Many small business owners think that SEO (search engine optimization) is simply not applicable to them. Search engines are huge entities and their inner workings are complex. Therefore, SEO only applies to huge businesses and tech whizzes, right? Wrong. Search engines may have world-class status, but they are more approachable than you think, and are incredibly helpful for small and local businesses. This post is designed to help you in understanding SEO, so that you can move forward in either implementing your own strategy or hiring an outside service.
SEO is commonly misunderstood as a way of “defeating” search engines. The truth is, search engines are companies too, looking to gain and retain users through the best possible experience. They also have massive audiences, and therefore massive data to understand their users’ needs. SEO practices center around aligning your business website with the correct, data-backed standards for a positive user experience.
While the term “SEO” is commonly used with websites, it’s important to note that search engines look at every web page individually. So, when you “SEO your website“, you are not actually optimizing your entire website for search at once. Rather, you are optimizing each page in your website for search. Each page should therefore rank for something different, so that they don’t compete with one another.
SEO involves inserting keywords into your business website, such as in your homepage, product page, and blog posts. However, one thing that people often don’t realize right off the bat is that a keyword isn’t necessarily one word. The term “keyword” refers to whatever gets typed into the search engine’s search bar. Therefore keywords refer to both individual words (such as “catering”) or longer phrases (such as “how to choose a caterer”).
Keywords are not search engine language, they are user language. Therefore, good keywords for your business are not necessarily expert terms or industry-specific jargon (unless you are targeting experts on a topic). They are the words that your average target audience member uses when searching online.
When you perform a query on a search engine, that search engine does not crawl the entire web in the fraction of a second it takes to yield results. Rather, it searches its index, which it builds over time by crawling the web constantly. Google collects information on websites so it can categorize them in its index for easy retrieval. Therefore, SEO should be understood as helping Google to index your page quickly and correctly.
In the past, stuffing keywords into paragraphs and inserting them into secret places was a way of “tricking” search engines into showing a page on your business website. However, search engines now incorporate user behavior into their ranking factors. Its computers might select a page because of its keyword content, but if users are clicking on that page and leaving quickly because it is low quality or not relevant to their needs, the search engine will detect that and lower that page’s rankings.
SEO can be complex, but simplifying the basic elements can help you to get a better grasp on it. Hopefully these six tidbits have helped to improve your understanding of SEO, so you can leverage the power of search engines to grow your business.