Five Things You Should Know About Search Engine Optimization

There’s a lot of hype these days around search engine optimization (SEO) as a way to “bring in the customers and make lots of money on the internet!”. It’s true that, done correctly, SEO can greatly increase your website traffic (although what happens when people land on your website is another matter entirely).

So many businesses invest thousands in creating a beautiful website with the expectation that “if you build it, they will come.” It’s like throwing a party but forgetting to send out invitations – you’re simply hoping that people will somehow hear about it and decide to come. But they don’t come. And you’re stuck with left-over party favors, hors d’oeuvres, and cocktails…

So it’s no wonder that it seems like everyone is jumping on the SEO bandwagon. But, before you get carried away on a journey to nowhere, here are a few things you should know.

#1 – Be clear about why you’re investing in search engine optimization

  • 90+% of internet users use a search engine to find information
  • 90+% of searches are done on Google, Yahoo, Ask, or Microsoft, with Google covering about half of those
  • The first 5 listings on page 1 of search engine results is the “hot zone” – most searchers click in this area as it’s considered the most relevant and trusted of all results
  • Searchers typically only look at the first page of results – if they don’t find what they want there, they refine their search and try again
  • Businesses who optimize their website with in-house staff see a 38% increase in traffic, but those using outside experts see a 110% increase (Marketing Sherpa, 2007)

 #2 – It won’t happen overnight

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Like most things in life, it takes time before you start to see the benefits – a couple of months is pretty typical before the needle starts to move. It takes ongoing maintenance, fine-tuning, and continuous testing and monitoring to get it right. But the rewards are definitely worth the effort.

#3 – Content is king

All the links and keywords in the world won’t get you to the first page in the search engine result pages unless you have unique and engaging website content that people actually want to read. “Content” doesn’t refer to fancy graphics and website layout – your website should be simple, easy to navigate, and attractive (but not so attractive that all else becomes secondary). And, most importantly, it has to be well-written, using simple, everyday language that’s easily understood and “speaks” to the appropriate audience.

#4 – A first page guarantee is worthless

Why? To meet that guarantee, an SEO company will generally come up with a list of keywords that, while they may seem relevant, have very few ‘hits.’ You’ll find yourself on the first page of a keyword search that no one uses – no users = no traffic to your website.

Alternatively, you could find your site using “black hat” SEO techniques to get links quickly. The problem? The search engines will “ban” your site, essentially sending it into a black hole from which you may not recover – and where it will never be found by potential customers.

#5 – Don’t put all your eggs in the online basket

Many business leads are still generated through networking. While SEO will broaden your reach exponentially and at relatively low cost, click-throughs are no substitute for good old-fashioned networking, hand shaking, and talking up your business to everyone you meet. But, taken together, your online and offline efforts will generate more business than either one alone.

So there you have it, the basic facts about search engine optimization – what it will do for you and, more importantly, what it won’t. Approach your SEO efforts as you would any marketing opportunity – with your eyes wide open, an understanding of what you’ll get for your investment, and a reputable SEO partner to do the specialized work.

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