Getting found on the internet is one of the most important things you can do for any business The art of SEO or Search Engine Optimization is what determines whether your company website ranks number 1 or 1000 on most importantly Google’s listing, but other search engines as-well.
Understanding the Google Search Listing
When doing SEO and website optimization you need to try and get in the mind of your customer and do your keyword research accordingly (we’ll get to keyword research shortly). For now were going to assume our business is an auto body repair shop located in Toronto, Ontario. Thinking from a customer perspective a likely search term would be “Auto Body Repair Toronto”.
So if you run a search in Google for “Auto Body Repair Toronto” you will get several results, but what you want to be aware of is the difference between “paid” and “organic” listings. The paid listings will appear first under the heading “Ads related to auto body repair toronto”. These companies have paid using a bidding process for keyword value in a Google product called “Adwords”. You can certainly join that site and pay for the number 1 spot, competing with other shops in your area. It would be an expensive way to obtain web traffic and you would continue to pay top dollar to retain those positions. We aren’t going to talk much about paid listings, just be aware that they do exist and are an option. We are going to focus on obtaining “organic” search traffic.
Organic search results are the listings that Google has recommended to the user based on an advanced algorithm Google has created. The algorithm attempts to determine the best websites based highly on the following factors:
Keywords/Content – The information pulled from your site stating what it is about.
Your website is viewed by Google as a gigantic text string and also contains information known as Meta Data (tags) that tells the search engines what to emphasize. You need to ensure that the meta tags are filled in using keywords that you’ve determined would be how potential customers search to find your site. If you are unsure on what the terms might be, try using the Google Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for.
Google also gives a stronger endorsement on seeing that your keywords are used on important parts of your site. Your title for instance (appears at the top of the browser & also how you appear on Google) would be of more value to SEO if it could incorporate some of the keywords your targeting. Also in your text the more your keywords appear in bold or using header tags the better (research HTML header tags to learn more).
Your images should also have the descriptions filled in using the keywords where possible and relevant. Also worth noting is to stay away from building a Flash website, which is a highly graphical website using the Adobe Flash programming code. They look really cool, however they do not translate well to the search engines and are hard to get ranked well.
Back-links – How many other sites are linking back to you
A big part of search engine optimization is finding ways to have other sites link back to you. Now the reason for this is that Google looks at this as an endorsement and factors it into your sites ranking. They basically figure if 100 websites are linking to you then you must be the real deal so they’ll rank your site higher. It is also more beneficial to have links back from higher ranking and related websites.
You can find several ways to obtain back-links but you want to avoid using tactics regarded as spam. For instance you could join an Auto Body forum and include your website in your profile or signature, however if you joined and make a post saying look at my website here is the link…odds are its going to be deleted and your time is wasted. Try to make a contribution anywhere your spreading your link or the odds are it will be regarded as spam and removed.
Social Media is huge and a separate topic on it’s own for how you can drive web traffic to your site, however you should at the very least create these accounts and enter your website into the profiles to create a back-link from these high profile websites. This would include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, Instagram, Yahoo. Any smaller social media site where you can create a public profile will certainly help, but the larger ones will give you more bang for your back-link.
Other things you want to do for not only back-links, but increased web presence is fill out your business directory listings. By filling these in you get more high profile back-links and also the benefit of potentially multiple listings in the search results. This will increase your web presence and chances of conversions. Another added benefit is that directory listings are utilizing GPS settings in smartphones so if a customer is looking for an Auto Body Shop and lives around the corner, you only get the referral if your shop is listed. You sometimes need to claim and/or validate your listings, some of these listing sites would include: Google +Local (formerly places), Yahoo, Goldbook, Yellowpages, Weblocal, Yelp, Foursquare.
One last thought on back-links is that anchor-text (What the Link is named) also weights against what your site will rank for. So if your link is called “Toronto Auto Body”, it would rank better for your search term compared to say “Joes Auto Body”. You don’t usually have control over anchor text, but when you do its good to utilize it properly.
Naming your domain name carry’s some significance along with how your URL is named. For instance:
Given the two links if a potential customer were to type in “Toronto Auto Body Dent Repair” the top link is going to carry much more weight. Now sometimes its not always the most professional way to go about it so if you want to use link number 2 then its not the end of the world, just something to be aware of.
Another thing you’ll see with link number 2 is the gibberish that follows the domain, it contains zero relevancy to what your site or page is about. This is usually the result of a website management system that doesn’t have or hasn’t enable a search engine friendly URL system. You would need to probe more on your website setup, you typically sacrifice a bit of speed for seo links, but on a small static (non-changing) website its impact on speed is minimal. If you are in need of a content management system (CMS) that provides a flexible website with friendly links, have a look at either Joomla or WordPress.
Last thing to consider with domain names is the length of time they are purchase for. The longer duration you purchase a domain for the better, as Google looks at it as a more serious commitment to the site and its content.
Website speed is tracked by Google and goes towards how you are being ranked. You want to keep your site simple, professional and to the point. Be sure to consider the needs of your customer before cluttering up with unnecessary search bars, widgets and modules. Integrating your Facebook and twitter feed is one thing, but the odds are your customers aren’t coming to your site to check the weather so it begs the question…why bother adding that to your site?
Before you upload any images to your website make sure you are re-sizing them before you upload and compressing them to a minimal size. An easy way to do this is using Adobe Photoshop and instead of clicking save, choose save for web. Keep unnecessary images to a minimum and avoid the use of Flash and unnecessary scripts.
Your site speed depends largely on the way it is coded but also on the server that provides it to the public (host). Make sure your using a reliable/reputable web-server for your hosting. A simple Go-daddy hosting package should be more then sufficient for most small businesses. Monitor your sites speed and if you notice slow loading times you need to look at how your site is loading and consider both hosting and coding.
A few last things you should do is verify your site on Google Webmaster Tools and go into the Geo-targeting settings and inform Google you are interested in local traffic, not global. This informs Google your website is a local business and it carry’s more weight with people searching from within your country. Also create an account with Google Analytics and follow the documentation on how to set it up on your website. It creates in-depth information on who is checking out your website, how they are finding it, and much more information.
Now it’s a safe bet that many of the people reading this article are not computer programmers and maybe only understood a quarter of whats been written. If you can’t control your Meta Tags, Site Speed..etc for reasons such as you don’t know how or perhaps use a corporate website, just do what you can. You can still capitalize on the link building process which is pretty straight forward and will still bring a significant gain to your website. If you need to hire somebody to do the rest, remember “Organic Search Results” is what your after. Many companies try and push “Paid” results where they basically take Google Adwords, mark it up and bill you for it. If you decide to hire a company to do this for you, make sure that their action plan contains some or all of the organic SEO practices mentioned.
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