Search engine optimization — or SEO — is still a relatively new concept for some. Most business owners know they need it, but many don’t have the time or desire to research how to incorporate it into their marketing strategies. If you feel like you missed the SEO train, here’s a basic guide and some resources to catch you up.

1. How search engines work.

Search engines crawl and index data from the billions of web pages, videos, images, documents, and all other content on the World Wide Web. Then, when you enter a word, phrase, or question into the search box, the search engine reaches into its gargantuan database and produces the most relevant and useful results. The search engine uses algorithms to determine and rank the relevant information. Those algorithms are always evolving, but there are some basic rules that you can follow that will help search engines find your website and rank it higher in its results.

2. Keywords are the secret to the universe.

If you’ve heard of SEO, you’ve also heard of keywords. Those words you type in Google’s search box? Those are somebody’s keywords. If you want your site to rank higher on search results, it’s imperative to figure out your own keywords. Some of your keywords are pretty obvious. If you’re a ferret aficionado, and you want to create a website devoted to the care of ferrets, then the word ferret better be in your URL — and all over your website. In addition, terms such as feeding ferrets, keeping ferrets, ferret care, ferret lover, and where can I buy a “Honk if you love ferrets” bumper sticker? are all useful keywords (that last one is a longtail keyword — more on those in another post).

There are other factors to consider when researching your keywords. If you own a roofing company, roofing, roof repair, shingles, leak, and gutters are all great keywords. But in this case, your target audience is determined chiefly by location (unlike the ferret example above), so you’ll want to include your city, state, county, and region in your content: Lachloosa, Florida leaky roof repair, Alachua roofing contractor.

3. Top issues search crawlers encounter that inhibit your search ranking (fix those broken links!).

Keywords are certainly essential to SEO. But if you have the following issues on your website, your keyword research will be in vain:

  • Not enough content. Content is still king in the SEO world (for now). You need original, frequently updated copy that is relevant and informative for your readers. Blog posts, e-books, and FAQ pages are great ways to quickly amass quality content.
  • Duplicate content. Your content must be unique. If you copy and paste Wikipedia’s ferret page onto your ferret website, it’s unlikely that Google’s search bots will give your site any relevance at all. Here is a terrific explanation of how search engines deal with duplicate content — and how to avoid it.
  • Poor link structure. Your website needs to be organized in a way that makes it easy for search engine web crawlers to analyze it. Links are a paramount factor in SEO. Your internal links (the links within your site pages that lead visitors to other areas of your website) help search engines establish your site’s hierarchy. External links are important too. If you have relevant websites linking to your website, it will boost your search rankings exponentially. Above all else, it’s CRITICAL that all of your links are working and that they link to pages that are current.

SEO is an integral element of the marketing strategies of successful businesses. There’s loads of information out there, and it is constantly evolving because Google is perpetually changing its methods and algorithms. But don’t fret, if you’re consistently producing original, engaging, informative content — and sharing it on social media, it will go a long way in increasing your company’s visibility online. Contact me to learn how I can help you produce polished, professional web content, blog posts, news releases, and other marketing materials for your company that will attract new business and boost brand awareness.