What is SEO and How it Can Help Your Small Business Grow
By Herman Garner
Did you know that SEO is the cheapest and most effective way to advertise for most businesses?
Did you know that companies like Amazon and Alibaba use SEO to make billions of dollars every year?
Did you know that most successful doctors, lawyers, carpenters and plumbers rely on SEO to generate the majority of their new customers?
Hi everyone, my name is Herman Garner and in this article I am going to explain what SEO is and how you can use it to grow your business. I’m going to break it down as if you were a 9-year-old, or maybe a 10-year-old.
And if you read it to the end, you won’t be an expert, but you’ll have a good enough understanding to get started on your own or hire the right SEO firm. (hopefully us)
So Let’s Begin
Search Engine Optimization, better known as SEO, helps customers find your company on Google, Bing and Yahoo at the precise moment that they are searching for your product or service.
I’ll explain more about this in a few seconds, but I’m going to say it again because this statement defines the greatest benefit of SEO.
Search Engine Optimization helps customers find your company on Google, Bing and Yahoo at the precise moment that they are searching for your product or service.
What does that mean? Let me give you an example. My cousin owns an auto repair shop in a very nice neighborhood. He wants to increase his business. He has some options.
Option 1. He can pass out flyers.
Option 2. He can promote his auto repair shop on Facebook and Instagram.
Option 3. He can put up a huge billboard off the interstate.
Problem: All of these advertising channels are very expensive. But more importantly, they reach customers that may not even have a car or have a car that doesn’t need any repairs.
Option 4. He can hire someone to build a search engine optimized website.
Benefits: It’s relatively cheap compared to options 1, 2 and 3. But the biggest benefit of a search engine optimized website is that my cousin is able to get his business in front of customers at the precise moment that they need a tune up or an alternator, or their radiator is busted. What could be better than that?
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the magic of SEO; to be able to get your business in front of customers at the precise moment that they are searching for your product or service.
If my cousin can do that with his auto repair shop, his business will undoubtedly grow. In fact, it will grow through the roof. And if you can do it with your business, your business will also grow through the roof.
So my cousin says to Google, “What are the rules that I must follow to make my auto repair show up first when people are searching for auto repairs.”
Google says, “My son, here are the rules that you must follow to show up first. If you follow these rules, you will surely show up first.”
It’s that simple. The problem is that understanding and following the rules is complicated – and the rules are continually changing. This is the reason you will probably do better by hiring an SEO expert.
Nonetheless, the first step in this process is understanding exactly what Google does.
This will help us figure out what small business owners must do to show up first in Google’s online directory.
What is Google
Google is an internet search engine. They are in the business of answering people’s questions quickly and accurately. In other words, Google is like a librarian who is eager to help people find the perfect book. Google’s ability to do this effectively has made them the most popular destination on the world wide web.
What Does Google Do
- Google collects information about websites by sending out digital spiders that crawl the web and bring the information back to Google’s headquarters.
- After collecting this information, Google organizes it into categories based on the keywords and phrases used on the website. They use a special algorithm to ensure the highest accuracy.
- Next, they verify the reliability of the website’s information by looking at trust signals like comments, references, back-links, customer ratings and social media shares.
- Finally, they place this information into a huge digital bucket and prepare it to answer people’s questions.
Google’s success is based on its ability to (1) organize the websites by category, (2) verify the trustworthiness of the websites and (3) deliver accurate answers to people’s questions.
What Does Google Require from eCommerce Websites and Small Businesses to Rank High in their Online Directory
- Create high quality content on a user-friendly website that is optimized for cellphones, tablets and computers.
- Use keywords and phrases on their website that help Google place them in the correct category.
- Provide Google with references that prove that they are a trustworthy and legitimate resource.
- Finally, pray that Google finds their website; places them in the correct category; believes that they are trustworthy and delivers their website to people that are searching for their products or services.
In light this, SEO is the set of rules established by Google that website owners must follow if they want to show up first in Google’s website directory. Your ability to follow these rules will increase your website traffic and sales because your website will show up earlier in Google’s search results.
In contrast, your inability to follow Google’s SEO rules will result in lower website traffic and sales.
Is Google an Advanced Digital Phone Book
Let’s Put This Into Perspective
Before Google came into existence, these are the steps I would have taken to find a company that could plant a small oak tree in my backyard.
I would pick up the Yellow Book, think of the category that tree planting companies fall under and flip to that category.
The Yellow Book would show me sponsored ads placed by tree planting companies. Then it would show me a list of local companies related to tree planting organized in alphabetical order.
I would make my decision about who to call or visit based on the ads or the company’s “names” in the alphabetical listing. Before hiring a company, I would try to verify their trustworthiness by asking for references, looking at their vehicles and facility or checking with the Better Business Bureau.
After Google, I pick up my mobile phone and say: “Find tree planting services near me.” Like Yellow Book, Google returns a list of sponsored ads followed by a list of local companies.
