Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For SEO to be effective it should be centered around specific keywords or phrases. Before kicking off any SEO effort we first need to answer a basic question about your business. The answer to that question will guide you toward what kind of SEO service you need and how to best perform that service. But first a definition.

My current definition of SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

"A set of tasks performed over time to position your company, products or services so Google and Bing can confirm your company, products or services are: (a) legitimate and good quality, and; (b) relevant to a keyword or key phrase. This work should also aide Google or Bing in establishing where your products or services are available, geographically, online, or both, to ensure they will be accessible and relevant to the user performing the search query."

You'll notice there's no SEO trick in this definition. No keyword stuffing, padding, paying for tens or hundreds or thousands of sites to link to you. No sitting behind a computer clicking on your website.

Here's the key question I talked about in the first paragraph:

What does your business do?

"We sell women's fashion boots from two storefronts, one in X-Town, Fairfield County CT and one in Y-Town in Westchester County NY."

Start with one of two things. You can do "keyword research" using tools like Google Insights to see what people are searching for around your products. Or to go really simple, ask someone outside of your business to demonstrate what they'd Google if they were in the market for your boots. Sit together and do some real world searches. Narrow down your primary target keyword (or phrase), start specific, choose phrases real people are searching for like "buy women's boots in CT" (or add X-Town, that’s even more specific or "long-tail"). Then you’d want to do the same thing with “buy women’s boots” in Y-Town NY. Does your company's website come up in the first page of results in this test? If so, great! It not, you need to optimize for search to help your customers find you.

How do you optimize for your chosen keywords? Start with your website copy. Make sure it’s the words are clear to both search engines and to humans - that "women's boots" is what you're selling, and you have two specific store locations. You may think your website shows clearly that you sell women’s boots, you have a beautiful photos of women's boots all over your pages. But Google's algorithm doesn't know much (yet) from photos. It knows words. And it needs the correct number of words and phrases in the right places to get who you are.

Over the past 20 years I've spoken with many people who have some idea about what they can do themselves to improve their SEO score. Some of these practices are "White Hat" SEO practices and some are "Black Hat" practices. In my travels I've come across two SEO companies leveraging uncertainty around SEO. The services of Black Hat SEO Company One appeared to be someone sitting in an office clicking on a client website to increase the client's visitor count on Google Analytics. I'm sure this company was hoping the client didn’t come across the stats for unique vs returning visitors for the month. (Unique visits are identified by IP address, if the client looked they would see that the traffic was coming from one IP address, someone sitting in an office somewhere clicking on their website.) "Black Hat SEO Company 2” ran traffic solely through their own “search portal”. There was no real world usage of Black Hat SEO Company 2's Custom Search Portal, it was set up only to use inside their own organization. Their employees or contractors opened their own portal to search for and click client websites so Google Analytics (which displays website visitor stats) would list the vendor’s portal as a top search referrer of traffic to the client website — "See, we brought you 749 visits last month! Quantified by Google!” Ok, but were these visits productive, qualified leads? No. Because they came from someone sitting in an office somewhere using his or her company's portal to search for, then click on, your company's website over and over again, increasing unproductive clicks to your website."

I'm not sharing the above to scare you, I'm doing it for transparency. Knowledge is good. Because the Black Hat approach has lead to some very real business problems for White Hat SEOs, whenever I have a chance to break down doors and demystify SEO I do it. Then you’ll see exactly what your White Hat SEO specialist is doing, how it's helping you get real, actual search engine traction, and how that's linked to more leads and sales for your business.

You can see Part 2 in my article series on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) here. Or check out my other articles on Medium: Social Media for Non-Profits and Using Google My Business for your Business

SEO BLOG POST AUTHOR: Doreen Fleming is the Founder and Chief Digital Marketing Strategist at One Web Source. Doreen has been a digital marketing consultant for 18 years, she reports on changes in technology, new marketing communications tools and current trends in user behavior online to help businesses reach and engage with their customers.