Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an online marketing strategy to improve a website’s position within a search engine. When a search query is entered, the search engines return results called SERPs (search engine results position). Being at the top of the SERPs can mean big business!
Often times, people know exactly what they’re looking for and will enter a specific company name directly. But think of the new people or businesses who have just moved to the area, who may be simply looking for “maintenance contractor in Atlanta” or “facility maintenance Georgia.” When they search for these phrases, you want your website to be the at the top of those SERPs. If your website is at the top of Google’s results, you’re at the top of the minds of many new clients as well.
SEO can be complicated to understand, and requires both on-site optimization (website code, keyword density, meta-data) and off-site optimization (press releases, articles, blogging, social networks, white papers). This article isn’t intended to be an SEO blueprint, but rather a high-level view. Scratching the surface, rather than full-blown surgery.
There are two main categories to explain SEO: Organic and Paid.
Having good organic SEO will result in your company ranking in the top of a Google search for its own business name, the services it provides in the area as well as the search terms that you would like it to rank highly for. Organic search results show up in the body of the page, with a white background.
For example: If you searched Harrison Contracting in a Google search, HarrisonContracting.com is the very first result. Organic search results are based on something called the Google Algorithm, which is an equation that decides what order the search results will appear in. The equation is filled out by robot (search engine spiders) that scour the web for “answers” the your Google search questions. But of course, you also want your company to show up for the products and services it provides, not just for the company name alone.
Google is smart; VERY smart. In order to stay at the top of its game, they change its algorithm to provide a better search experience for it’s users, but also to stay ahead of the “black-hat” SEO’s who try to game the system. Currently, the algorithm prefers content that is written for human beings, rather than for search engine robots. Content rich sites should provide answers, facts, and information that is updated regularly. Search engines also look for important, legitimate sites to link back to your site as a source. In general, the more sites (that are of high value), that link back to your site, the better. It’s best to link to your site using a variety of keywords that pertain to your site. So you might want to consider linking with “facility maintenance in Georgia.” But don’t overdo it try to use a variety of keywords and phrases and also vary the pages on your site that they link back to. A good SEO company will be able to research the best terms, with the most search volume and tailor your SEO strategy appropriately.
Paid search results are not really considered SEO, but it is an important component to a complete Search marketing strategy. Think of it as a pay-to-play method of being on the top of the Google results page. Sometimes, these links are not as well-trusted by users, because people are smart, and realize that a business can simply pay for their placement there as opposed to achieving that ranking through good business practices and positive reviews. Paid search results will appear at the very top of the search in the yellow boxes, or on the side of the organic search listings.
I attended the 2012 SXSW-Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Google and Bing held a panel together (gasp!), and informed attendees that the search value of social network sites like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter is already huge, and is growing every day. Social sites are important because your content can be constantly updated, and full of the keywords that are make you important to your industry. Fan engagement and fan reach are also big factors, so try to increase those numbers!
Because SEO can be overwhelming, confusing and requires technical knowledge, there are many agencies that specialize in getting your website to the top of Google search. However, you should be wary of “promises” to be number 1. As I mentioned earlier, there is NO blueprint for SEO. Its knowledge is aquired through experience and research, not from an instructional manual. SEO tactics should be dynamic and change proactively, as the Search Engines adjust their algorithms. It takes continual monitoring of best practices and isn’t achieved in a day or even a month. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and it is an essential part to marketing almost any business out there. If your company does not have a digital or online component in your marketing budget, that needs to be reassessed ASAP. The days of looking through the phone book have all but dissappeard. 86% of people start with search engines to find the products and services they are looking for. If your website doesn’t have a strong online presence, you’re missing out on serious business.