Search engine optimization (SEO) can be the difference between running in the middle of the pack in your market and leading it. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Whether you’re tackling it in-house or hiring a consultant, read on for a few tips on what to do and what not to do.
DON’T work with spammers.
The minute you opened for business, your inboxes, both physical and digital, started getting crammed with ads for SEO services. The disreputable ones will market to your customers the same way they marketed to you—with spam. Old-fashioned tricks like trading links with other sites, hiding keywords in the invisible text on your site, and buying back-links are not only ineffective, but they can also prompt search engines to downgrade your ranking.
DO research reputable SEO firms.
Web marketing changes every day, so make sure you choose a company that’s staying on top of the trends. Rule out anyone who makes unrealistic promises, like guaranteeing a certain number of hits or a top page ranking overnight. Look for a company with a portfolio of recent successes promoting reputable companies.
DON’T chase hits on generic search terms.
Top-level keywords like “copier” or “printer” return millions of results, and you’ll only frustrate yourself trying to climb to the top of the search results heap. It’s a lot easier to hit the No. 1 spot if you narrow things down by identifying a specific copier brand or a model number, for example.
DO research your keywords.
Use a keyword analytics service to find the best keyword combinations for your business. Sometimes a slight variation on the keyword you first chose can have a lower difficulty score, which means not as many sites are competing with you for clicks.
DON’T cram keywords into everything.
Search engines are a lot smarter than they used to be and favor natural language over awkward, repetitive keyword-centric writing. Remember, it’s about the quality of information on your site, not the quantity. Once you’ve determined what keywords you want to target, write a logical, informative post about that topic, and make sure it feels like it was written by a human, not a spambot.
DO write high-value content.
The most successful SEO is for sites with quality content that actual humans seek out willingly. If your business doesn’t have a blog, start one and post to it regularly, linking to other sites only when it’s an organic part of the story such as a link to a manufacturer’s specs for the new model you’re announcing. Try creating infographics for appealing, shareable content.
DON’T beg for links and shares.
Desperation isn’t a good look for anyone. The few people who will respond to an overt request to link to your content usually want the same in return. Not only will it seem odd to your customers to have links to every random business in town on your site, but search engines also know this trick and will tag your site as disreputable if you have too many reciprocal links.
DO make it easy to share your content.
A lot of simple additions can expand your site’s reach almost overnight. Add a “share this article” link under every blog post to automatically create links. Create a “Review Us!” page on your site to help less tech-savvy customers post reviews to sites like Yelp and Google Business. And don’t forget social media! Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all provide handy widgets to add to your site that makes sharing your content a lot easier for your customers.
DON’T think nationally.
If you’re a regional concern, there’s no point in marketing to distant customers you’ll never serve. Hitting the top spot in the search results doesn’t help if you’re in Florida and the person searching is in Alaska.
DO think locally.
Go through your list of keywords and add your city’s name or even your neighborhood to them. Take full advantage of localized search results like the ones that appear in Google and Apple Maps. Claim your page on www.google.com/business, maximize your Yelp reviews (these often affect search rankings within navigation apps), and make sure your “NAP” (Name, Address, Phone Number) are on every page of your site and formatted consistently.
DON’T trust everything you read about SEO.
There’s a lot of competition out there in the business world, which means there’s a lot of desperate people. And where there’s desperation, there’s deception. A lot of “SEO experts” online will advise using outdated, unethical, or just plain time-wasting strategies. Work with people you trust, and always remember: If your gut tells you something’s shady, it probably is.
DO be patient.
You didn’t build your business overnight, so don’t expect to build your web presence overnight either. Think of SEO as a silent partner, running along beside you, opening a few more doors than you could open yourself. It’s not always easy to tell when a new customer found you because of SEO, but do things the right way, stay on top of your metrics, and you’ll see growth in the long run.
(A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of The Cannata Report.)
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