Why Is Search Engine Optimization Important For Your Small Business Website?
Search engine optimization ( or search engine optimisation if you’re in the UK) is more commonly referred to as ‘SEO’.
It’s purpose is quite simple: to get a website in the top listings (preferably in first place) of a search engine’s results for a particular search term. Or to be more precise, Google’s search results (known as ‘SERPS’).
Although other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo can bring useful numbers of visitors to a website or webpage, Google is the market leader in internet search. So much so, that ‘to google’ has entered the international lexicon when referring to using a search engine.
The search engines have software algorithms known as ‘spiders’ or in Google’s case, ‘Googlebots’ that index the internet.
The software then works out which websites are the most relevant when a searcher types a query in a the search engine’s search box. Sounds simple, but it’s amazingly complex. It’s why Google employs some of the world’s cleverest people. The search engines are constantly improving their algorithms to improve the relevancy of their searches.
What does it mean for the marketing of your small business?
Let’s have a look at how to optimize your website…
SEO starts with keywords. Keywords, or more properly, keyword phrases, help the search engines work out what a website is about. A few years ago, one popular strategy was to put a relevant keyword on a website as many times as possible in order to rank. Sometimes, the keyword would be repeated in white on a white background so that only the search engines could see it.
This no longer works, as BMW found out. Read more about why BMW was delisted from Google.
Not clever website optimization!
Think of keywords like hot chillis in a dish: too many and the dish’s spoilt by being too hot to eat; just the right amount makes the dish delicious.
You can take much of the guesswork out of keyword selection by using a free tool provided by Google, the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool.
Put in a general keyword describing your business, and the tool will generate a list of up to 801 related keywords. It shows you the average number of monthly searches for that keyword, together with a ranking of low, medium or high competition for that keyword. Ideally, what you’re looking for are relevant keywords to your business with low competition.
Pick your main keyword, then pick a list of secondary keywords.
At this point, you need to know about something that goes by the name of ‘Latent Semantic Indexing’ or ‘LSI’.
Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult! You do it all the time without knowing it.
Think about the words in the English language. Often, one word can mean two different things. Technically, these words are known as Homonyms.
Us humans are pretty clever.
Search engines have developed updates to their algorithms that do the same. Google’s update is called ‘Hummingbird’ (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Hummingbird ) . This is why the secondary keywords are important. They help the search engines understand what your website or webpage is about.
Once you’ve got your keywords, you’ll need to add them to your site. This takes us on to…
On-Page Search Engine Optimization
This is where you put your keywords on to your website. Your main keyword goes in the title, description and tags of your home page. If your website is built on the WordPress content management system, then it’s easy to do. If not, your web developer will be able to help you.
Next you need to add content, optimized with your secondary keywords, to the website on a regular basis. You need a page or post built around each of the keywords that your research generated. This is the importance of having a blog on your website. If your website uses WordPress, then a blogging function is already built in, as WordPress was originally designed for blogging.
If your website doesn’t run on WordPress, then ask your web developer to install WordPress on to a sub-domain of your website. He or she will know what to do.
There are thousands of free ‘plugins’ for WordPress, programs that enhance its functionality. Search engine optimization tools are among them.
One of the most popular is Yoast SEO.
It makes site optimization really easy. After every blog post or WordPress-generated page, it allows you to add a title and description with your keyword in it. A ‘treffic light’ system tells you how optimised the page or post is for your keyword. It then tells you what you can do to improve your score.
Yoast SEO has loads of useful features for SEO. Another one of note is that it creates sitemaps for the search engines. This helps the ‘spiders’ to navigate the website more easily. It’s just like in a department store. You’ll always find a store directory so that you can easily find your way around. That’s what a sitemap does for the ‘spiders’.
High quality, unique content is vital for web page optimization because:
- it gives the search-engine spiders a reason to keep coming back to your site to index the new content – this is the first step to increasing your search rankings;
- it gives a reason for your human visitors to keep coming back to your site – hopefully increasing your leads or sales and;
- people are more likely to share your content over the internet, making it goes viral.
This last factor is important for the next part of SEO…
Off-Page Search Engine Optimization
Once the search engines have worked out what your website is about, that may be enough to rank highly for less competitive keywords. But to rank for most keywords, you’ll need to do off-page optimization, otherwise known as getting backlinks.
Why are backlinks important?
Imagine that you’re buying a large, expensive item, say, a car. You’d ask probably ask people that you trusted about which car would be best for you. You’d probably buy what the majority of them suggest.
Backlinks do the same job for the search engines. They look at how many other websites have a link on them that lead back to your website. It used to be a numbers game. The more backlinks your site had, the higher it would usually rank.
But in their never-ending quest to increase the quality of their search results, the search engines got wise to people trying to scam them with artificially-generated links.
Now, they look at the quality of the links as well. The higher the quality of the backlink, the more weight they give it. It’s like seeking advice about a car. You’re going to give more weight to the opinion of say, a car mechanic when making your decision to that of a two-year old.
Google’s ongoing update to its algorithm to eliminate poor-quality backlinks is known as Penguin (Read More). It is the companion ‘black and white creature’ to its Panda (Read More) update which seeks out low-quality and duplicate content on websites.
It’s worth knowing about these updates. Sometimes Google updates its algorthms without warning, with literally overnight drops in search rankings for many websites.
Give Google what it wants and you needn’t fear the updates.
If you’re adding high-quality content to your website, then more people are likely to share it. This likely to create more backlinks naturally. But there are other things you can do to get backlinks.
Brian Dean has written a great article about how to get them.
Read it here:
SEO tends to be a longer-term strategy.
It takes work, but once your website is established as an ‘authority’ with the search engines, your website should become what you want it to be: a money-making machine!