A professional website is a great tool to begin establishing an online presence. However, if the site cannot be found by search engines, it could be useless. Kelly Meeneghan from 1&1 Internet, Inc., answers the most common questions about search engine optimization to help improve your online visibility.
Some businesses are under the assumption that their online strategy is complete once their website is created. These businesses, however, may be deemed as unsuccessful on the Web. Operating with a website that has not been optimized for the most popular research tools, search engines, is virtually ineffective. Research has proven that consumers turn to search engines as their primary resource to find products and services replacing traditional phone books and Yellow Pages. Businesses should examine the importance of owning a search engine-friendly website to improve visibility in the online community. That mission can ultimately lead to increased traffic volume and revenue.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an Internet marketing strategy used to improve a website’s ranking on search engine results pages while driving traffic to the website. Search engines depend on Web crawlers, or spiders, to travel throughout every website to determine which search terms they would be most relevant for. If done correctly, businesses have an increased likelihood of their professional site being on one of the first three pages, if not the first page, of search engine results – a goal that all businesses should have in their SEO plan. Targeting different types of searches, including image search, local search and industry-specific search, SEO has become a very detailed marketing process.
Though there are SEO experts to assist in the process, it is possible for people with all levels of technical knowledge to optimize their own website. Before evaluating the site’s content, educate yourself on what the search engines look for as well as what consumers will search when looking for your business. That knowledge is best when used to determine the most effective keywords for use throughout the SEO process.
Some businesses are apprehensive about taking on this challenge, as they consider SEO to be foreign territory. By turning to an online marketing professional, some feel that they are making the right decision for their small business; however, the high cost of and communication obstacles from working with an expert can prove to be overwhelming and problematic for many small businesses. By choosing to optimize the site yourself, you can save time, money and the potential frustrations of outsourcing your SEO strategy.
There are many different methods businesses can apply in the SEO process. First, determine your business’s keywords, or important terms that define your business, products and/or services. Search engines rank Web pages based on these terms, which should illustrate the relevancy of the content to different searches. Therefore, keywords should remain specific to your business, including its location, specialty and mission.
Once determined, keywords can be used within the text, captions, headlines and page titles of the website itself. Images are a great way to attract visitors, but incorporating keywords within the captions and meta tags will also attract search engines. Consider descriptions for images that represent your business, such as photos of employees and previous completed projects. Since search engines cannot read images, only text, providing captions to all photos will ensure that every aspect of your website is visible for search engines like Google to read.
Additionally, search engines determine the credibility of a website through “link analysis.” Increasing the number of back-links or inbound links will help position your site as a recommended resource. Such references are determined by how many other Web pages link to your page, so include them when you are posting on blogs or commenting on social media.
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is not updating the site’s content. For example, some links to external sources will become invalid over time. Dead links will damage your reputation as a reliable business to visitors and search engines. Therefore, frequently visit each page of your website and regularly check each link to ensure such errors do not occur, in order to maintain your reputation.
Remember that the general public will be searching for a business like yours.
Therefore, place yourself in the consumer position to determine which keywords and methods will work best.
Using the actual search terms, or keywords, within your website will be a great advantage when optimizing your content. If you are selling the same products or services as many competitors, write your own, unique product descriptions using your keyword research.
Strategically incorporating keywords can communicate relevancy for search engines, but overusing them in irrelevant places will make search engines flag the content and website as spam. Be sure to only use them strategically throughout the site to prevent that from happening.
Successful search engine optimization requires a large commitment to the process. SEO is not a one-time event, but requires a long-term outlook and ongoing efforts. Search engine algorithms change regularly, so the tactics that worked last year may not be as effective this year. Additionally, search engines require quite some time to evaluate and find website. It is not uncommon for it to take up to six months to see results, especially when you are small and/or new to doing business online. If you become impatient and change your strategy before search engines have time to explore your site, you will be placing your online visibility back at stage one.
Some instances that may impact the time line include:
Though it may seem complex, SEO should be implemented one step at a time. As one of the most reliable approaches to increase the quantity and quality of your site’s traffic, it is a strategy that holds valuable benefits for your online presence. By implementing search engine optimization, you greatly improve your website’s rank, thus inviting more visitors to your website and potentially increasing profit. APC
Kelly Meeneghan is a public relations specialist with 1&1 Internet Inc. She can be reached at Kelly.Meeneghan@1and1.com.