Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the practice of getting noticed when consumers are looking online, is simple in concept but can be complicated in practice. In fact, doing it right has become a field unto itself – all the more reason to have an expert give you guidance.
For this piece, TheWire interviewed Stephen Rhoads, Director, Campaign Performance, at Evolve Digital Labs, for an inside look at what it takes to do SEO effectively.
If you’re a business owner who doesn’t think SEO is important, Rhoads has news for you. Eighty-five percent of American consumers are now online, and the number continues to climb. This means dismissing SEO is no longer an option for success-minded business owners. “If your entire market is made up of the 15% of Americans who do not use the internet, you might be able to survive without SEO,” says Rhoads.
A business website was once considered the virtual storefront. Now it should be considered a virtual salesperson, and your best one at that. “Your website should be viewed as your top salesperson, diligently working for you 24/7,” says Rhoads. It should include insights and information that get consumers to want to take the next step.
Structuring your site this way allows the search engine program or automated script (also known as crawlers, or spiders, or “bots”) that crawl the web to easily access information on your website in order to add it to their index of pages. “Without this, your site will never have a chance of being found.”
Google has the lion’s share of web searches, so it makes sense to focus here. “If you’re going to fill out any online business profile, you need to focus on completing a Google My Business profile,” Rhoads advises. One key point Rhoads likes to emphasize is that the information you input should mimic regular, every-day language, and not tech-speak or industry jargon.
Include the markets you serve, your hours of operation and include links to your business website. Above all else, Rhoads recommends being specific and consistent with phone numbers and addresses. “If you’re not, or if you have conflicting information online, GPS mapping systems may send your customers to the wrong place.”
Web searches begin with a word or a phrase, such as “vintage baseball cards,” or “picture frames.” As a business owner, your goal is to understand which keywords or phrases potential customers will use when looking for your type of business. “Once you know the language of the customer, you can incorporate it into your website,” says Rhoads. This way the search can lead to your site.
SEO can seem like a simple proposition. So much so that you may be tempted to tackle it yourself or let an employee who likes technology attempt it. But like any evolving strategy, it’s becoming more and more specialized. And implementing an ‘SEO trick’ you read about or even performing an approved white-hat technique in the wrong way can be harmful, according to Rhoads. “A site that’s poorly optimized can take months or even years to fix, just as a house that’s incorrectly wired can set you back. When making major decisions, like the online success of your business, the cheaper option is often your most expensive mistake.”
Rhoads recommends you work with a firm that is experienced with SEO in your industry, and to stay away from firms that offer predefined SEO packages. You want to select a search engine optimization service that is focused on achieving your unique business-goals, not trying to fit you into a good-better-best package. If a firm comes highly recommended, make sure it has at least a six-month track record of success.
“Be sure to vet anyone you hire. One of the first questions you should ask is whether their company is a Google Premiere Partner. If they answer ‘yes,’ request a link to their page,” says Rhoads. The badge that appears verifies they’re trusted by Google.
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