What Small Businesses need to know about SEO
John M. Haddad
Over the past few years, Google has been the leader in search engine optimization (SEO). In its efforts to provide people the most relevant, spam-free results, the search engine giant has made several major upgrades to its search algorithm. Those who practice SEO have struggled to keep up with all the changes. If you’re a small business owner or online marketer, here’s what you needto know to succeed in SEO today.
SEO is all about content
Everyone thinks there is magic regarding SEO. White-hat SEO—the type you should practice by following Google’s guidelines for a “Google-friendly site has always been about creating high-quality content. If your web pages only contain a couple only a few words, nothing you can do will help you with getting found on the internet. Over the years, however, many marketers and small businesses have drifted into “gray-hat” or “black-hat” SEO tactics to try and get a leg up on competitors. Such tactics often involved publishing spammy, low-quality content stuffed with keywords, buying links from questionable sources, and so on.
To win at SEO today, and for the foreseeable future, focus instead on producing high-quality content, period. In fact, the Google algorithm changes in recent years give a big push to content marketing—the practice of using content as a marketing tool to attract new customers. What does high-quality content mean, exactly? You don’t need to hire a Pulitzer-prize winning author. Just create useful, interesting, topical, insightful content for your target audience and make that content easy to share on social media.
Keywords still matter—not as much as in the past
Years ago, keywords were the most important thing to embed on your site for SEO. However, keyword phrases are becoming less important to search ranking success. Google is moving more toward an environment in which its users “talk” to its search engine using natural language queries. Speaking a search query into Google on your Android smartphone is but one example of this trend.
Over the years, search engine users have gravitated toward posing questions or commands, such as “convert 100 dollars into British pounds,” as search queries. Increasingly, Google serves the answer to the question or command at the top of the search results page, eliminating the need for users to scroll and click through sites looking for the information they seek.
What does this mean for your SEO practices? Try to think more in terms of keyword themes for your content. Instead of worrying about getting the best keyword phrase and making sure to use it in the content title, headline, and copy, pick a theme and use keywords that support it.
Blogging can help with your SEO ratings
Many small businesses we work with often rely on a static website to act as an online brochure. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you add a blog, suddenly you have a much more dynamic website—one that’s refreshed regularly with new content.
Google makes an assumption that its users typically look for the freshest content on a topic. As a result, the search engine often ranks regularly updated websites over static ones. Regularly posting to a blog can help the blog (or the website where it lives) rank well in Google search results.
Develop a strong social media presence
Maintaining a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ will only become more important for SEO. There’s still debate within the SEO community about whether or not shared and liked social media status update affects the search engine ranking for the content linked within the update.
So, even if social media shares, likes, and retweets aren’t playing a role in search rankings now, there’s no doubt that they will. And while some people often dismiss Google+ as a digital ghost town, don’t forget: it’s the one social media network whose data Google can fully access. If you’re not sharing your content on Google+, you could be missing an opportunity for great search engine rankings.
Optimizing your site for mobile search
Mobile search continues to grow in popularity, aided by tools such as Siri and Google Now. SEO experts believe websites that are dynamically optimized for display on mobile devices as well as for computer screens—known as responsive web design—have a better shot at ranking above sites that don’t display well on mobile devices. This is especially true when people conduct searches on mobile devices.
In Summary: Winning at SEO
Winning at SEO today and in the future is actually quite simple, at least in theory. Produce unique, interesting, high-quality content on a regular basis: blog posts, articles, videos, slideshows, infographics, photos, and such. Use relevant keywords or groups of keyword phrases. Make sure your content is easy to share on social media.
If you keep doing this, and you’ll do exactly what Google wants you to do: create content its users will want to find.