Years ago, businesses in small towns spent a significant amount of time and energy establishing a strong presence in their respective niche markets. They would create personal relationships with clients and customers, and their reputation would grow by word of mouth. Since the Internet boom, and with it, businesses now have the ability to connect with hundreds of thousands of people across the globe at a moment's notice. Viral marketing techniques have taken over, and a solid Internet presence, in addition to local presence, is now necessary. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and other internet marketing tactics, are used by hundreds of thousands of companies and individuals across the globe, but many businesses still remain in the dark as to what Internet marketing actually is, and what it involves.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of implementing various techniques to optimize your site's ranking in search engine results. Most Internet purchasing decisions originate through one of the three major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing (formerly MSN). It is important to account for the popularity, and traffic driving power, of search engines when establishing your online presence. There are very basic, as well as quite complex ways to go about doing this.
What to Expect: Every company is different, so results will vary, but with an intelligent SEO campaign strategy, you can increase conversions and profits by huge margins in less than a year.
Why Do It: It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the competition is only heating up. You can be certain that others in your industry are taking advantage of these techniques. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the rest. Not to mention the fact that so much traffic is generated through search engines. Ask any successful ecommerce website owner or online publisher what sites drive the most traffic to their site...I'm willing to bet that they say "Google".
Time Frame: While your campaign's success is sure to fluctuate, and certain aspects such as keyword selection may take trial and error to perfect, you can usually expect to see positive results in 3-6 months. Continual maintenance is highly recommended to keep your rankings and success at a high level. After all, if you stop once you reach the top, then your competition will eventually catch up with you. SEO is a long-term strategy that requires an initial investment, but compared to many other online marketing strategies, the return on investment is often very high.
The first step towards increasing your online presence is to build a proper website for your company, including SEO into the life cycle of your new site as soon as you can. You should focus on visual appearance, organization and ease of use while creating your site.
Site look/feel, navigation, load time, page links, advertisements, and content should be carefully orchestrated. If you already have a website, it is important to remodel it as a part of your SEO campaign.
An old, outdated, or poorly maintained site reflects poorly on your company. A site that is not visually appealing to visitors can also turn them off before you ever have a chance to deliver your company's message.
Before you begin, you should enlist the help of a web content management system, (CMS). Platforms such as Drupal and WordPress are among the most search-engine friendly content management systems, and they are also quite user-friendly. Content management systems are platforms that make updating your website much easier than basic HTML websites. Moreover, a good CMS gives your business a scalable website than can easily grow along with your company.
3 Steps Toward Success
- It is not a good idea to bombard visitors as soon as they arrive on your home page. For example, videos and music that automatically begin playing when you arrive on the home page are often distracting, and can increase your page's load time (which is bad for search engine rankings). If visitors are not able to turn off music, or are stuck waiting for videos, images and links to load, they will probably leave your site out of frustration. Keep your home page simple and organized, with clear links to the other important pages on your site. Ease of use and visual appeal are key.
- Your content must be accurate, helpful, and of high quality. If your content is valuable to your customers, people will link to your site, and people who use search engines will find you more easily. If your content is jumbled and nonsensical, visitors will be very quick to leave your site. Revise and edit your site's material to ensure that it makes sense, and contains valuable information.
- Ensure that your site's navigation is logical. If you have a navigation frame, search bar, or drop down menu, these items should be organized in order of importance. You want it to be easy for visitors to move from page to page. The longer they stay on your site, the likelier you will make a sale or generate a lead.
Technical SEO Implementation
Now that you have a functioning website, it is time to let people, and search engines, know about it. The foundation of your basic campaign should be built upon keywords, optimized content, and links.
Keywords: These are the terms that a searcher will enter into a search engine. If you want to be on the first page of search engine results, it is important to optimize your site for words that lead to profits and conversions. You can use an analytics program, such as Google Analytics, to track the success of your keywords. It is important to optimize your keywords for consumers, rather than visitors. While you want plenty of traffic, and you hope to provide high-quality information, your ultimate goal is to increase conversions and profits, so find the relevant keywords that get them to click onto your site.
If you need to search for new keywords or update your existing keywords, then there are plenty of tools to help you. Google's Keyword Tool is one of the best. It generates hundreds of short and long tail keywords based on whatever simple term you enter in their generator. Combined with analytics, you should be able to predict searcher's intent and adjust your SEO accordingly.
Onsite Optimization and Content: Managing your onsite optimization is key to keeping your site ranking high in the search engines. Without it, your rankings will quickly sink to the bottom of the search engine results. It is important to have a search engine friendly site structure, which includes a logical design, and a comprehensive sitemap.
Search engines use the content on your site to figure out how it fits into their indexes. You want to make sure the content is relevant to your products and services, and that it contains the appropriate distribution of keywords.
Off-Site Optimization and Link building: Link building is really the backbone of search engine optimization techniques. Quality content and relevant keyword usage have taken a lot of the spotlight recently, but link building is still the key to getting ranked on the major search engines especially in competitive markets.
Link building can be tedious, but it is nonetheless essential. You can participate in social media forums and comment on relevant blogs, and then include your link in your comments. You can post content with links back to your site on article hosting sites as well.
Additionally, you can communicate with other businesses in your industry to create collaborative efforts to share each other's links when relevant. You can even guest blog on other related and authoritative sites and, in turn, you will often receive a link back to your site.
These are the initial steps toward creating a valuable website and a solid Internet presence for your company. While they are second nature to many Internet marketing professionals, they can be daunting for people new to the industry. If you do not feel comfortable or do not have the time to focus on your business's website, be sure to contact a reputable Internet Marketing company for help.
Matt Walker, CEO
Best Rank Inc.