If you have had anything to do with the Internet and search engines, you should already be familiar with the acronym SEO. It stands for search engine optimization, which means making sure you have all the features on your own site that search engines use to determine where your website will feature in the list of results that are returned when someone enters a search query. The higher to the top you are, the more visitors your site is likely to get. That means you get more business, assuming your offer is one people will want. The further down the list you are, the less likely it is that anyone will find you, which is not what you want. The question is, can you optimize your small business site yourself, or is it better to get an expert service to do it for you?
You versus the experts
The complexities of how search engine algorithms work are hard to follow and to keep track of, which means you could spend ages working on your website for little reward. You need to balance the cost of employing optimization experts against what you would lose in terms of the value of your time and the reduced likelihood that you will know enough to make a significant impact. Remember, your time is highly valuable to your business and you should be focusing on the bigger picture, so it may well work out to be more economical to outsource this task.
The fundamentals of doing it yourself
Having said that expert services may be more cost-effective, it’s still possible, and indeed advisable, to at least look at the basics of SEO for your website. First, you need a good quality website, well-constructed, easy to navigate, with valuable information and engaging design. It must be fully functional and should be regularly updated with new and interesting content. This can take the form of articles, news items, blog posts; whatever is most appropriate for your type of business. You should link to other sites that offer relevant, high-quality information to your visitors, and try to build up your own backlinks, where other web pages have a link to your site. There are some great tools to help make this task easier, for example, the backlink checker that lists all the pages that link back to your site. Many of these tools are available for free, or at a very modest cost, which makes them ideal for smaller businesses and freelancers.
Dos and don’ts
If you search for SEO information online, you’ll find a vast number of how-to guides, tips and tricks. Some will be very helpful, others less so – always check when a guide was published to make sure it conforms to the most recent algorithm updates. You should avoid any so-called “black-hat” SEO, which basically means trying to trick the search engines into placing you higher up the rankings. It may work initially, but the chances are they will catch up with you, and then your site could be suspended altogether. You must also make sure that once you’ve implemented your basic SEO strategy, you check the site metrics to see if the actions are having any effect.
SEO is an important part of your marketing effort, so it is worth taking it seriously and doing the best job you can on it.