If SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) had been called ‘GFOG’ (Getting Found On Google) more people would understand why it’s so important for small business.
Every time you enter a word or phrase into a search engine like Google, an incredibly complex process, made possible only by gigantic computer servers and top-secret algorithms, fires into action to bring you a list of results.
With thousands upon thousands of websites offering similar services, and considering that 75% of users never click past the first page of results, the first rank on a list of search results is the Holy Grail for online business.
Top spots are chosen by search engines using closely guarded methods which effectively score a website based on the relevance of its content, its popularity, and a range of other factors. Relevance, though, remains the number one priority.
It’s all about keywords
The science – though some refer to it as an art – of grabbing the top Google search ranking spot is called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and although it is an immensely intricate process, the basic element is a keyword.
Keywords are the words or phrases that people type into a search engine when looking for specific information on the web. In an endless cycle, the Google spiders are constantly crawling through millions of webpages to index sites based on keywords. When you complete a search these are then returned to you as a ranked list.
Finding the right keywords for your business
Put yourself in the mind of the user. What keywords would you type into a search engine to try to find the services or products you provide? These are the kinds of keywords you should be using.
If your keywords don’t match what you offer, you won’t show up on a search engine results page (SERP) where people are looking for products and services like yours, while the audience who does see your business won’t be interested in what you have to offer. Lose-lose.
Being smart with keywords: go niche
Here’s where it gets creative. With so much competition for rankings on popular searches, it isn’t helpful for a small operator to go for broad keywords.
Michael Mothner, writing for Inc. Magazine, demonstrates this using the example of jewellery. If you are a small online jewellery business, your most obvious keyword choices – “jewellery” or “jewelry” – won’t take you very far because hugely popular sites like Tiffany & Co. will have these search terms completely covered.
Mothner urges us to be more specific and think about what we offer that sets us apart from other retailers. “In this case, you would do well to go after more specific keywords such as gold jewellery, silver necklace, or women's Rolex watch.” These terms have less competition and increase your chances of ranking highly.
The right spot
After you’ve chosen some winning keywords, put them into action.
The most important place for keywords to show up is in your title tag. This is first place a search bot will scan and it’s the heading that shows up on a SERP.
Second on the list is the meta description, which is the short excerpt that appears under your title on the results page. Although the search bot isn’t as interested in it, this is your chance to reel visitors in by providing an enticing snippet of what to expect on your site.
And finally, keywords should show up in your page content, both in sentences and as the anchor text in a link.
Find a balance
But amongst all this talk of robots and algorithms, the key is not to lose sight of your customers. You must write for them, not for search bots.
So you should never sacrifice well written, engaging content for the sake of search results, because content is what counts once your audience arrives. It’s what will help convert visitors to buyers.
So include keywords naturally on your site and begin your climb up the Google ladder.