It’s really not possible to talk about online marketing campaigns without discussing SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. I’m talking, of course, about the all-important process of tailoring the content of your website so that you can achieve the maximum visibility in search engine results. More specifically, it addresses those search results that are “unpaid” or “organic”. In other words, we’re talking about results that are produced without purchasing those ads that appear on top of all the other results you get from Google.
As a business owner, you undoubtedly want to maximize the results of your marketing efforts. But chances are that you didn’t major in marketing when you were in school. And even if you had, modern internet-based marketing is such a rapidly evolving field that your degree-related work may have little relevance today. What were SEO “best practices” a year or two ago, may no longer be effective today. Still, SEO is such an integral part of an online marketing campaign that it behooves one to learn at least some of the basics of this relatively new and fast-changing field.
I don’t claim to be offering a complete course in SEO, nor am I going to try to cram “everything you need to know” into one blog article. But I can give you some of the essential fundamentals that will help you learn enough SEO to get you started.
The real purpose of SEO
There are thousands of articles and blog posts written on the subject of SEO. Some may attempt to oversimplify the subject, some are overly complicated, and others may sound like downright confusing mumbo-jumbo. So let’s get right down to the most basic concept: the real goal of SEO. The whole point is actually fairly simply. People are searching for something, specifically a product or service that you offer. (For our purposes here, it doesn’t matter what you’re offering. We could just say that it’s “widgets”.) The whole point of SEO is to make sure that they can find you. The art, or the science, if you will, of SEO, is to figure out what it takes to get them there.
SEO is not just about generating traffic
Don’t get me wrong. Properly designed SEO will drive traffic to your website. But when we start looking at metrics and analytics, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the goal is simply to drive traffic to your site. As you’ll see as we get further into the topic, it’s not all that difficult to get visitors to your site. That’s not the goal, however. Don’t forget that the real goal is to generate more business, which means converting visitors to your site into closed sales. So what really has to happen is to attract the right visitors, not just those who find their way to your site.
Keywords are the key
Keywords are quite simply the words that you expect to be included in the searches performed by people who are looking for what you’re selling. To get this part right, you may need to do some research, although as the business owner, you probably have a pretty good idea of the so-called “pain points” of your potential customers. Still, you’ll want to be sure to identify the right keywords for effective SEO. Ideally you want to find keywords that have a high search volume, meaning that lots of people are searching for those terms. However, to be really effective, you’ll do well to also make sure that there’s not a lot of competition for those keywords. In other words, if there are less results in those searches, you’ll stand a greater chance of turning up at the top of the results, and getting more people to click on your links.
Lastly, you’ll want to be certain that the content on your site is appropriate for the searches that are going to get people there. It’s not just enough to get people to land on your site. All of your well-laid SEO plans will be for naught if your blog articles and other content doesn’t address topics that are of concerns to your potential buyers. If the content behind the keywords isn’t engaging to them, you can’t expect them to return, or stay there long enough for you to work your sales magic and convert them into customers.
A great resource when you’re working to identify keywords is Google’s own keyword planner. Since the overwhelming majority of web search traffic goes through Google, they should know about SEO, right? On that site, you’ll be able to get historical statistics on keywords, and get an idea of how the ones you choose can be expected to perform. It’s a tool that all business owners who are doing online marketing should be aware of.
Creating the content
Here’s where it all happens, as they say. Once you’ve identified the keywords, you can begin crafting the content that will attract traffic. Don’t worry, by the way, about whether you’ve got the absolutely perfect set of keywords. Keep in mind that a successful marketing campaign requires a lot of content, to be posted frequently. If your first blogs aren’t generating the traffic you were hoping for, you’ll have plenty of chances to review and revise your keywords for the best possible SEO.
Don’t forget that while keywords are important, they’re not everything. You can easily load up your articles with the “right” words that will give you the SEO results you’re looking for, but that doesn’t speak for what will happen when visitors land on your site. In fact, it may result in content that is not only not engaging, but may actually be downright boring. And that’s not going to serve the purpose you want it to. Make sure that, SEO or not, your articles are readable and relevant.
Make sure that your content includes great titles. They should be eye-catching, and really grab the reader’s attention. If you don’t make the right first impression, you may not get a second chance. Be sure to include links to other, complementary sites, as well as links back to more content on your own site. And, of course, be careful not to use other people’s content directly in your own. Even if your intent is not to plagiarize, it’s still duplicate content, and you may be penalized by the search engines in the form of lower rankings instead of the higher rankings that you’re striving for.