By Lauren Whitson
It is no secret that having a website is an instrumental step in a successful business strategy. This centralized location for communicating important business information like contact details, retail items for sale and your industry knowledge, to name a few, gives the public its first impression of you and your business. But how beneficial can a website be if potential customers cannot find it?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) began as a solution to this question. The idea is to encourage website owners to communicate their business site’s purpose clearly through content enhancements in order to better expose its relevance for related Web searches. Due to its complexity, the science behind SEO is often considered to be confusing and is continuously evolving. Below are some modern-day details about SEO that any entrepreneur should be aware of.
SEO algorithms are constantly under development. Simple tweaks to website text, incorporating captions to images and fresh content are simple techniques that previously helped to better position a professional website in search engines. Additionally, new businesses online were previously required to submit business details to search engine databases if they wanted to be analyzed for inclusion in search results. However, this method is less than relevant today.
SEO strategy has expanded over the past few years, requiring business owners to commit more time to their online presence. In fact, search engines are putting more emphasis on customer experience and the popularity of a business and its website thanks to the impact of social media amongst consumers.
Misused keywords can be damaging. Keywords, or unique terms used in website content to explain your business, industry and expertise, should be strategically placed throughout your site. When done correctly, you can clearly organize your website’s information so that search engines can easily identify its purpose.
Once keywords are established, use them as a guide to structuring your website. For example, if you operate a pet grooming business and use keywords to communicate services like “dog grooming” and “teeth cleaning,” focus each Web page on a different topic. The organization will keep you from overlapping information and keep content clear and concise for visitors as well as search engines to navigate and understand.
Additionally, remember that search engines only know what you tell them – in words. Keywords in text, captions, URLs, and navigation menus will help describe your business so think from the perspective of your customer. What makes your business different? What search terms do you think customers will use to find you?
As much as keywords can help, they can hurt too. If terms are used excessively on pages, search engines like Google will flag the site as spam and refuse it in results. Ensure that your keywords are used in valuable contexts.
It is how your website is found, not just what you have incorporated into it. A recent shift in SEO strategy has transformed the process into a popularity contest. Relevance amongst visitors and referrals from other sites and users have become substantial influencers in search result placements..
Interacting and providing links to your Web pages on industry forums and social media networks helps communicate your value to others and promote your business if shared. Links to the relevant pages within your website, not the general homepage, illustrate your company’s importance to search topics.
Just as website visitors value an organized website, so do search engines. With millions of websites on the internet to analyze, search tools look for quick load times and forgo websites after a certain time limit.. Help your website by limiting the amount of Flash animation. Ensure your Web host has efficient loading times to help improve your positioning.
Success is often best achieved through trial and error. It is difficult to pinpoint one foolproof method that will help place your website on the first page of results. Developments behind SEO processes have made it impossible to definitively claim a list of surefire tactics. However researching the techniques other businesses, especially competitors, successfully perform can help you create an effective strategy. Consider where they show up and what they communicate. Moving forward, use trial and error to measure and compare the outcomes of your efforts.
Keep a log of all changes made to your website and other SEO techniques exercised to stay organized. Additionally, record any outcomes to determine the positive and negative effects from each change. Use this information to implement more effective strategies.
It takes time to see significant changes. Contrary to what many may think, the effects of SEO efforts may not be noticeable right after implementation. Many SEO experts suggest waiting four to six months before changing the direction of your plan. Search engines require time to find your website so if there are no noticeable changes in your ranking during the first few months, it does not mean your approach was ineffective. You simply might need to give it some additional time.
SEO has become an instrumental part in many companies’ business strategies. The ability to be easily visible to potential customers and offer a useful platform to those who are clearly interested in your particular specialty is invaluable. Ongoing developments have made SEO a challenge so remember – SEO is your foundation for generating a positive user experience.
Lauren Whitson joined 1&1 Internet Inc. in April 2009. She manages PR efforts targeting small businesses for 1&1 Internet and oversees communication for its sisters companies – GMX and mail.com. For more information on 1&1, visit www.1and1.com.