Can I share what really bugs me about providers of online services, especially search engine optimization (SEO)?
I hate when they try to make everything related to the online world sound so mysterious, especially when it’s really not.
Of course, I don’t mean to make a blanket statement. I’m sure not all providers are this way. I know that’s not the way we operate here.
But when I run into a company that treats their online services like it’s all rocket science, that truly bothers me. I personally find even the acronyms — SEO, SaaS, PaaS, CMS, UX, UI — as annoying insider jargon that ultimately makes the digital world seem way more complicated than it really is.
Why do these companies want to hide how their services actually work? Are they worried that, if anyone knew just how simple and step-by-step some of these services were, people would be doing it for themselves? (Shades of graphic design gone bad when everyone learned Word and Publisher!)
But guess what? In this post, I’m pulling back the curtain on the SEO wizard, and you’ll soon see, as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, said in the Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power…”
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is a long phrase that means something pretty simple: making your website as friendly and desirable as possible for search engines and their customers.
When it comes to search engines, the current biggies are Bing, Yahoo, and Google — a search engine so popular, society took its name and made it into a verb that’s now synonymous with searching online — that is, to “Google” it.
Ultimately, if your website is fully optimized for searches, the result is that it will appear sooner in the search or “rank higher” — which translates to whether it is on the first page of a search or further down the line.
Now think about your own search habits. If you are searching for something, how often do you go past the third page of your search results? Usually, what you need is right on the first page. Some people don’t even look at the second page of results! Those websites on the first page have great SEO applied, and that’s why they appear where they do in the rankings.
SEO — it’s all about content
You might be hearing a lot lately about how “content is king.” Well, it is — especially when it comes to driving visitors to your website. Here’s why:
The written content on your website is what the major search engines use to drive their own customers — the people using their searches — to your specific website.
But it has to be congruent with the searches being made. These search engine companies are looking for a match between what a person types in a search box — commonly known as “keywords” — and what your website has to say, via its written content.
It’s also about visual content. The search engine companies don’t want to send their customers to websites that are clunky and uncomfortable to use. They are trying to create the best possible online experience for the web searchers.
So if you website is outdated, hard to navigate, difficult to use, confusing, and/or not secure — all of this will push your website farther down in the search rankings. (Click HERE to find out how we can help you with the look and feel of your website design!)
Come up with your keywords
The biggest factor in good SEO is coming up with the keywords that someone will use to search for your website, and then getting those keywords into your website’s written copy.
The first part of the “trick” is to come up with the appropriate keywords. This is really just a matter of putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes.
Ask yourself: If YOU wanted to find your website, what would you put into a search engine?
You’ll probably want to search up things regarding your products services and your location, at the very least. Maybe you’d want to search up the niche to whom you cater.
There are several ways — some free, some not — to double-check your keywords to validate them. But it all begins with you being your own audience.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you run a pet supply store in Chicago that also sells fish. Phrases you might use to search could include:
Pet supply store in Chicago
Dog food store in Chicago
Cat toys in Chicago
Tropical fish for sale in Chicago
These are your keywords. Keep in mind, the more “unique” your keywords, the less competition you will have from other websites — in this case, from other pet supply websites.
Let’s say you just happen to carry a unique fish known as the “dumbo guppy.” (There really is such a thing — Google it!) While other websites might be fighting over the keywords “guppies for sale in Chicago” for any one search, you might have more luck and get betting rankings by including “dumbo guppies” in your content. That way, if someone does search for “dumbo guppies for sale in Chicago,” your website has a better chance landing on the first page of that search. Such a focused search can also help you make sales, as people who are more definitely and surely your customers — people who really want to buy what you are offering — are the ones that are going to be clicking on your page for more information — resulting in better conversions for you.
And isn’t that what we really want from our website — sales? Exposure is great, but if your website is only working as an electronic business card, it’s not working hard enough for you.
Get the keywords into your written content
The next part is to work these keywords into your written content. There are a couple of ways to do that:
Via the content on your pages.
Via the content within your blog.
In either case, be sure not to “force” the keywords into your articles. You want to make them appear naturally within the copy, so that the overall writing flows just as naturally and makes sense to the readers.
