The film “Field of Dreams” coined the phrase “build it, and they will come,” and while this may work with baseball fields for ghosts, it doesn’t work for building websites.
If you build it, they won’t necessarily come unless you tell them about it first. Businesses have had to use marketing for hundreds of years, and for business owners in the 21st century, the only thing that has changed is some of the techniques.
Just like learning to play a musical instrument, the rules of poker or the technique of any martial art, grasping the basics of SEO is easy, but it takes years of dedicated practice and learning to be able to well and truly master it. When you’re bootstrapping your business, building it from scratch on a budget of practically nothing, understanding the basics of SEO will help you to get started. However, you will find a point in time will come that you will need expert help. Until that time comes, it’s good to understand the mysterious world of SEO.
Basics of SEO
In a time before the internet, one of the main ways for consumers to find the businesses and tradespeople they needed was to use phone books. The phone books were typically in alphabetical order, with businesses that had names beginning with the letter A listed first. Some canny business owners started to name their businesses “aardvark” in an attempt to get as high up as possible. Evidence of this is in the fact that there are 299 registered limited companies in the U.K. with the word “aardvark” in their name while there are only 87 with the word “walrus” in their names.
In the 21st century, consumers search the internet using services such as Google and Bing to find businesses and tradespeople, and, therefore, these businesses have had to find ways to get higher up in the search listings. That’s what we call “search engine optimization” or SEO, and it is the modern-day equivalent of calling your business aardvark.
How does it work?
SEO can split up into two distinct areas: “on-site” and “off-site,” referring to the work you do on and off your website. Both of these play a part in ensuring your website can reach the top of Google.
On-site work can include many things, but a crucial factor to always remember is that modern search engines are clever enough to know when website owners try to cheat the system, and, therefore, your website should provide a great experience for your customers. The factors you need to provide a great experience, and to be relevant to your customers, are:
- A fast loading website
- Unique, interesting, useful content that contains keywords that your customers search
- Content that is relevant to your audience
- Be secure (HTTPS)
- A logical website structure that is easy to navigate
- Ensure that Google’s search bot can access it
Off-site SEO is work you do to promote your website elsewhere on the internet. By getting other websites to link to your website is a way to firstly, attract new customers, and secondly, tell Google that your website is interesting and trustworthy. Ways to get new backlinks to your website include:
- Post guest blog posts on other websites
- Publish press releases
- Create engaging content that others want to naturally share with friends, family and colleagues
- Use your existing business relationships to get links from other websites
- Use social media
Whether you plan to undertake the SEO work yourself or outsource it to experts, it is still critical to understand the basics and remember the mantra of quality over quantity for all types of SEO. While SEO is a lot of hard work, at least you don’t have to call your new business “aardvark.”