites accordingly.

    When building your website, you should always remain mindful of the experience that your users will have when viewing it. Does your website display advertisements? Do those advertisements cover or obscure pages’ primary content? Your website may not rank well. Does your website look good on smartphones? Most people access Google from mobile devices, so Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites on results pages.

    Off-Site SEO

    Things that happen away from your website can affect your website’s search engine ranking. Do people scramble to read new articles that you write? Do they share those articles with their friends? Social engagement can be a search engine ranking factor.

    High-quality inbound links strongly indicate the relevance of a website — and since links come from other websites, it’s difficult for a website owner to manipulate them. It is for these reasons that inbound links are among the most important of all SEO factors. Google treats a website with many high-quality inbound links as one with great authority. One of the best ways to earn inbound links is to connect with other website owners. If you’ve just published something that you believe would interest a blogger or website owner, tell them about it.

    SEO Pitfalls

    Stuffing irrelevant keywords into articles isn’t the only SEO “trick” that no longer improves a website’s ranking as it once did. Building unnatural links is another. Google created the “PageRank” algorithm as a way to prevent website owners from achieving high search engine rankings unfairly by “stuffing” pages with irrelevant keywords. Google’s founders surmised that webmasters wouldn’t link to external websites unless those websites had value. A website with many inbound links, therefore, must have great value. PageRank weighted search results according to the quality and quantity of each website’s inbound links.

    Before long, it became apparent that webmasters could manipulate the PageRank system by buying links from other websites or building websites exclusively for the purpose of linking to other websites they owned. Today, Google’s algorithm detects unnatural and manipulative links. If Google catches you building unnatural links to a website, your website could receive a penalty. To obtain links without fear of receiving a penalty, your website will need to earn those links naturally.

    If you have questions about SEO and how it can positively affect your business, feel free to drop us a line.  We’d love to chat.

    Thanks for reading,

    Your friends at POP

    POP Advertising Partners has achieved top rankings for clients in multiple competitive industries including coveted positions in legal, medical, and home services. In addition to specializing in SEO Marketing, POP Advertising Partners also offers services in Social Media, PPC, Direct Mail, Printing & Design.

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1 thought on “Search Engine Optimization: A Guide for Small Business”

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-16">
    Jeremy Halloway says:

    I very much appreciate the insight. Great content, very useful information. Thank you for sharing.

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