Search…and you shall be found! (Part I of LXIII)
All right. You have a wonderful new website with a cool domain name and you’re sitting back waiting for the world to come knocking on your inbox. [crickets…crickets…crickets…] How can that be? Why can’t the world find me at www.mybeautifulnewbusiness.com?
Don’t take it personally; you’re one of – oh let’s say – a billion or so websites that the great-googler-in-the-sky has to sift through to get people to their appointed rest stop on the information superhighway. But don’t worry – at some point you WILL be found. The question is, ‘when’?
Good capitalists that they are, the ‘Internetters’ discovered “SEO”. Essentially, Search Engine Optimization is the way to speed up the sifting process and get your website found by the major search engines before your business becomes another statistic. At this point you could read one of the many 500-page missives about the subject, but we’ll summarize it in a nutshell so you can venture off and see what’s right for you.
What is a Search Engine and how does it work?
The 800-pound gorillas are: Google, Yahoo!, AOL, Bing (Microsoft), and Ask.com. Also, kick in the major directories: DMOZ and Yahoo!. You go to their sites, type in a company, phrase, place, name, or college test question and, VOILA! It uses and amazingly complex algorithmic formula to find and – more importantly – rank the gazillions of websites on the internet.
How can it help my business?
Well, to start, it can find you on the internet. That means your customers can find you on the internet. That is good. Back to that ‘rank’ part: studies have found that if you’re not on the first 2 or 3 pages in search results people just stop looking. That is bad.
What is SEO?
SEO is a suite of mechanisms designed to ‘lift’ your site to the top result pages. It involves everything from listing your site with the search engines (either paid or free – another article altogether!) to optimizing your website or campaign to maximize how you’re found on the web to advertising your website.
When a search engine finds, or indexes, your website, it looks for hidden code (meta data) that tells it what to do. Look at any search results page. You’ll see an underlined blue sentence (the title) followed by 2 or three lines of text (the description). One elementary function of SEO is to just make sure that your web domain (the www.yourname.com part) and site content are in concert with your title and description. If your domain is RustyHipJoints.com and your title is ‘McDonalds’s Orthopedic Services’ and your description and site are all about ‘exercising your knees so you can snowboard at age 80’ then you’ll have a hard time in Search World. But if RustyHipJoints.com has the title ‘Avoid Rusty Hip Joints with McDonald Orthopedic Associates’ and the description and site are focused on ‘hip and joint care so that you can still dance in a Hip Joint at age 80’, you’ll have hips flying out of the joint.
But Wait – There’s More!
Maximizing your Keywords, the words or phrases used to describe your site or business (i.e.: hips, knees, joint replacement, etc.) is very important. Paid Search or Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) is what made Google rich and famous. As the name implies, you pay to have your site listed with your desired keywords, categories, or third-party sites that host Google Ads. And – believe it or not – there is “Negative SEO” for folks like Hollywood starlets and certain egg farmers who’d prefer that search engines NOT display their latest shenanigans. And, don’t even start to think about what Social Networking means to SEO (psst: go for it!).
All For One Low Price?
No. SEO costs vary all over the board from ‘beer budgets’ to ‘champagne tastes’ to ‘let’s use a bottle of Louis XIV to clean the silverware’. A basic website overhaul can run a few hundred dollars. A targeted paid-search campaign can cost whatever you want to spend, even $1 a day, but you generally get what you pay for. Fortune 500 companies can spend tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes monthly, to make sure their name appears one inch higher on your monitor than the competition.
There is way too much information for this esteemed blog. Just as there are numerous search engines, there are numerous SEO techniques. Want to learn more? Ask SPARKS!, your friendly neighborhood web, media, and marketing firm.
Or just Google it!