Unlike Yellow Book, Google does not display its list of local companies based on alphabetical order. Instead it ranks these companies based on an algorithm that measures the website owner’s ability to follow its listing rules. These algorithms are called Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.
Why SEO is Important for Small Business Owners
Search engine optimization should be important to small business owners because users trust Google to return information that is timely, relevant and reliable.
In other words consumers make buying decision based on Google’s recommendations.
Further, our research indicates that paid advertising, social media and other online platforms generate less than 10% of the traffic most websites receive. The remainder is generated through organic search results or SEO.
An investment in SEO can lead to several years of long-term website traffic and conversions. There are several successful companies that rely primarily on SEO to generate the majority of their business. These include restaurants, dentists, attorneys, florists, auto repair shops, plumbers, insurance agencies, doctors and many more.
Keyword Analysis is the study of the words people search to find products and services on the internet. This understanding helps marketing people build websites that search engines can find.
But SEO Marketing is more than keyword analysis. It also involves the process of making changes to your website design and content that make it comply with Google’s SEO rules. Further, it requires an understanding of your customer’s demographic and psychographic profile. This understanding helps small businesses decide on the images, colors and keywords that will transform your visitors into a paying customers.
For example, Ferrari’s SEO Marketing strategy focuses on ultra-wealthy highly educated white men. Accordingly, they optimize for words and phrases that these men use to search for high end luxury sports cars.
In contrast, Kia Motors SEO Marketing strategy focuses on middle income less educated people from all ethnic backgrounds. Accordingly, they optimize for words and phrases that this group of people use to search for fuel efficient affordable cars.
Finally, keep in mind that higher income individuals have access to newer phones and faster Wi-Fi. If you’re targeting lower income people, your website must be optimized to work on older devices with slower Wi-Fi.
In other words, a good understanding of your target market can help you utilize SEO in a way that increases your odds of winning the business of your ideal customers.
For more info on Content Trends, click here for an article by Mimi An at Hubspot.
What is Local SEO
A website that has been optimized for local SEO will show up first to customers that are located near your business. In other words, if you’re in Cleveland, Ohio and you search for an auto repair shop on Google, Google will show you auto repair shops in Cleveland, Ohio.
Google continually improves it’s local SEO program because it makes sense for consumers and it helps local business owners compete on the web with large multi-national corporations. It’s called Google My Business (GMB). It’s designed to give preferential treatment to local business by showing their websites first in search results.
Unlike regular SEO rules, which are somewhat ambiguous, GMB has an online application that asks local business owners very specific questions about their hours of operation, category of products and services, phone number and types of payments accepted. It also requires the business owner to verify his/her location. It does this by mailing the business owner a post card that contains a secret code.
In addition to completing the online application, the business owner also needs to have a mobile optimized website that provides information that corresponds to the information given to Google My Business.
The main trust-driver for the GMB program is user reviews. Google, however, also relies on its standard algorithms to assign a trust-score to each local business.
Signing up for Google My Business is a very important part of any local SEO strategy. You don’t really need the assistance of a professional but if you can afford it, we recommend that you hire one.
Learn more about the features of GMB by reading “How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing” by Sherry Bonelli at Moz.
DIY SEO TOOLS
The world of search engine optimization is evolving rapidly. Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo routinely update their SEO algorithms to provide users with higher quality search results. Using the wrong or outdated SEO tactics can hurt your ranking or, in some cases, cause Google to block your website entirely. With this in mind, we recommend hiring a professional for your SEO Marketing. However, if you choose to do-it-yourself, here are a few of the most popular tools.
- Keyword Tool – Keyword Tool is a free SaaS product that uses Google Autocomplete and other search engines to generate relevant long-tail keywords and related keywords for any topic.
- WordStream – WordStream provides search marketing software and PPC services that help marketers get better results from their PPC and SEO efforts.
- Ubersuggest – an awesome free tool which can find 100s of new long tail keywords in a few minutes.
- Google Analytics – a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic, currently as a platform inside the Google Marketing Platform brand.
- SEMrush – a software as a service company based in Boston that sells online visibility and marketing analytics software subscriptions.
- Moz – a software as a service company based in Seattle that sells inbound marketing and marketing analytics software subscriptions.
- ahrefs – a well-known tool for the SEO backlink analysis of a website. This digital marketing analysis tool gives a complete load down of all the backlinks got from different 3rd party referral sites. You can also get the backlink analysis report of your competitor’s website.
- Google Keyword Planner – a tool that provides keyword ideas and traffic estimates to help you build a Search Network campaign. Search for keyword and ad groups ideas based on terms that describe your product or service, your website, or a product category related to what you’re advertising.
Watch this video by Neil Patel to get started.
Google is a search engine that people use to find information about products and services offered by companies like yours. They have established a set of SEO rules that you must follow if you want to show up early in their online directory. Your ability to follow these rules will determine if you show up first or last on their list.
SEO rules are very complicated and are constantly changing. If you are serious about winning, you should hire an SEO Marketing expert to help you rank high in Google’s search engine results.
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