Article by Ilya Pozin, Founder of Ciplex. Columnist for Inc, Forbes & LinkedIn. Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, father, and ’30 Under 30′ entrepreneur.
Lately it seems everyone has been raving about the power of search engine optimization (SEO). Many say it is their secret weapon to grow their business. So is it just hype or is it the real deal? And most importantly, why would you want to do this for your business?
If you’re feeling a little confused about everyone’s favorite Internet acronym, you aren’t alone. SEO is the secret weapon of companies looking to rapidly grow their business through creating a steady stream of visitors. In fact, most businesses with a good marketing sense have been applying SEO best practices to their web presence for quite some time now.
If you’re thinking about SEO for your business, here’s what you need to know:
The Common Misconception
At my interactive marketing agency Ciplex, I’ve come in contact with many people who have heard of SEO, but who don’t seem to have a firm grasp on what it is or how it works. Most people think they have a good idea of what it is, and may say something along the lines of, “SEO brings more visitors to my website.” If the question is in regard to how it works, I tend to hear, “They position me on the first page of Google.”
A better way to understand SEO is that it helps your business grow. You should be interested in your website ranking higher for the right keyword search phrases that are relevant to the people you want to find your company. Without a proper understanding of how SEO works, many people latch onto search engine keywords with a high volume. These are likely the most competitive and often aren’t always the best for driving the right kind of traffic that would ultimately growing your business.
Get To Know SEO
Every day, people are using search engines to access information. It’s Google, Yahoo, and Bing’s job to bring you the most relevant and accurate results possible after you type in a search phrase. SEO is a method that ensures these search engines value your website as a relevant and accurate result.
Try and think about it this way: The last time you searched for something online, how many pages of search results did you skim through to find what you were looking for? If you’re like me, you probably didn’t make it past the first page or two of results.
Simply put: SEO is helping those who use search engines to find you. This boosts your website’s visibility to drive new customers, visitors, and buyers to your brand or business.
How Does SEO Actually Work?
Think of SEO as an organizing function. Search engines like Google use algorithms to calculate which websites should show up ordered in search results. They do this by sending out a “spider” to crawl the website and learn about it. This is a computer program that looks through a website’s content.
This spider considers things like the titles of pages, text, images, videos, tags, etc. It reviews how much content is on the website, if it’s original content, and how often it’s updated.
Last but not least, the website is evaluated for optimization based on popularity. This usually comes from checking to see if other relevant websites in its database link back to the one its crawling.
The Impact Of SEO
SEO’s power lies in the amount of ways it can impact your business. If you’re looking to grow your business using SEO, you must understand its two general areas: onsite and offsite optimization.
Onsite, the most important ranking factors for Google are the page content and the “<title>” tag in the HTML code. Both should include the keywords you would like the page in question to rank for — but don’t overdo it. For example, if your company produces basketballs, you’ll want to include “basketball” in the necessary areas. Placing your keyword too frequently is known as keyword stuffing and it can be a magnet for algorithmic penalties created by search engines.
In terms of offsite optimization, the No. 1 signal for SEO comes from links or references to your site. This is Google’s way of crowdsourcing what’s useful to searchers. If 1,000 websites link to Site A and five link to Site B, which do you think is more likely to be useful? At the same time, links must be from relevant, high-quality websites — it’s about quality over quantity.
The best way to get this type of link is through reaching out and offering value to a webmaster. This can be done by presenting exclusive content or developing a relationship strong enough to leverage and earn a link back to great content on your own website. However, you should neverpay for a linkback from another site. This goes against all search engine policies and is the fastest way to get your site banned. Instead, look for an SEO firm, like Ciplex, which can aid you in both creating targeted content and reaching out to relevant sites to feature that content (and your link!).
Staying In The Clear
SEO strategies depend on an end goal. Before you can put SEO to use, you must first evaluate your needs. If you’re looking to gain more sales leads, you’ll want your website frequented by highly relevant visitors who are looking for what you have to offer. If your goal is e-commerce sales, well-targeted shoppers are a must for your website. Focus your SEO strategies on ranking for search queries where the user-intent behind the search matches your product or service — the more descriptive, the better.
Your SEO process will also be most effective if you focus on the humans first; the search engines will follow. Search engines like Google want their searchers to be happy with their results, so if the humans find what they’re looking for, Google will be more likely to rank your website higher. Do this by making sure you have thorough, high-quality content. This type of content will also ensure visitors don’t leave your site in order to do another search because it wasn’t what they were looking for.
Using SEO To Impact Your Business
Now that you understand what SEO is and how it works, you can begin to harness it to impact your business. SEO is like any other form of marketing. When you see an advertisement on TV, there’s a percentage of people who will watch it, like the product featured, and end up purchasing it. This exact same process takes place when you use a search engine — except it’s more effective, targeted, and easily tracked through analytics.
Every minute, there are two million search queries taking place on Google. With SEO, you can show up in results for relevant searches. By making your website appear when someone searches for something you offer, those people will be more likely to access your website, like what they see, and inquire about (or buy) your product or service.
If this influx of information has you wondering whether you need to pass your SEO needs onto an expert, that just might be the answer. While SEO is mostly common sense with a focus on customer happiness, a talented SEO firm or consultant may come in handy if search engine traffic is a big factor in the success of your business.
Do you use SEO as a means of online marketing for your company?
Image courtesy of Plymouth Devon; Flickr
About Ilya Pozin:
Founder of Ciplex. Columnist for Inc, Forbes & LinkedIn. Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, father, and ’30 Under 30′ entrepreneur. Follow Ilya below to stay up-to-date with his articles and updates!