Demystifying SEO For Your Business.
I imagine when many business owners hear the term SEO it reminds them of the Wizard Of Oz. At least I know this is what I thought of it years ago when I became aware of it. These days it can be very hard to take SEO seriously when every business owner receives so many spam emails and phone calls trying to sell this seemingly elusive service.
Even I receive these spam emails, and it clearly states on my website that I am an SEO specialist. My kindness quickly goes out the window when I receive these emails and phone calls. But what happens to the unknowing business owner that gets seduced by these vultures?
How do you know what is legit and what is not?
What is SEO…Really?
SEO is the act of improving search engine rank through various factors. It is what drives traffic to your site and is the skill that gets your page highly ranked for specially researched keywords that your customers are using to find what you offer. SEO is an art, a technical art at that, but there is no cookie cutter recipe for success.
What works for one industry can vary greatly from what works for another. In this post, my goal is to leave you informed and immune to hoodwinking by sham SEO con men trying to take your money and giving you no real benefit. In fact, their antiquated ways can leave you banned from Google and your site barren of visitors.
On-site SEO; where it all starts.
Every SEO strategy needs to start with a thorough SEO analysis followed by a complete renovation of certain elements of a website’s structure. The major search engines take many different aspects into consideration. Here is a breakdown of what they want from your site.
It may sound strange, but your websites loading speed is a major factor in how it gets ranked. The faster the better. A good SEO strategist will go to great lengths to make your page load as fast as it can. Google puts emphasis on site speed to help the consumer be happy with the content they are seeking.
The longer it takes a page to load, the more tempting that back button looks. If your site takes over 3 seconds to load, you will lose over 60% of your visitors. Site speed is no joke.
Having a website that is responsive to mobile devices is not just an aesthetic need. Sites that are not mobile friendly get knocked down in search rank. Google knows that people are searching on their phones and tablets and does not want to give high rank to sites that will not work and are unreadable on these devices. So if you are not responsive, it is time to mobile up.
Especially because as of now, Google is starting to roll out Mobile-First Indexing. This means that instead of Google crawling your desktop version and figuring out your mobile rank from that. It is now indexing your mobile version as the main determining factor for your rank.
Some will say that the domain name itself does not matter. But in my experience, this is not true. It is best to have one of your goal keywords on your main URL. Not just this, but how old your domain is matters, as well as how long you have renewed it for. This shows Google the brand’s credibility. Spam sites change domains often, and will only buy them for a year at a time. A domain that has been owned for a few years, and that is renewed for another few years shows Google that this site is here to stay.
On-site Optimization Assets:
Another major factor a good SEO specialist will analyze is your on-site assets. First is your URL structure. How many times have you gone to a site, clicked on a page and looked at the page URL and it looked like gibberish? A strange and confusing mix of letter and numbers. This is a big SEO no-no. Google wants readable, clean URLs that reflect the page’s content and focus. This is a big factor for upping your rank.
Many times when performing an SEO audit I see sites that do not even have a Meta Description. This is a very important aspect of search rank. It is ideally written for humans but optimized for Google, as the saying goes. This is not a place to stuff keywords, but a place to explain in proper English the focus of the page. You know when you google something and under the page-title is that nice little 160 character page description? This is the Meta Description, and it is crucial to ranking high.
More and more Google is putting clout on the actual content of the pages it crawls. What this means is that you need the proper keyword density while offering unique, informative and original content on each page of your site.
On to the offsite.
Sitemaps and Submissions:
Once the onsite is all set the work is not yet over. One of the biggest overlooked off-site necessities is creating a sitemap and submitting it to Google, Bing, and Yahoo. I have been amazed when I get clients that have had their websites up for years and realize they were never submitted to the search engines.
Social Shares and Listings:
The next step of off-site work is creating a vibrant social sharing community. Remember, the more your content is shared, the more relevant it is to Google. It is also imperative to get listed on as many business listing sites as possible. This helps create strong back-links to reputable sites while also providing a great source of traffic from potential customers.
Besides the easier aspect of utilizing business listings, the other side of link building is a longer-term strategy. It involves research; finding sites that are relevant and higher ranking that you can approach about creating backlinks. Outside of the box thinking really comes in handy here, as does persistence and the desire to create a long-term relationship with other websites.
Local citations building is one of the best factors for improving local search rank. Local Citations are creating by filling out locally based business directory sites. For example, the king of all citations is your Google My Business listing. But many others exist. These are listing that may or may not link to your website, but ones that feature your NAP; name, address, and phone number. The more listings you have that reinforce your exact location and business details the better you will rank for your geographic area.
5 myths of SEO:
“We guarantee you will rank #1”
You know the saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, that applies doubly to this line. Many times this line is made “true” but using Google Adwords to buy the #1 ad spot for the business for a few days. This is so far from ranking #1 organically, which is what you really want. Ranking #1 for ads may bring in a few leads, but once the money runs out, you are shuttled back to search rank obscurity. And this tactic is immune to the many tech-savvy that use ad blocking browser plugins. I haven’t seen an ad on Google in over a year.
Black Hat Tactics still work.
There are 2 schools of SEO thought. One is the old way of gaming the system and essentially cheating called Black Hat. This includes tactics such as Keyword Stuffing, Link Farms, Invisible Text and Doorway Pages. These will do you more harm than good nowadays. The other school is White Hat, or Pure, Organic SEO. This includes clean URLs, readable meta, relevant link building and most importantly great original content.
SEO can be cheap.
SEO is intensive, and if you are trying to be sold on an SEO strategy for $99 or $199 a month, proceed with caution. This kind of “strategy” could really backfire on you and cost you way more money than you save. Real SEO specialists range hourly from $75/hr to well over $500/hr. Just as in everything in life, you get what you pay for.
Proper SEO can be done without access you the backend of your website.
Nope, not true. Unless your URLs, content, and meta are already perfect hiring and paying someone monthly without access to your sites internals is not legitimate. A true SEO person looks first at your on site, then looks outside.
Link Building can be fast:
If someone says they will get you backlinks on 100+ sites in a month, they are link farms. Link farms are web pages that only consist of links that people pay a little to get places. It is far better to have one really good link on a reputable ranking source than 1,000 links on non-ranking spam sites. Real link building takes time because it is not just about getting reciprocal links, it is about forging relationships with relevant sites.
In this world of spam and shoddy sites, Google and the like are not bad guys trying to make our lives difficult. They are working for the web searcher to help them find relevant content for their search queries. It is easy to demonize Google, but their heart is in the right place. Imagine a world without these factors in place. You would need to sift through pages of results to find things anywhere near what you are searching for.
Hopefully through this post business owners can get a solid grasp as to what a true SEO strategy takes and be prepared with the knowledge to not be swindled by SEO phonies.
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