Imagine you are a shopper. You want to buy a new jacket before winter sets in. You head into town and see all the fancy stores on the main street with the jackets proudly displayed on mannequins in the window. You’re a bit spoilt for choice so you walk up and down the street a few times trying decide which shop to go in. They all have what you want and the choice is endless. Little do you know that tucked away on the side street, hidden away from all the shoppers is another clothing store with the perfect jacket in the perfect colour. But you will never see it, let alone buy it. This is what it is like having an online business that doesn’t make use of search engine marketing. You are hard to see, if not invisible, hidden below all the other businesses that pop up first on an online search.
Think about how you search online yourself. You type in what you are looking for, press enter and wait for your search engine to work its magic. It comes up with thousands upon thousands of listings for what you are looking for – but how many do you honestly look at? If your business is way down the list of results, you are doing yourself a disservice. So how do you get higher up those all-important rankings? It all comes down to search engine optimization or SEO.
Search engine optimization may sound like something out of Star Trek but all it really means is getting you noticed when people are online searching for products and services. SEO has been around for a long time. People started using it as a marketing strategy back in the mid 1990s and, like all things technology based, it’s come a long way since then. But don’t panic, you don’t have to be a computer whizz kid to make search engine marketing work for you.
Search engines like Google, Bing, Search and Yahoo basically work in the same way – they have algorithms, rules and standards that they use to search for the terms that are typed into them, they then order those results. So how do you help your business climb close to the top of that search engine ladder? You have a couple of options.
First, as in all things, you can pay for a service. There are plenty of companies out there that can help you with SEO but, as in all things, it pays to shop around and know what you are getting yourself into. Some companies will try to blind you with science and statistics while others are a little more user friendly. Do a bit of homework yourself first, know what it is you want to achieve online and have a trawl around the net to see what’s on offer. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find or you may decide to go it alone initially.
So if you do decide to try to make yourself more visible to search engines where do you start? Strong keywords are important. But don’t just assume you know which keywords are best for you. Try typing in words that you think relate to businesses like yours. What comes up? Is it what you expected? If not, you may have to tailor those keywords a little. There are keyword tools out there, many of which are free, so maybe give one of those a try.
Be sure to include links on your pages as search engines like pages with links. It’s a bit like going to a party and being surrounded by like-minded friends. It’s all comes down to popularity and link popularity is a good term to know.
Do you have spectacular images on your site? Make sure you include a written description as well to make you all the more visible. Images without words are invisible to search engines.
But don’t become completely focused on search engine marketing at the expense of everything else. There is no point hitting the top of the search engine rankings and driving lots of traffic to your website if there is nothing worth looking at when people get there! Create great content, give your customers or readers a good reason to head there and then focus on SEO. There’s no point having a great store on the main street if all you are selling is hot air.
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