What, Exactly, is SEO and Why is it Important to Small Business?
Small business SEO is the realm of snake oil and magic bullets. It’s the place in cyberspace where digital hustlers spread their lore and captivate audiences with stats and stories from around the globe. You will find both the trustworthy provider as well as the ant-lion hustler spewing great gushers of acronyms in volume enough to spin the heads off ten penny nails.
Let’s see – what all did I confuse the search bots with in that paragraph? I got “small business SEO” there at the lead then I hit it with “snake oil” and “magic bullets” in one sentence. I think by the time I got to “ant-lion”, “hustler” and “ten penny nails” the Googlebot probably thought I was using an article spinner. That’s another topic in and of its own but for now let’s get to the pertinent information for the small business online marketer who, let’s face it, needs to be found in search engine searches.
How we got here today, I mean the history of search engines, is important but that’s a little beyond the scope of time I expect you to invest in learning the what and why about small business SEO. Today nothing matters more than Google. That said there are other important tools and systems relative to online search marketing but none of them tops Google. In fact Google dominates the search engine space with 83% of the search engine activity as of May 2012 (resource). The closest “competitor” is Yahoo with 6.5% and Bing is all the way down at 4.15% of total global search share.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, SEO, is the practice of creating or modifying a website, a webpage and/or the content thereof to be more “search engine friendly” and thus result in more searches displaying your page higher (ie closer to the first result) in the search engine results pages (SERP). As an example if Janet makes wood beads for jewelry she would certainly like for her website link to appear at the top of the search engine results when anyone searches for “wood beads for jewelry” or “wood beads”. It could mean the difference between a few sales and thousands of sales – this, of course, depends on the demand for the product.
In our example above the “key words” are “wood beads for jewelry”. While keywords are important they have, over the years, become only one crucial component of search. In the early days when search robots used thinly constructed algorithms (the way the search engine scripts treat the contents of a web page) it was easy just to load a page with keywords. In this example maybe just posting the words “wood beads” about 50 times. It didn’t take too long until we made changes to the way the search “robots” (the script that reads and catalogs the pages) treated textual content and we started counting percentages, where keywords appeared and even how they were presented on the page.
Today we look for human readable content with keywords used in context. As technology has grown so have the calculations for scoring and cataloging web content. Today the most important part is to have human friendly pages with fresh, unique and relevant content. There are still a high number of SEO “experts” out there who use what are called black hat techniques. They may work to boost your results for a while but run a very high risk of your site being de-indexed (removed and blocked) from Google’s search results. For this reason it is very important to look past any flash, glitz, promises, and high prices, and work with a small business SEO provider who knows the rules and understands the inner workings of the search engine program.
Good SEO results in solid website visits from qualified buyers. It is rarely the answer to all of your needs but it certainly can represent a high rate of return for any small business.
Looking for a master authority on the topic of small business SEO isn’t as challenging as one may think. There are a few tips of the hat which can help thin the herd and they can serve you well. These are not all you need and some authentic professionals can also seem like snake charmers but keep these in mind:
- Paying for search engine placement is not SEO – it’s marketing and it works but when you stop paying you lose the results you were getting. True SEO results in an organic growth of traffic to your site. Paid placement buys you results only as long as you continue to pay.
- Ask them how important the “keywords meta tag” is to Google – if they say it’s crucial just thank them for their time and move along. (resource)
- Ask them if they can get back-links to your site – this one is tricky because white hat (acceptable) back-links from relevant, well ranked sites is important. If they say they can get back-links ask them how they do so. If they say “comment marketing” or “we have several sites we can link to you from” just be careful. While this can be an acceptable, viable technique it’s closer to a gray area.
- If they ask you to move the hosting of your site – be very cautious. About the only viable reason I can think of moving your site would be if during the analysis it was discovered you are on a shared server with websites which have been blacklisted. I cannot think of another acceptable reason to move.
- Ask them if it helps to use a gateway page with a re-direct to your site – if they say anything short of no then thank them for their time. This is not to be confused with a landing page or an index page. A gateway page refers to a page the user never sees because it redirects to the page you want them to see. The gateway page is written exclusively to attract the attention of the search engine … it may also attract the attention of one of the thousands of site surveyors who have the ability to de-index your site with a single click and no explanation.
Why do small businesses need SEO?
The name should say it all in most cases. Small. Small usually means small staff – like a staff of 1 for example. Search engine optimization, when properly performed, can act like another member of the marketing team. Combined with the right website, one that performs like a member of the sales team, a small business person (like you?) may free up time to actually do the service they opened their business to do. Good SEO results in solid website visits from qualified buyers. It is rarely the answer to all of your needs but it certainly can represent a high rate of return for any small business.
Consult with an accomplished, knowledgeable, small business SEO expert today. In fact since you are reading my blog I’ll be happy to spend several minutes answering your questions and helping you get going in the right direction. Just call me at 678-439-8683 or use the contact form on this site.