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We’ve all heard the term SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. We have also likely heard horror stories of spending outrageous amounts of money, and possibly even a few stories of companies that did a good job. What it really comes down to is time. Whether you have the time to do it yourself, or you pay someone to do it for you, we will explore the tactic of SEO and identify why, when and how to use SEO as a tool for your business.

It has to be stated, however, that when determining tactics – the strategy must be the number one priority. Our next article will be focused on strategy versus tactics, but SEO has been such a big topic of discussion lately that I feel it needs to be addressed.

What is SEO

The question of the hour at a recent networking event I attended was all about SEO and how it can be used to get a company listed higher on Google. Search Engine Optimization, SEO or even organic growth can be described as steps a company can take outside of paying for advertising to get their web-site listed higher on search engines. This is accomplished through several tasks inside and outside of a web-site and leads the search engines to think high enough about the site to list it higher than other sites.

Why Use SEO

Why? The simple answer is because a static (meaning not changing) web-site will get you nowhere fast. If you have had the same web-site for 15 years, it only has your contact information, people are searching for your company by name, and you’re happy with the results then ignore this message. Chances are you are not worried about having all the features that search engines can offer for your web-site. However, if you are hoping to be found by unique search terms (like Wadsworth Ohio Barbershop), if you want people to know all about you before they even click on your site, if you want to be found before your competitors, and if you want to have a positive reputation online then you will want to use SEO to its fullest capabilities. In the image below, we can see all the information one can obtain about WalMart before you even click on the link to visit their web-site.

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How… The real question about SEO

The ‘How?’ question of SEO goes deep. Way deeper than we will dive in this introduction. But I will leave you with some helpful sites that outline some SEO tips and tricks to help you get started. I will also go so far as to identify some things to watch out for if you are doing SEO yourself, or if you are paying someone for SEO.

The most important thing is to start. Start researching what is best for you and your company. Set aside time to devote to learning which SEO solution is best (contracted or in house). Identify the tactics that will make you successful and then get started. Below are a few pages that we find useful for identifying SEO steps you can perform in house. Most notably are things like creating content (through a blog for example), get people to link to your page and link to others pages, and make sure your site is prepared for SEO (you may need a web-developers help with this if you don’t know what meta tags, spiders, robots, and canonicalization’s are).

 

After reviewing some of these resources you may feel overwhelmed, but remember this is something that takes times. As the old adage says, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Break down tips into action steps. For example, step one above, to get started, may take a week or two, but once you accomplish that tasks then you can move on to the next one. Step two may be to review your web-site and see if it is missing key components. Is there a lot of flash or are image with no descriptions owning your site? If yes, then you might want to consider adding text to the pages to describe what is going on so the search engine robots can understand it. Add content to your homepage and add in description information so the computers know what they are looking at. Maybe step 3 is adding a blog to your site and starting to write articles on important things in your industry. Fresh content is always looked highly upon by the robots.

Get familiar, make a list of action steps, and start checking them off!

Bad SEO Companies

dangerNo, I’m not going to list a handful of companies you want to stay away from, but I do want to offer a few words of warning. SEO can cost a lot of money if you are not careful about proceeding.

First, make sure you know what keywords you want to emphasize. If you choose the wrong keywords you will spend a lot of money competing with the entire world instead of your local competition.

For example, if you run a sweater business and cashmere is a primary fabric used, you do not want to use cashmere as a keyword. You are competing against the world, so take on a battle you can win. Maybe you are the only cashmere manufacturer in Maine, so use that to your advantage. Maybe you are the only one who makes a trademarked type of cashmere. That can also help you rank higher by naming your trademarked name. (Trademarkname Cashmere Maine)

You also want to watch out for companies that “guarantee page 1 rankings” in the first month. Some have unique ways of doing this through use of videos and outside the box techniques, but a lot of times these companies will piggyback your company on their company giving you a subdomain like “yourcompany.theircompany.com” and as soon as you stop paying them for SEO they will remove the domain and you will be back at square one. Or they will simply pay for your ranking one page one and again, once you stop paying you lose everything you invested. Make sure the SEO tools the company is using gives you the long term return that you are looking for and not just a quick flash bang effect.

Finally, make sure they are building links and writing content in legitimate ways and not just listing your site on 5,000 bogus web-sites. Make sure the links your brand is associated with is in line with your brand and not on a site that conflicts with your business ethics. I have seen companies put links to their client’s web-sites on completely inappropriate sites which actually hurt their SEO.

SEO vs PPC

There are a lot of articles on the difference between PPC (Pay Per Click) and SEO. It would not be fair to have an article on SEO without taking at least a little time to distinguish the difference and a quick tip on using both to achieve your goals. As mentioned above, SEO is organic. It takes time. PPC is fast and it costs money continually. As the chart shows, the cost to click ration in PPC is constant. So long as you are paying the price, the ads are present, people can click them and you are done. However, as seen with the SEO line, the cost is higher up front, but the end benefit is far higher than the PPC. Over time, you will eventually get lots of clicks for very little money and the effort is more of a maintenance expense and less of a major overhaul.

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When you build a new site, or are getting started in the SEO process you should consider using some PPC while you are growing your organic search results. This gives you an immediate return on your investment and more capital to fund your SEO efforts. After your SEO tactics have started to reap clicks then you can look at lowering or stopping your PPC efforts to your web-site. There are reasons to continue to use PPC though. Don’t let this SEO comparison deter you from long term advertising initiatives. New product launches, new or upcoming events, and other reasons still exist to use PPC. Just as with your site as a whole, it would take a long time to promote a new event or product to the search engines, so PPC will get the message out fast and on time when urgency is present.

Hopefully this information helps you understand what SEO is and why you might be interested in it. If you need additional assistance getting your site ready for SEO or need some paid advertising help we recommend Small Business Solution Centers. They have the expertise to help you review your web-site and make recommendations on how best to move forward.

Learn more about Small Business Solutions Centers