SEO is a big subject. Here will will attempt to break it down for our small business friends.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your business listing or website to be ranked and indexed in a search result page (like Google or Bing) higher than, say, a competitor.
In this short article we will break down the basic elements of SEO for both local and online businesses.
Local Search Engine Optimization
For local businesses the Google business Profile is a great place to start. It provides searchers with the basic information on a company in an easy and digestible knowledge panel with hours of operation, phone number, customer reviews, basic services and a link to the website for more information. For restaurants customers can even see the menu, or order directly right off of Google without visiting a business website.
For other types of businesses, appointments can be made right from the interface, or messages can be sent and responded to.
Having a good and optimized business profile will help your business rank higher than competitors in the area, and breaks down barriers to finding relevant information so customers can quickly get to the information they need. Bing has a similar listing, as does Apple specifically for those searching for maps and directions from an IOS phone. All listings are free.
Website Search Engine Optimization
Web SEO applies to local, non-local or online only businesses that to drive traffic specifically to a website where a customer can get more relevant information about a topic, also called a "keyword".
Search Engine Optimization for a website can be a complicated subject, with over 200 "pieces" of the recipe that will help your website rank higher than a competitor. Here we break down the top factors that influence your position into two areas: ONSITE optimization and OFFSITE optimization.
ONSITE/ONPAGE optimization is all of the elements on the backend code of your web pages that help google decide what a page is about ("indexing"), and if your page should be married up with a search client when a specific word ("keyword") is entered into the Google or Bing search engine.
What are the main elements of ONPAGE SEO?
Page Title: One of the most important indicators of what a page is about.
Meta Description: The "paragraph" that actually shows on the search results page telling the client what the page is about in human language terms. I
Headline Copy: These are the page headlines, which combined with the page title, strongly indicate to Google what a page is about.
Body Copy: Typically the sentences and paragraphs on a page that give visitors information about your company, product or service.
Internal Links: These are links in the copy from one page to another to help search engine spiders/bots find all of your pages to make them available for results.
Your pages are ready to be categorized by by the search engines, and once you submit them to Google, Bing or others to be indexed how will they know whether to rank you or your competitor higher in results? This is called "ranking" and is a product of building "trust and authority" signals with the search engine based on your OFFSITE optimization efforts.
What are some simple ways to build OFFSITE trust and authority with search engines?
We list a few here:
OFFSITE Search Engine Optimization
BACKLINKS: By far the most effective way to build authority is called link building. It is asking vendors, partners and others to create a link on their site back to yours. But be warned, never purchase backlinks. You r links should be from reputable and real partners ("authority"). Public Relations and links from news outlets is a great way to build authorized backlinks. Sharing a blog to social media, in an email or posting on another site are other ways.
CITATIONS: Other website, associations, chambers of Commerce etc...that list your Name Address, Phone number and include a link to your website are called Citations. This is another effective way to build backlinks.
SEO can be a complex, complicated and time consuming effort, but it is a essential part of your Digital Marketing Toolkit and has one of the best returns on investment as most work is unpaid "sweat equity", meaning just the time it took to optimize your efforts.