For many of us, me included, the Internet, has been something to rely on when we need, or want, answers fast. It has even reached the point where people immediately take out their laptops, phones or tablets and go straight to Google when a question comes up in conversation that no one can answer. Well for me it’s Google, for others it may be Yahoo, Bing or other web search engines. Either way, many people rely on these search engines to get their answers, and have come to expect having those answers supplied in mere seconds.
Although you may have frequently used search engines, have you ever wondered how they provide you with the results they do? Or how they put them in an order that is relevant to what you are searching for? This is where SEO comes into play. SEO or “search engine optimization” helps major search engines, like Google, go through the world wide web, scan the content within each website, and organize the results in the order that it thinks is relevant to your search. It’s amazing how easy it is to look up something on the web, anything for that matter, and have it be immediately available to us.
Savvy marketers have learned how to tap into the potential these search engines have to promote their brand to a whole new audience, at very little cost. With the buying public using the web to research products and services before they make a purchase, effective online marketing and advertising is more critical than ever. Many businesses are still unaware of SEO and the benefits it offers. Even the best designed, user friendly business web site will be useless unless the public can find it, and they do so through web searches. The sites that are found are those who have optimized their sites to a level where the search engines will recognize them as a likely answer to the individual’s search inquiry. This is why it is so critical for a company to work to have their links and product information coming up in top search results. SEO, when managed correctly, will have a positive effect on a business and its growth overtime. It will generate new leads and clients as well as expanding a company’s reach by promoting their brand within the virtual world.
Building a strong SEO presence takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. There are many elements involved, and it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. However, from my experience in studying and practicing SEO, approaching a single element at a time really helps you understand the overall concept of “best practices” and makes the process quite manageable. Listed here are some basics that I have learned in order to build a strong SEO presence.
Content, Content, and Content: Search engines scan the content on your site and compare it to millions of other websites to determine what you offer that will address what the “web searchers” are looking for. Your content should be in multiple places, such as your business website, blogs, local citations and even social media. The more content that you have on your website and blog, the better the search engines will recognize it and ultimately, display your company information in search results. Make sure that your content is relevant to the services and products you offer, and represents what you want your prospective audience to learn about your offerings.
Keywords: Evaluate all the services or products you offer, and make a list of them. Now look at your website with an open mind, as if you are viewing it for the first time, and see if they are properly represented within your content. These keywords allow search engines to find your content quickly and are essential to creating a strong SEO presence. Another technique is to put yourself in the shoes of the prospect and imagine what words you might use on Google (or other search engine) to find the products or services that you offer. Always be as specific as possible and use keywords unique to your business that can differentiate you from your competition.
<h1> Tags: H1 tags have long been influential to ranking on search engines as it helps web crawlers identify what the content of a page is about. One of Google’s more recent algorithm updates, Hummingbird, opens up a great opportunity to optimizing H1 tags so they respond better to users’ search query intents. In order to accomplish this you need to envision what a user may be asking the search engine and then format your H1 tag to answer the question. For example if someone searches for Symptoms of Allergic Reactions a good H1 tag to get people to your site would be What are symptoms of allergic reactions? Overall, with an optimized H1 tag you will be providing a positive user experience and still receive the added benefit of improved positioning in search engine results.
Meta Description: A well-written meta description will give your site an advantage in ranking on search engines, resulting in more targeted clicks to your website (visitors who are actually interested in your product line or services), and therefore providing you with more chances to convert these visitors into customers. This 150-160 character description needs to be unique and should differentiate you from your competition. Take the time to do some side-by-side comparisons to evaluate your competitors’ meta description and then write a better one! To view a meta description, simply right click on a web page and select “View Source”, then review the content next to “meta name”. Websites with quality content that most accurately define the substance on the pages are the ones that will win in ranking. The meta description is essentially the welcome mat to your site’s virtual doorway. Be sure to incorporate these tips to ensure you’re presenting the best first impression possible.
ALT Tags: Alt tags are the titles that are applied to the images on your web site. Once again, keywords are best to use in naming these titles as well. Images are considered to be content by search engines, so when alt tags (descriptive titles), are labeled correctly on the image it will help relate back to the website. Alt tags also provide a person visiting your web site an opportunity to see a description of the photo if they happen to have images turned off on the device they are using.
Is your site Mobile optimized? Mobile users have different objectives than desktop users and this typically means they want information in quick, easily digestible bites. Customers report that their mobile purchases are often impulse buys and some statistics show that mobile users spend more money per purchase than customers do on desktop websites. People like your brand more when you offer a satisfying mobile experience and they’re more likely to return to your website later on a desktop. 90% of people report moving between devices to accomplish a task, and when your mobile experience is optimized for functionality and consistency, it fosters trust and affinity with your users. On the other hand, if your mobile website is difficult to navigate, customers are more likely to go to the competition than to visit you on a desktop computer. If you can’t provide what they need when they need it you will have lost the opportunity for the sale and risk losing a customer permanently to a competitor.
Off-site performance or third party sites:
Local Visibility: Using local visibility sites, or citations, such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, etc., are very helpful and are recommended if you want to build your SEO and your visibility for people in your local area (this includes people traveling through). When you employ the aforementioned SEO practices when completing your citation listings, you will ensure that you are maximizing your web visibility to local browsers.
Social Media: Having an active involvement in social media is the new and modern way for businesses to “socially” interact and engage with customers as well as networking and promoting themselves. Social sites now provide businesses with the opportunity to better market themselves online by giving them the ability to gain tangible leads. With that being said, for business to be proactively involved on social media is not only rewarding as a new business generator, it helps tremendously with SEO as well. Think about it, today the majority of people have a Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and/or YouTube account (along with the potential for a myriad of other sites), and they are checking them multiple times every day. Businesses can garner significant benefits over time by marketing themselves within these channels and taking advantage of this constant activity. A social media presence, coupled with on-going interaction with their followers, provides the additional benefits of helping to build a strong SEO and improving a business’s search rankings.
Reviews and Rankings: If a business has improved their local visibility (as stated above), then your SEO will receive an added boost through reviews submitted on various sites by customers who will be rating their experiences at your establishment and possibly even sharing your posts. Clients can go on-line and tag a business in a status, submit a review on yelp, or click +1 on a Google+ business page to share their experiences with your firm. These numerous interactions help search engines recognize that your business is a proactive one. The more you spread your content and insert the appropriate keywords on these various channels, the better the chances are that your business will come up strong in search results, ultimately driving new opportunities to your place of business.
As mentioned before, having a strong SEO presence takes time. It is a strategy and a process that when maintained overtime, will have a positive outcome. Now go through your website and see if you are taking the right steps to grow your SEO presence to help drive more prospects to your business. Whether you need a completely new web site, a major overhaul of your existing site, or just some assistance to help improve your visibility with improved SEO, we at R.C. Brayshaw & Company are available to help and set you on the right course to increasing your reach. Contact us today for a free, no obligation, digital marketing analysis, and to learn more about our many services.