As the Federal Reserve prepares to release its new $100 bill this Fall, it reminded me a lot of a topic I get asked about quite often: SEO for small business owners. In one line, search engine optimization is the practice of configuring your website (and more specifically the source code that drives your website) in such a way that it improves your rankings on Google searches that relate to your business. SEO has always been highly sought after and an extremely lucrative business, because appearing high in Google searches is obviously extremely important. After all, a new DeepField study just released shows that Google now receives more traffic than Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix COMBINED.
In the past and still today, common SEO practices have included doctoring the description and keywords in your website’s source code (that is, the code that the computer reads on each site that is invisible to the user), using certain important terms numerous times across each web page, and linking to numerous outside sites. More recently, SEO experts say that Google has been weighing social media activity, namely Google+ activity, more heavily. Here’s the most important thing to remember with SEO: Google’s algorithm is top secret and constantly changing, so most SEO tactics are the result of countless hours of testing, guessing, and trial and error.
I know what you’re thinking. I still don’t see how SEO is like counterfeiting money. Take a look at the new $100 bill above. It has dozens of security features, secret ink, and is printed on secret materials. Why? Because the Fed doesn’t want anybody to be able to rig the system and print their own money. Google views their search rankings the same way. In Google’s perfect world, search rankings would be 100% flawless and totally immune to anyone’s intervention. SEO is like beating the system, and Google’s job is to keep adding security features to their secret algorithm to keep people from ripping it off. Quality and reliable search results is literally (and in this case, figuratively) Google’s money. And no matter how much money you have to invest in SEO, whether you’re a small business owner or a major corporation, remember that Google is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in research and programming so that the smartest minds in technology and continue improving and complicating their near-perfect system.
So what can you do to make yourself more attractive to Google’s almighty algorithm? When I was a freshman in college and Facebook was just a social network of 12 million college kids, someone gave me the best explanation of SEO that I still use to this day: “The internet is like a party. Google walks around the party, asking people “Do you know this person?”; the more popular you are, the better your search rankings.” So take the time to grow and maintain your social networks and make sure that your website link is in the descriptions of each of them. Also, if you have any partners, vendors, clients, or do any guest blogging, be sure to ask that third party to do you a favor and include a link back to your website. These are things that you can take care of yourself (and should be doing anyway) without burning a ton of money on an SEO solution. Other than keeping your content fresh, and playing nice with other sites, you’ll just have to trust that the Google Machine is going to get it right.
How do you feel about SEO? What do you do to help your website move up in the search rankings?