For those people and businesses outside the SEO world, SEO can be a tricky thing to figure out. In fact, a lot of small business owners, think they know what SEO is, but are sadly self-deceived with out-dated modes of thinking and misinformation. Nevertheless, they look at the price tag of SEOs and decide that they can do it on their own with a “For Dummies” book and a little elbow grease. While it is commendable to see the American can-do spirit displaying itself in such glory with businesses across the internet. The problem is that many of these small companies spend too much time on the wrong aspects of SEO or mistakenly participate in black-hat SEO practices, getting themselves penalized or un-indexed by Google. And when they no longer appear in a Google search, they ask themselves what went wrong.
One of the biggest myths propagated by small businesses it that Google is stupid. Basically, many small business owners are still stuck in old ways of thinking and base their ideas about SEO on outdated ideas that search engines still operate solely on keywords. Based on that misconception about SEO, they do dumb things like write site content that is ridiculously stuffed with keywords. In fact, you may see some of these businesses creating pages and pages of useless content just so they can stuff as many keywords into their site as they can. Of course, they have no ideas that keyword stuffing is a big no-no, and could have the reverse effect than what they were going for.
Secondly, their belief that Google is stupid results in trying dumb tactics like paying friends and family members to put links on their sites that are generally not related to their small business or blatantly going on Craigslist and offering money for links. What they don’t understand is that Google has standards. They want to provide good, relevant content to their users, and keyword-stuffed, spammy sites are on their hit list.
So, to correct these myths and others, it is advisable to get a correct understanding of how SEO works, what Google does, and tactics you can use to generate some real, basic SEO power for your site.
SEO starts at home. You have to start your SEO efforts by concentrating on your own site—from the ground up. Primarily, you have to do research on keywords. Many businesses pull a couple of keywords out of the air that they believe relate to their product or service and plaster them all over their site without understanding how keywords work and what keywords get the most traffic. For example, you may consider yourself a “home improvement company,” but when people are looking for home improvements they search for terms like “kitchen remodeling,” “construction company,” and “carpenter.” So before you go and fill your site with irrelevant keywords, make a list of a broad spectrum of keywords, research how they perform through something like the Google Keyword Tool and find out which words and phrases get the most traffic.
Next, you have to understand that Google tries to match user searches with the content of your site. However, they are not stupid. Just because you have the keywords “carpenter” on your homepage 15 times, doesn’t mean you’ll be at the top of the search results. Google looks for grammatical accuracy and latent grammatical patterns to make sure your site text is directed at human users, not machines. Only use Keywords when they fall naturally into a sentence, and don’t over do it. If you read the text and can tell that it’s trying to capture keywords, you’re probably doing it wrong. Text like that will hurt your SEO, not help it.
Next, make sure that your keywords are used in your URL structures and in headings throughout your site. Google wants to make sure your site is user friendly, and if the URLs and headings are accurate and easily identifiable, you’ll get an SEO boost.
But more than keywords optimization, you need to make sure that your site is easy to navigate. If you have a “flat” site architecture, Google will recognize that users can get to just about any other page of your website from any page of your website. Sites like this are easy to navigate, and Google will give you an SEO boost if your site is easy to navigate.
Now that you’ve optimized your website, it’s time to move on to off-site factors that determine your SEO juice. And one of the first things you have to understand about off-site SEO, is that Google is moving in a direction that weighs off-site content more heavily than on-site content to determine your search engine ranking. As a result, your off-site SEO initiatives are going to be a more powerful indicator of your SEO than your on-site content.
The best thing you can do to boost your SEO off-site is to generate backlinks. Backlinks are viewed by Google as tacit endorsements of your site. And the more trusted endorsement you can get, the better. That is, a backlink posted on a site relevant to your field or market, that has high-traffic, will generate more SEO juice for you than 100 backlinks on an irrelevant sites with low traffic. Basically, it’s a popularity contest, and you have to win to boost your SEO and come up first in the search engine results.
Lastly, there are a lot of small businesses out there who don’t understand social media, discount it, or are afraid to try it. But the fact of the matter is, good social media engagement increases your SEO. In fact, studies run by a number of SEOs have found that the right Tweet or Facebook share can really give you some great SEO juice that will be sustained over a long period of time. Thus, SEO is not just something your high school kid does to seem more self-important, it is a valuable tool for boosting your SEO, gaining more traffic, and—ultimately—making more money. So, study it, understand it, and use it to your advantage.
Overall, it’s important for all small business owners to understand that SEO is not a one-time fix they can make on their website. It is an ongoing and complex process that involves much more than a site full of keywords. If you get a correct understanding of the way SEO works, you’ll be able to better to navigate the online search melee and shoot your site to the top of a Google search results page.
President & Founder, Tru Family Dental
Marketing, Dependable Cleaners
President, Frame Destination
President & Founder, Family Travel Association