Anyone can start a business on the Internet, but how well it’s marketed is the difference between success and failure.
The key to marketing anything on the web is a solid understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of optimizing a website so that it’s easily searchable with unpaid, natural results. The more frequently a website appears in search engine results, the more visits it gets. SEO is essential, but it can be tricky to navigate because the rules constantly change.
The reason SEO trends are in constant flux is that Google—the world’s leading search engine—continually updates and optimizes its search algorithms, keeping everyone on their toes. And to make things trickier, Google doesn’t notify the world about its updates—and that makes SEO a moving, and often blurry, target.
One of the largest mistakes online businesses make is to assume their SEO is in good shape because it’s been addressed once. They then put it on the back burner and expect it to work for them. Organizations with a healthy understanding of the online marketing world, on the other hand, conduct regular SEO audits to ensure they remain in good standing.
It makes sense that Google rewards good quality content—consumers and readers respond to and reward good content too. The more often you post fresh, high-quality content, the higher your SEO rankings will be. Other best practices that boost SEO include using well-researched keywords and unique titles, highlighting your data with Google Webmaster tools, avoiding 404 errors, inviting guest bloggers to contribute to your site, studying your competitors to see what works well for them, being sure your site loads quickly, using smart URLs, deleting duplicate content from your site, having a strong internal linking system, optimizing your images, and avoiding advertorial and paid links.
In other words, everything that makes your site attractive to visitors also makes it attractive to Google.
Choosing the right keywords is important. Specificity is key in this area, especially when it comes to local searches, which are at an all-time high. Keep in mind your long-term goals, how quickly you want to see results, and how relevant you want your audience to be. Along with single keywords, you should also develop head keywords (one- to three-word phrases that get high traffic but also have high competition) and long-tail keywords (longer, conversational phrases that generate less traffic but have less competition).
Be careful which keywords you choose, though. Consistent brand messaging is key in all communications, and web content is no exception. Your keywords should align with your overall brand marketing strategy. Off-brand keywords can result in scattered and confusing messaging that will lead visitors—and Google—to abandon your site.
Getting your branded content to the right people is key, especially at the beginning. Single out influencers and people in your niche and let them know who you are. If they like what they see, they can become brand evangelists, promoting your site to others and building your natural search results.
Social media and Google SEO rankings go hand-in-hand. Your business page on Facebook showcases how many likes you have, and it’s a place where your customers can rate your business. Customer ratings equate to reliability and trustworthiness on any site (think about how much you rely on customer reviews on Amazon). Your social media popularity grants you wider exposure, which has been linked to your Google ranking according to Hootsuite, who tested the theory by tracking Facebook and Twitter URLs in Google’s top 100.
SEO is a combination of good business sense, vigilance, careful research, continued study and perhaps a little bit of luck. It’s also a necessity for your site to thrive in a sea of competitors. Cultivate and nurture it, and it will reward you in return.
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Whether behind the scenes or face-to-face, Meghann Goddard is an asset to the marketing department's team of digital experts. She works closely with clients and program staff to research, develop, launch and manage marketing plans for a variety of program type. An internal expert in growth-driven website design, Meghann also develops market-facing materials, creates tests and tracks their results to ensure they meet requirements and continuous improvement goals. She holds a master's degree in communications from Queens University of Charlotte and various digital marketing certifications.