You love being your own boss, you make a great product that your customers love, your client base is growing, and you’re excited! You should be! It’s time to expand your network so you know you need an online presence. You hire a designer and they build you a killer website/blog. You have the skills to create content and update your website with new products. You may even know how to tie your social networks to your site so that any updates you make are automatically published on your social accounts.
But how do I grow my business online?
You tell your friends, colleagues, and family members to follow you and visit your awesome website and they do, but what about new customers who don’t know you at all? How do you attract them? Local advertising is good and definitely I encourage that. But, since we’re doing business online as well, we want to leverage both warm and cold markets. Driving traffic from strangers to your website is key to turning them into your customers.
I’m not a marketing expert, a lot of this I’m sharing I learned on my own making many mistakes along the way. Hopefully, I can spare you time and money by sharing what I’ve learned. So let’s talk about SEO. Now, I’m packing a lot of info in this post so don’t feel like you have to master all this in one read. You can always come back and re-read portions over again.
As you do more business online, you’re bound to pick up on certain terminology such as: pay-per-click, online surfing, and SEO. If you’ve haven’t heard these terms yet, you will. I’m going to focus on SEO in this post. This is something that I highly recommend you learn more about, because it is a HUGE way to drive people to your website you wouldn’t ordinarily meet in person.
So, how can SEO help me? What is it anyways?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In an excerpt from this article, that I read a few years ago and it’s still accurate today, “Is your Website Optimized for Search Engines?” by Dan Johnson, he defines it beautifully:
“It is the method of analyzing and constructing individual web pages, as well as entire sites, so that they can be discovered, analyzed, and then indexed by various search engines. SEO can make the content of your web pages more relevant, more attractive, and more easily read by search engines and their crawling and indexing software.” (Note: sorry I couldn’t find the original article to link to.)
SEO works in conjunction with your other advertising methods. Part of it means submitting your website to the search engines like: Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., monthly so that they can index your site. But, also having the right keywords in your website also makes it possible for people to find you. Keywords are the terms you or anyone using Google looking for information types in their search box. For example, if you’re looking for dog toys, you type in “dog toys” and Google or whatever search engine you use, will go out into cyberspace looking for websites that contain “dog toys” and show you list of those websites.
Truthfully, I usually look at the first page of links and if I don’t see what I’m looking for, I’ll try another keyword to search with. I don’t have time to go through 10 to 20 pages per keyword and not many other people do too. So, using relevant keywords in your posts and pages will help your website rank higher when someone is looking for products or services that you offer.
How much work does it take to do SEO and how often?
SEO can actually be a full-time job. As I mentioned earlier, there’s much more to do than submitting a website to search engines. SEO experts spend a lot of time studying tracking results from who’s visiting and where they’re from to how long they spend on a particular page. As a business owner, you already have a plate full to advertise and talk to new prospects. And that’s why there are tools that can automate the process for you. I’ll talk about two that I use:
- Google Analytics. Most every blogger uses this and it is free and easy to install for both WordPress, Blogger, or any other website platform. Even free sites like Weebly, Wix, or Yola incorporate this because as a website owner, you want to see statistics of how many people are visiting your site every month. Also, it will show you what pages are being clicked on the most, how long an average visitor stays on your site, the demographics of where your visitors are coming from, and even what device and browser they used to find you. I love all the details it provides. And, I study my numbers weekly or at least monthly.
- Yoast SEO plugin. I’ll talk in more detail about this handy tool below.
How I can insert SEO in my website or blog?
There are free SEO tools out there and if you use WordPress, I recommend installing a plugin called “Yoast SEO“. You can actually type in pertinent keywords for every post and page on your site and the plugin will give you a grade letting you know if you have chosen good keywords or not. Also, the plugin will let you know if your post and/or page has interesting enough content based on the number of words used.
If you’re using Blogger as I am, there is an option called “search description” inside your posts/pages and I make sure that I type my keywords for my posts there. For example, this post is about SEO so I put “SEO” without the quotes.” If you’re using Yoast, you will put the keywords in the appropriate fields. And, you can use more than one keyword, just separate them with commas. Also, there are external SEO tools that you can have analyze your site and give you a report of where you can improve upon. I recommend this site.
How often must I perform SEO?
As the internet and technology evolves, search engines change too. Also, new businesses and websites go online daily all competing for the top spots on browsers like Google. The saying, “out of sight, out of mind” is true here. That would be like saying, “I’ll advertise my website today and quit after today.” That doesn’t make sense. As long as you’re in business, you’ll always have to advertise and therefore you’ll always have to perform SEO. You can block out a couple of hours on a Friday for SEO and set an alert to remind you.
The excerpt below is from Austin SEO Guy’s article, “How Long Does it Take for SEO to Work?” and he really nails it: (I couldn’t find the link to the original article, sorry.)
“The Three P’s of Real Search Engine Optimization”
Patience – When practicing SEO, you need to pack your patience. It’s a common misconception that a website should pop up in search engine results immediately after its creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. A search engine first has to find and index your website (add it to the database), and that’s only the first step to ranking well.
Depending on how competitive your market and search phrases are, it can take weeks, months or even years to rank well in the big search engines. And that’s assuming you’re doing things properly from an SEO standpoint. New websites, in particular, have a long road ahead of them. That’s because Google and other search engines reward older websites with higher ranking.
I don’t tell you this to discourage you, but to set your expectations within the realm of reality. Earning “Page 1″ position for your key phrases takes time and patience. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you, and I’d be happy to debate the point with them!
Persistence – Search engine optimization is a marathon, not a battle. It’s not a single act, but a long series of interrelated actions. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon hope. On the contrary, gaining first-page position in a major search engine can do amazing things for your company, your business model and your bottom line. It’s a worthwhile venture, so you have to stick with it (or pay somebody to stick with it on your behalf).
Progress – The web is constantly evolving, so the way we practice search engine optimization must evolve as well. I personally do about two hours of reading a day to stay up on the latest web technologies, how my clients might use them to their advantage, etc. To progress over time, you have to keep learning over time. Commit yourself to perpetual progress, and you’ll commit yourself to success. He also mentions there’s no such thing as SEO in a hurry.”
You don’t have to be a techy person to understand SEO, I learned by reading a lot of articles and I’m still learning. Also, if you don’t have the time or would rather outsource SEO, there are professional companies that you can hire to perform these tasks for you.
How long does it take to get to the top of the search engines?
As mentioned, it is a long-term investment and there’s no such thing as today you have a website and tomorrow you’re #1 on Google. It takes time for Google to search new websites to index them. It can take months and even years to get on the front pages.
Remember the three P’s above! That’s why I highly recommend that you do SEO work in conjunction with your other advertising methods. And, there’s no price tag on providing good customer service. Your clients will continue to be happy with you and will be more than glad to send their friends to you. With time and commitment, you will see improvement.
If you want to learn more about SEO, and all things website, I recommend subscribing to a free publication called, “Website Magazine.”