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SEO Magnifying Glass

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Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t the easiest thing to get into, even though it is one of the most important things you can learn when starting an online business or building a website for your company. It isn’t that SEO is too difficult for most to learn, it is simply that most people in the industry have been working in it for so long that even the basic guides often come out overly complicated.

SEO is extremely important for bringing in new customers and being found online. In basic terms, SEO is notifying search engines to the existence of your site and telling them what its about. This way, search engines can rank the quality of sites and decide where you belong in the results. Of course, the higher you are in the search results, the more people will come to your site.

Daily SEO Tip categorizes SEO into four basic parts: keywords, content, links, and relevance. If you understand each of these components, you are well on your way to setting up your search engine optimization.

Keywords

Keywords act as the basic main ingredients of your website. The amount of keywords you have, their relevance, and how often you use them all play a role in a search engine determining your site’s quality.

  • Make sure all keywords you use are directly related to your service, brand, or product. Keep them specific to what you do, not just the broad industry you work in.
  • There is a practice called keyword stuffing that can get you into a lot of trouble. Keyword stuffing is the practice of overusing keywords in order to trick search engines. But, the search engines are very smart and will quickly see that you’re using words out of context or unnecessarily.

Content

Search engines are basically rating your website, and content is the main thing they are judging. The engines want to show searchers sites with valuable information. That doesn’t mean the content is selling to the user. It should be offering something of real value such as informative videos, up to date news, or helpful tutorials. Instead, the content establishes yourself as an expert in your field and raises your site’s reputability with search engines.

Linking

Ratings are partially decided based on how many inbound links a website has. They serve essentially as arrows directing the search engines to your site. It also follows the theory that if people are linking to your site there must be something of value there. It also shows that you aren’t an isolated spammy site in the internet ether, which is why you should also include links on any social media sites (aside from simply helping visitors find your business.)

Relevance

Relevance is less of a concrete component of SEO, but it is relevant in every facet of the work. Search engines spend the majority of their time fighting spam, and irrelevant content, keywords, or links are a huge red flag that a site may not be reputable. Search engines assume webpages deal with specific topics, be it news, jewelry, or a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanpage. By keeping your content relevant to your topic, search engines know you are focused, professional and informative.

Conclusion

If you can get a hang on these four basic ideas, you will have a solid grasp on how SEO functions and how you can get your site showing up on search engines, bringing in new visitors and potential customers. SEO can be a broad, complicated topic, but the basics tend to always stay the same. Follow these principles, and you’ll be able to figure out the rest.

Many small business owners are hesitant to really put an effort into SEO or their online presence because they feel like the web is already conquered by big companies they can’t compete with. It is common to feel like you don’t have the resources, time, or manpower to achieve any sort of success on search result pages, but local businesses actually have a much larger opportunity than they usually think.

Search engines provide a more leveled playing field when it comes to corporations and local businesses. All you have to do for efficient SEO is know where to invest your limited resources to get the most return, and show your value to the search engines. Nick Stamoulis recently discussed three main ways you can achieve SEO success, even with the limited means of a local business.

1) Build links naturally, one quality link at a time

While links have lost some of their influence in SEO, they are still a serious consideration to search engines. Google’s latest updates have many business owners scared of link building, but the truth is it will always be an important part of SEO and you can’t ignore it. The key to link building is to ensure that you are building quality links from various sources, which is best done by focusing on one at a time. This keeps your linking pattern looking natural and stays away from any gray areas.

Some will try to set link building goals or try to take short cuts, but Google has made it clear that if you don’t get penalized for your cheap tricks now, you will eventually. Arbitrary quotas only inspire efforts to get bulk links when your self-imposed deadline approaches, and easy links come with a big target on their backs.

2) Create Content For Your Audience

Content marketing is a buzzword for SEO at the moment, but some have already lost the real reason content has come to have such impact on SEO. Quality content has been favored by search engines because that is what audiences and customers want, and it inspires interaction between businesses and their customers. One of the things lost in the feeding frenzy of tasty blog posts, infographics, and ebooks is that those methods aren’t relevant for many smaller businesses.

