Basic SEO Guide for Business Owners

What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term used to describe the process of running a website to become more popular on search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc. When people search for phrases or words (also called keywords) in search engines, the results and the order in which they appear are a direct effect of SEO.

Do you need SEO?

Generally, most businesses answer yes to this question, although how much you want to invest in SEO depends on how you want to do business. A lot of the business you generate is generated from word-of-mouth referrals, however, a Forrester Research study shows that 93% of consumers worldwide use search engines to find and access websites.

Consumers are much more likely to initiate contacts and purchase a product or service from a business that they can find online. If your site cannot be easily found online, your business is deprived of substantial potential business.

How does SEO work?

There are a lot of factors related to SEO. The keywords you choose and the popularity of searches for them and the competition you have with those keywords is just the beginning. Title, description, URL name, HTML framework/validity, tags, and how they are used are also important factors. Backlinks and popularity on your site are also factors. There are hundreds of factors and penalties that search engines use to deploy SEO. SEO can easily be compared to Chemistry. This brings me to my next point:

Should you hire someone for SEO?

Absolutely. It is possible for anyone to learn, but to be honest, you have a business to run. SEO takes a lot of time to learn, employ and maintain. It is inappropriate for most business owners to become an expert SEO analyst, but you need to be aware of what you need from SEO to be more successful, and what you expect of someone to do it.

To run an effective SEO campaign, I would strongly urge anyone to hire an SEO professional. Fortunately, many web design firms specialize in SEO, have a staff that does this, or can refer you to someone. If your not a designer – there are plenty on the market.

What should you look for when shopping for an SEO specialist?

Be extremely wary of anyone who promises you a top spot on Google or instant results. As good as it sounds, it is better to be true.

Effective SEO is slow and steady which equals months and months of work. It is important to note that work months and months are piecemeal and not 40-hour workweeks. There are no fast tracks to SEO success and make no mistake about it, search engines are not easily fooled. There are penalties for what has been coined as “black hat” SEO techniques. Here are some black hat SEO techniques:

  • Keyword stuffing (packing a long list of keywords to your site)
  • Invisible text (this is done by inserting text into your HTML that is not visible on your website when viewed)
  • Gateway pages (pages that have been added to your website but never visited)
  • A short text or alternative text (to have too short text on your page to spam keywords)
  • Mirror sites (sites that are duplicates of your site)
  • Submitting your site repeatedly to search engines (which is seen as spamming)

Using any of the above tactics will not only penalize your site in search rankings but will also ban your site from search engines entirely.
Backlinks (links to other websites that link to yours) are important for SEO, and getting bad or spammy links is not good for SEO. Also, beware of companies/individuals using this technology. When consulting with an SEO professional, ask them to provide an “action plan” or how they want to help your SEO. If you see any of the above black hat techniques, keep shopping.

Those techniques will work for about 5 minutes until the search engines detect it, and they usually do, and then it bans the city. You have to undo the black hat techniques, reformat, resubmit your site, and hope they accept your site again. You are back to square one and now you need to hire a legitimate SEO expert.

How long does SEO take?

a long time. I love instant gratification as much as the next person, but SEO is where patience really pays off. Once your site is submitted to a search engine it can usually take 1-3 weeks for it to be indexed, but this is not a promise. After that, it’s time to start making changes to the SEO process. Search engines don’t update as much as we’d like, popular keywords today may not be as popular next week, if you rank high today – that position is not guaranteed forever, or even for tomorrow for that matter, Ranks fluctuate, and trends change.

Also, SEO is not a one-time event, it is an ongoing process. There are thousands of websites that want your space and if you give up on maintaining SEO efforts, you will lose it, usually very fast. Many SEO and/or web design companies have the package or hourly rates for SEO and you can choose how much you want to invest in any given month or time frame.

Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO is, how it works, and how it is important to your business, you are well on your way to making smart business decisions related to your website and its marketing.

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