Sure, your website looks great. But will anyone see it?
It’s the hottest term in online marketing right now- Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is part algorithm, part design, and frankly, part magic that puts your web page at the top of Google’s search list. When someone searches “lawn care, Bradenton” what make Google list your website third and your competitors first? The mystery is about to be revealed.
First, a few vocab words:
Crawlers: (aka spiders, bots) Software Google uses to download every webpage to scan for backlinks, content, keywords and anything else it deems necessary to determine where to rank you web page.
Algorithm: A complex formula the crawlers plug their data into to determine a page’s ranking.
Bounce Rate: How long someone explores your site before finding something better.
Ranking: Where your web page falls in the long list of competing sites each time a key word combination is searched.
Panda: Google search algorithm that went into effect in February of 2011. What makes Panda creepy great is that it’s spent time researching what makes a human trust a website, what designs people like, and learned to guess how long a human will stay on a page. In addition to taking backlinks, key words, and type of content into consideration Panda serves as the quality police. Panda has come to judge if your website. What Panda doesn’t like gets pushed to the back pages. (Note the name isn’t Google being clever- the engineer who made this new wave of SEO possible is named Navneet Panda).
Okay, now that you know the basics of how SEO works here’s how you can use it for your benefit:
1. Key Words
Matt Greff of the website Search Engine Land recommends asking your friends and family what search terms they would use when looking for your business. These are probably the same key words used by potential customers. Make sure these words appear on your home page as often as possible without being obnoxious (bad example: We are a Bradenton lawn care company specializing in lawn care in Bradenton). A bad practice is to have what’s known as a splash page, a mostly blank page with a “click here to enter” link. It’s a waste of space and will lower your SEO ratings. Have one home page and use your search words wisely.
2. Keep Content Fresh
No one is going to keep going back to a website that never changes. Not only should you make sure your website information is up to date you should also frequently add new, original content. A blog is one great way to do this according to Search Engine Journal. Keeping content fresh means that you can hit on the most current search trends. Is there a new lawn mower that people keep raving about? Mention it on your site and increase your visibility in searches.
3. Use Lists
The Google algorithm likes them, people search for them.
4. Link it together
One of the best ways to prove to Google that you’re legit is to have other websites endorse your content. This is accomplished through “backlinks”: when a site thinks your stuff is good enough that they post a link to your page. Don’t try to fool the system. Google will notice if your site and your friend’s totally unrelated site exchange links. Instead, SmallBusinessComputing.com suggests exchanging content (stories, blog posts, etc) with another website where it actually fits and providing a link back to your page under your work.
5. Quality over Quantity
It’s not about how many updates your website has if there’s no meat to the content. Google measures the bounce rate of visitors to a page when determining its rank. Someone could search for lawn care tips and land on your website. Even if it’s the right topic they’re looking for, if the information is useless they’ll quickly click away. Or maybe your website isn’t even close to what someone wanted. If the information is interesting they’ll keep reading.
Like I said, SEO is a tricky terrain to navigate. These tips will get you started in climbing the ranking ladder to the top (or close to it).
(Panda update: I just learned that Panda is no longer the head honcho of alogrithms. Penguin was rolled out a week ago and is now taking names).