Small businesses often offer services that draw customers not looking to spend a lot of time reading or watching videos. Instead, they want to be able to see what businesses have been doing, and what value they are contributing to the community. This can be as easy as semi-frequent announcements or updates on G+ or pictures and status updates on Facebook. Just focus on providing the information customers will want. Answer their questions, direct them to solutions, and provide something of value to those who find you online.

3) Find Your Niche

It is true that if you run a small flower shop you won’t have the same online presence that a national brand like 1-800-Flowers does. However, your smaller local net can catch better fish than a large net a national brand uses. You can establish yourself in your small market by pinpointing a variety of different ways your service can be used. That theoretical florist, for example, can cater wedding parties and high-end hotels, educate gardening enthusiasts, and help decorate local restaurants. Find what small markets aren’t cornered in your local area, and make your place.

Remember, national brands may have more money and people available to use for SEO, but value is what matters to the search engines. Ask yourself why customers keep coming to your local business rather than those corporate giants, and adapt it to the internet. If your site is worth visiting, the search engine results will reflect your worth.

While quality SEO is a complex, time-consuming job, there are many types of SEO that any site owner can do. There are also a lot of basic mistakes that site owners regularly make while trying to optimize their own page.

To help prevent these easily corrected mistakes, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of their Webspam team, devoted one of his recent YouTube videos (which you can watch below) to identifying the five most basic SEO mistakes anyone can make.

1) Not Making Your Site Crawlable – According to Cutts, the most common mistake “by volume” is simply not making Google able to crawl your site, or not even having a domain to begin with.

The way Google learns about sites is through web “crawlers” that index pages by following links. If you don’t provide links allowing Google’s bots to find your site, it won’t know what is there. If you can’t reach content by clicking normal links on the page in a text browser, it might as well not exist to Google.

2) Not Using Words People Are Searching For – Google also tries to connect people with the most relevant information for the exact search they used. If someone searches “how high is Mount Everest,” they will be connected with a site using those exact words on a page before they will be suggested a page using just “Mount Everest elevation.”

My favorite example Cutts uses of this is a restaurant’s website, mainly because it seems many restaurants have very minimal websites that are insanely in need of optimization and a bit of a design overhaul. When people look for a restaurant to eat, they search for a couple of things, mainly the location, menu, and hours. If the page has those listed in plain text, Google will index that information and direct more people to the site, than those with PDF menus or no information at all.

3) Focusing On Link Building – One of the biggest buzzwords in SEO is link building. It is one of the oldest strategies, and it is constantly tweaked by Google’s algorithms to keep it in the news regularly, but it may actually be dragging you down.

When people think link building, they cut off many other ideas and marketing options which will equally boost your site. Cutts suggests instead to focus on general marketing. If you make your website more well-known and respected within your community, you will attract real people, which will bring organic links which are much more respected by the search engines.

4) Bad Titles and Descriptions – Many people neglect their titles and descriptions assuming they will either be automatically filled in, or won’t matter in the long run. If your website says “untitled” in the title bar, it will also say “untitled” in a bookmarks folder as well as actual search results. Now ask yourself, would you click on a website without a title?

Similarly, the descriptions for webpages are often blank or copy and pasted straight from the page with no context. Your description should be enticing people to want to click on your page, as well as showing that you have the answer to the question they are searching for. If people can build entire followings around 140 character tweets, you should be able to make someone want to click your page with a 160 character description.

5) Not Using Webmaster Resources – This problem can only be born out of ignorance or laziness. There are countless SEO resources available out there, and most of them are free. The best resources anyone can turn too are the Webmaster Tools and Guidelines that Google offers, but you shouldn’t just stick to those either. There are blogs, webinars, videos, and forums all happy to teach you SEO, you just have to use them. If you’re reading this however, you probably don’t have this problem.

Conclusion

The most common SEO problems, according to Cutts, are also the most simple problems imaginable. There are resources available that will help you fix all your basic SEO problems, and you’ll learn more and get better through finding them and practicing. If you’re currently dealing with trying to learn how to make your site crawlable, you have a long way to go, but if you just keep working at it, you’ll be an SEO pro eventually.