Quick flash quiz: how do you find the majority of the websites you visit? The answer is probably Google, or one of the other search engines like Yahoo or Bing.
But whichever you use, they all operate using one simple principle: the better optimized a web page is, the higher it will appear on the list of websites a search engine provides when you go searching.
Put even simpler: the better optimized your website, the more visitors you will have.
For online businesses, this website traffic is huge. For one, it’s a totally free way to bring visitors – potential customers – to your site, whether your intentions are for them to buy a product right then or sign up to receive further marketing communications from you.
Either way you “capture” them in a premier spot in the buying cycle: the time they’re actually interested in a certain type of product and, maybe, ready to buy.
Also, these visitors are much more valuable to your business in the long term because they’ve found your site in an “organic” way. They were searching something on Google or another search engine, found your site, and visited hoping to find relevant products and content. When they do, they’re thrilled and much more likely to buy.
Natural search can be a great way to supplement any paid marketing you are doing as well.
All well in good, you might be saying, but just how do I appear on Google’s first page of search results?
In order for your website to place high in a search engines ranking, it needs to be optimized for keywords related to your niche. And what I mean by optimized is that it is very attractive to the “spiders” that search engines send out regularly to find the most relevant content for searchers.
You do this through a process called search engine optimization. That’s SEO, for short.
Some people base their whole careers on learning and applying SEO techniques. But the great news is that anyone can apply basic SEO principles – no tech background needed – and experience good results with their own small online business.
SEO is a big subject – too big to cover in one article. So this is the first in a series of articles about SEO and how to apply it to your online business. SEO, which provides free and qualified traffic to your site – potential customers browsing your “shop” so to speak, is important enough to warrant that attention.
For this first essay, we’ll be focusing on the content of your website and inbound links.
Theme and Content
The first element of this: does your website have a clear “theme” that is evident throughout? If your site is about dog training, for example, do you stick mostly to content on that subject… or do you mix it up with your best wonton soup recipes? Can you guess which is the most SEO-friendly?
Then you need to make sure that every piece of content – every article, blog post, video, etc. – is about dog training in some way – or at least of use somehow to someone interested in dog training.
It should be original content too, something that adds to the conversation and is useful. If Google finds that you’ve been lifting content from other sites, you are penalized and won’t get any credit towards your search engine ranking.
Google wants to reward sites that consistently put out high quality, relevant content. This doesn’t mean you could simply write a long article that repeats certain keywords over and over again that relate to your niche. That was a trick that worked years ago to game the search engines. But now, the algorithms Google and others use is more sophisticated. They recognize this keyword stuffing and ignore it when it comes to rankings.
Aside from the actual content on the page, the search engines are also looking at whether other sites online also find your site valuable. They determine this by looking at how many other sites on the World Wide Web link to pages on your site.
The best way to get these links is to first consistently add relevant, high-quality content to your site about your subject – we’ve already discussed this above. If you do this, links from other sites in the same niche will come naturally as other sites in your niche recognize your expertise. Soon you may even become an authority – that’s great for search engine optimization.
But sometimes waiting for links just isn’t going to happen. There are thousands of websites out there. Sometimes it can be hard to stand out when you’re just getting your site up and running. In these cases, there’s nothing wrong with actively seeking links to your site.
You do it by commenting on forums, blogs, and websites in the same niche. To find these sites, simply Google keywords related to your niche. For example, if you’re selling dog training aids, you might try visiting sites that pop up when you search for “dog training” or “dog behavior” or “dog training aids.”
When you get there you read the relevant posts and “leave a comment” with your take on the issues.
To be successful in securing these “outside” links, you have to make sure you add to the conversation. You can’t just post a link to your site and hope to be successful. That’s spamming and moderators of forums and blog will not allow your posts. Website owners want to see that you’ve read the content you’re commenting on and have an opinion on that same subject to express.
Just the First Step
So that’s enough to get you started on optimizing your website for the search engines. In future essay, we’ll talk about “back office” techniques like tags. Until then, remember…
At the heart of it all is great content. And by great content, I don’t mean it has to read like Hemingway, just that it is easily understood and is related to your keywords.
The thing that differentiates a great website from a mediocre website is the content. Websites live or die by their content. If you can provide fresh, on-topic, regular content to your webpage – thereby attracting inbound links, yours will be one of the successful webpages, guaranteed.
You ranking in the search engines will rise, traffic to your site will skyrocket, and then you can start thinking about how to turn all your hard SEO work into money in your pocket.
I wish you the best of luck!
P.S. I’ve just given you all the tips you need to be a real SEO pro. But here are a few more resources to help sharpen your skills.