SEO – Back To Basics

by Sue Pitts on April 12, 2011

Many of my clients are still unaware of what SEO is or why it matters to their small business… so I am posting this to go back to basics.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of being found and getting traffic to your websites via the free or organic listings found on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. When someone searches via one of these major search engines, the search engine scours the internet to find the best match for their users search. This is different than SEM or Search Engine Marketing Techniques where business pay to try to get top results. The results for  SEM show up on the top and the far right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The advertisements are labeled and usually shaded.

SEO vs SEM

The organic listings fall below the top ads and have proven to be the most important listings and tend to get more clicks by users.  

So how do you get ranked high on the organic searches?  The search engines operate on many different algorithms and look for certain things on your website that are relevant to what is being searched for. The main thing to keep in mind is that the search engines want their users to find the most relevant information based on the search they entered in.  If you asked a Google employee what to do to get a better ranking they probably would tell you to have a really good business. 

SEO can be a very time consuming and frustrating process and I will continue to contribute more posts on this subject. In the mean time here is a short list of things to be aware of.

  1. Keywords – Keywords are the words that are entered into search engines as users seek out information.  As a small business you should be researching what your main Keyword or Keyword Phrase is. What would people type into Google when they are looking for your service or product?
  2. Website Content – Your website content needs to be optimized for the search engines AND for your user. You should have your keywords in the content in prominent places but you need to make sure that the content is still useful and relevant for the visitor.
  3. Links – Links are fast becoming the most important factor in SEO. Links can come from your own page or from on outside website (incoming links). The search engines are looking for incoming links to your site that are relevant and important. Relevant links are links that are coming from web pages or content that have a subject matter that is relevant to your website.  An un-relevant website would be if you asked your uncle who has a website for his pig farm to randomly place a link on his website for your gift store website.  Important links are links coming from very popular high traffic links.  A link coming from the Omaha World Herald on the best places to shop in Omaha would be a very relevant, important link to a gift store owner in Omaha.
  4. Good and Bad Practices. It is important to understand that Google and the other search engines are becoming smarter and smarter every day.  They have ways to distinguish between good SEO best practices (white hat) and less reputable tricks. Read my recent post on White and Black Hat SEO at the Iowa Small Biz Talk Blog and remember a simple rule: If you are doing something on your website solely to increase your ranking and NOT to please your customer, then it is probably a black hat tactic.

I hope that this very basic introduction to SEO was helpful for you and your business and stay tuned for more tips.  In the mean time, If you are very new to the concept of SEO, a good place to start is Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” and SEOmoz’s “Beginners Guide to SEO”.  As always feel free to share your comments and questions below.

NOTE: Iowa Western Community College and The Council Bluffs Chamber will be holding “Getting Found on Google (and other major search engines) – best practices for local marketing efforts, website content and SEO.   April 26th 2011 – 8:30 to 12:00 noon. $40.00.

Register here if you are interested.

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