SEO basics for entrepreneurs
Most small business owners know they need a website. (If you’re not one of them, check out my blog post, Does my small business really need a website?) Unfortunately, a website is not the field of dreams. Just because you’ve built it, that doesn’t mean they will come. You need to attract your prospective customers to your new website. It’s not easy. You’re competing with literally thousands of other websites, and many of them already have the attention and trust of your target market and Google. The only way you can win is to understand Search Engine Optimization marketing (SEO marketing) so you can implement SEO best practices.
Let’s start with some SEO learning basics.
What is SEO? SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of making your website and its content more findable and understandable to search engines. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Google, because it is the most popular search engine. When a user enters a query into the search bar on their computer or asks a voice assistant a question, the search engine attempts to return choices that match what the user needs. If Google determines that your website is the most relevant site for the user’s search, your site will be listed first.
How does Google determine which site shows up first? That’s the tricky part. Nobody knows Google’s algorithm. Many SEO experts study what Google does. By monitoring a large number of websites, they are able to understand the impact of various activities on a site’s visibility. People also monitor Google’s patent activity to understand what matters to Google. Most SEO experts agree that Google analyzes 200+ factors in its calculations. We also know that Google’s algorithm changes hundreds of times a year.
I Googled my own site and came up in first place. Does that mean I’m number 1? Sorry, no. Google search results are personalized to you. Google knows your search history and your internet behavior, even across devices. It understands what content you read. It knows where you work, where you live, and how old you are. Thanks to the maps app on your phone, it knows where you are. All. The. Time. Google uses this information to provide you with the best possible search results for you. To get a search result that is not personalized to you, use an incognito window. In Chrome, just click the three dots next to your picture in the upper right hand corner and choose “New incognito window.” Searching this way will give you a more accurate result. Better yet, install Google Analytics and Google Search Console on your website. These tools will help you understand how popular your site is and which search terms people use to find your website.
Can I use SEO on a local business? Absolutely. Google understands that local search is important, especially on mobile devices. And local SEO is very important. In fact, studies show that 88% of consumers who do a local search on their phone visit that store within a day! Understanding how local search works is definitely worth the effort. One way to get started with local SEO - claim your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Be sure to enter as much information as possible. Add photos and announcements to it regularly. Respond to reviews. Claiming your GMB listing will allow Google to display everything it knows about your business in the knowledge panel, the box that comes up on the right side of your screen when someone searches for your brand.
How often do I need to optimize my site for SEO? You are never done with SEO. Monitor your Google Analytics and Search Console data. Use this information to add new content to your site. If you discover that people are finding your site for a particular search term, find ways to add more content on that topic. For example, if you are a travel agent and you find out that people find your site when searching for “Trips to France,” be sure to write blog posts and add photos that can help educate prospective customers about planning a trip to France. You should also pay attention to your site speed, which can be found under Behavior in Google Analytics. Also, be sure your site is mobile responsive. Remember that Google has 200+ SEO ranking factors. One of them is site speed. Another is mobile optimization All the keyword optimization in the world won’t do you any good if your site isn’t mobile-friendly or has slow load times.
Learning SEO best practices can seem overwhelming, especially at first. Don’t be afraid! One of the things that makes learning SEO so interesting and challenging is that it changes all the time. That’s good news for entrepreneurs who are just getting started with SEO. Even the “experts” have to keep learning all the time! Start with Google’s resources and you’ll be able to help your website become more visible in just a short time. As your skills grow, so will your website visibility.