Are you intrigued by the power of search engine optimization (SEO) to transform your small business? Or, do you feel like SEO is confusing, overwhelming, and constantly changing?
Most of the business owners we meet with hold on to both of these attitudes when it comes to visibility on Google, Bing, and the other major search engines. They certainly want the most popular search portals sending hundreds or thousands of customers their way every week (and for free, no less). But, they also know there are a lot of SEO scams, quick-fixes, and gimmicks out there that just don’t work.
So, what’s a smart business owner to do? How can you make the most of search engine optimization without getting suckered in by a company that wants to take your hard-earned money without giving you anything valuable in return?
In our experience, the answer has to do with increasing your knowledge and taking a common sense approach to improving your search visibility. That is, you have to be able to separate good information from the myths that seem to be floating around at every turn.
In order to help you do exactly that, today we want to share seven SEO truths every small business owner should be aware of…
#1 SEO Isn’t a One-Time Activity or Investment
Many business owners come to us wanting to essentially “buy” search engine optimization like they would a new phone or tablet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
While there are a lot of things we can do to improve the search visibility of your website in a short amount of time, SEO isn’t a one-time activity or investment. To see real improvement – the kind that shows up on your monthly sales reports – you have to keep tweaking your website and producing content week after week.
For some business owners, that can seem overwhelming. However, it’s good news. That’s because starting on SEO might be difficult, but over time you’ll develop an advantage your competitors can’t match without devoting time and resources for the long run as you have.
#2 Good SEO Requires Focus
While you might want everyone who jumps on Google to end up on your website, most people aren’t going to be a good fit for what you have to offer. In fact, there are probably a lot of searchers even within your market and industry who are eventually going to find their way to a competitor.
Again, this doesn’t have to be bad news. The more you can focus your search engine optimization campaign on the right customers and search terms for your business, the easier it is to narrow in on the buyers who make a perfect fit for your products and services. Once they find you, they are unlikely to take their business elsewhere.
The best search engine optimization campaigns focus on a very specific type of customer, and a relatively narrow range of search terms. Biting off more than you can chew is a proven path to SEO failure.
#3 Every SEO Campaign Should Be Tested
Because search engine optimization takes time, effort, and even money, it’s not something you should jump into without having the right background information or direction.
Savvy marketers will “road test” their search engine optimization campaigns by running pay-per-click ads on Google and Bing. By doing so, they can bring visitors directly to their web pages (usually at the cost of a few cents per click) and see how they react without going through the effort and expense of a full-fledged organic SEO effort. They can see what works and what doesn’t before they narrow in on specific search targets and conversion strategies.
Most business owners don’t like paying for traffic when their goal is to get organic search visits for free. However, a little bit of planning and testing up front can be incredibly valuable later.
#4 Content and Context Are More Important Than Keywords
Because effective search engine optimization used to boil down to having a number of keywords repeated on your website, again and again, many business owners still hold the view that SEO is all about repetition. However, this point of view is outdated, and can actually hurt your campaigns.
In today’s digital marketing world, Google and the other search engines pay as much attention to context and content quality as they do strict phrase-matching. In fact, having too much of one search term (measured by what we call “keyword density” in the industry) can serve as a red flag to search algorithms. Less is more.
If you can generate lots of high-quality articles, that’s going to serve you much better than having a few phrases repeated awkwardly throughout your website. If you come across a vendor or consultant, who tells you otherwise, turn and run in the other direction.
#5 Single Search Rankings Aren’t Goals
Just as individual keywords or search terms don’t have the value that they used to, neither do specific search phrase rankings. In other words, just being in the top two or three of Google’s listings for a given string of words isn’t necessarily going to help you grow your sales.
The reason has to do with the evolution of search itself. Because there is so much information available on the internet now, searchers are more precise with their queries. They want to find the exact answer to the question that’s on their minds, so they’re willing to type (or speak) something more specific to get it. Additionally, Google personalizes searches based on location, device type, and user history. So, what one person sees as their top result won’t necessarily match the search string another person will find.
Knowing that you should be paying attention to all the traffic that’s coming to your website, along with the referring sources and search terms. That way, you can get a better sense of how you’re impacting your market and what room there is for future growth.
#6 Google Pays Attention to the Details
Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of small (and sometimes technical) details on your website that affect your search visibility.
These can include factors like page loading speed, mobile compatibility, page-naming conventions, and so on. If you only concentrate on the content aspects of your website – or worse, focus on a very narrow range of keywords and phrases – you’re going to run into a plateau very quickly.
Google pays close attention to website details, which is why an audit should be amongst the first steps in your search engine optimization campaign. If you don’t know how your website looks like when coding and performance are evaluated, your search visibility could suffer without you ever knowing why.
#7 Small Business SEO is Always Changing
The principles of good search engine optimization have been around for a long time, but the best practices and industry trends we follow tend to change from one month or quarter to the next.
All of that change can be frustrating for business owners who simply want to bring in customers from Google, but it’s unavoidable. Improved computers and more efficient formulas mean search engineers can find new and better ways to sift through web content. And, the always-intense competition between companies of all sizes brings new ideas and tactics to the forefront.
If you’re stuck following an old approach to SEO, you will find yourself falling behind sooner rather than later. Business owners have to realize that and adapt their approaches or work with creative teams who can keep their websites up-to-date.
The Real Truth About Small Business SEO
Take all these seven pieces of information together, and you arrive at the real truth of search engine optimization for small business owners: that improving your visibility in Google takes a bit of focused and persistent effort, but the payoff is well worth it.
You can’t expect your website to make it to the top of the search listings overnight (at least not if you’re in a competitive market), and a lot of the cheap tricks and gimmicks you’ve heard about don’t work. However, if you invest a reasonable amount of time and money with the right web design team, you can bring more customers to your business. Best of all, your organic search engine optimization campaign can pay for itself again and again for years to come.
If you’re looking for smart advice on web design and search engine optimization that comes from real-world experience with businesses just like yours, why not let our creative team start working for you? Call or email WebWize in Houston today to set up a free consultation and see how we can help.
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About Glenn Brooks
Glenn Brooks is the founder of WebWize, Inc. WebWize has provided web design, development, hosting, SEO and email services since 1994. Glenn graduated from SWTSU with a degree in Commercial Art and worked in the advertising, marketing, and printing industries for 18 years before starting WebWize.