For example, if you want to attract the dumbo guppy lovers, write a few blogs specifically about that topic, where you can’t help but use the keywords you selected.
This is why a blog is so important to the SEO of your website. Having an active blog keeps your website “fresh” and “engaged” — and search engines are looking for that engagement. The posts also provide great opportunities for planting keywords into your website. Whether you call the posts “news” or “articles” or announcements, if your website doesn’t include some sort of active blog, you’re hurting the awesome potential of your website to attract leads for your business. (Here at LaCroix Creative, we love writing blog posts for our clients! Click HERE to contact us and learn more.)
Most websites have heads and subheads that are referred to with numbers — such as Heading 1 and Heading 2 — that are set up within the website’s design. Search engines look for the content within these headers (especially Header 1) in order to match up that content with keywords that are being searched.
So you’ll want to create titles, heads, and subheads using your most important keywords, both on your regular pages and in your blog articles.
For example, with the pet supply shop, yourHeading 1 on your home page (also known as the index page or sometimes the landing page), could say:
Pat’s Pet Supply Shoppe — Your place in Chicago to purchase
the best pet supplies, food, and toys for your dog, cat, or fish
Heading 2 (in smaller type):
The Chicago Home of the Dumbo Guppy!
This way, you’ve placed keywords within your Heading 1 and Heading 2, right on the home page, that will get picked up by the search engines, via their “spiders” — automated “bots” that “crawl” through the Internet, looking for specific words that can be tied together with what’s being searched.
And while the important keywords are there in the headings, nothing sounds odd or forced when read by the website visitor. Keep in mind: You always want to think of your visitors first — your SEO second. If you don’t, the search engines will actually start to recognize that, and it will actually have a negative result on your SEO — yet again, knocking your site down in the rankings.
Less magic, more craft
While SEO, once explained, is easy to comprehend, I have to admit that there is definitely an art to achieving good search rankings. I like to think of it similar to that of a dance performance on stage. For there to be a good performance, everyone and everything — the dancers, the musicians, the stagehands, the lights, the sets — must be in sync. There are a lot of elements involved. But when they all work together, with the right ones in the right places at the right times, the results are beautiful.
So it is with SEO. There is a lot to remember. But if you do remember all the parts and place them in the right spots at the right times, they will work together to bring about your desired affect — visitors to your website.
Ideally, a company that is working on your SEO is going to look at the whole picture — both the written and the visual content of your website — and give you advice to pull it all together to provide the best SEO possible.
Done right, your page should land on the first three pages of a search using the keywords you’ve chosen. The ideal scenario is that your website is the first “organic” (that is, unpaid) listing on the first page of all three search engines.
Now, even the best SEO doesn’t always achieve those sorts of awesome results. But that is the “brass ring” of SEO — the target to always shoot for, even if you don’t quite reach it.
No fear here!
So why am I not afraid of telling you the truth about SEO and how it works? Three reasons:
First, I’m truly of the belief that, when our clients at least have an understanding of what we are doing and why we do it, that makes them a better client and creates a better relationship between us and our clients. They then understand fully the value of what we do. They value my business and services all the more, and in return, they seek those services from us.
Second, I know that most of our clients will still come to us, even if they can do the work themselves. They realize that these services are at the heart of our business. We study and educate ourselves on the subject of these services daily. We already have the experience. We already have the skills. And we truly have the passion for doing it.
So our clients — while able to do this work themselves — choose not to. Our clients are smart enough to know that, by not doing this work themselves, their businesses will be more efficient, more effective, and by default, more successful.
And lastly, our clients know that they can trust us to do the work just as well as they would want to do it, if they had been doing it themselves. Perhaps that’s the biggest reason to choose us over anyone else offering SEO services. We are dedicated to your success, as that’s our success as well. We take extreme pride in everything we do, and we want to see excellent results as much as you do. Our careers and this business are all on the line and at stake if we don’t, so for us, it’s serious business.
If you’re ready to get serious about your own online presence and what your website could be doing to improve your business, contact us today. You’ll learn more about our SEO services and what we’ve been able to do for our other clients. Click HERE to get started!