A Few Things That Small Businesses Should Know About SEO
Search Engines Are There to Serve the Searcher
I need to start this hub by pointing out that I am not a search engine optimization (SEO) practitioner (my background is in market research.) However, I have followed some of the trends in the SEO world. In the process, I have learned a thing or two about the problems that businesses face when optimizing their website for search.
Most SEO practitioners believe that getting external links is the most important factor in optimizing a website for search. However, on-page SEO also plays a role in where your page ranks on a search engine results page (SERP). For suggestions about how to create a website for search, you might want to check out Shelly Kramer’s blog post, “How to Design a Website That Google Likes.”
As Google points out on its website, “Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible.”
This is great for the searcher. After all, when you do a search, you want to find what you are looking for.
Great for the Searcher… A Challenge for Business
In an effort to accomplish its goal of providing the best user experience possible, Google is always making changes to its algorithm to improve the search results.
For a business, this can present a challenge, as the factors that influence where its website appears on a SERP are always changing.
However, Google has made changes to its search results that businesses that don’t have a person dedicated to SEO should know about.
For example, did you know that the search results that you see on your computer when you do a search are most likely going to be different than the results that people across the country or even people across the living room see when they do a Google search?
That is because Google now personalizes your search based on your past search history, location and your connections on social networking sites.
Search and Past Search History
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found out that 65% of search engine users say that it is a bad thing if a search engine collected information about their searches and then used it to rank their future search results, because it may limit the information that they get online and what searches they see.
Furthermore, 73% of search engine users say that it’s not okay for a search engine to track their searches and use it to personalize their search results because it is an invasion of privacy.
However, I’d guess that the average searcher doesn’t know that Google already does this, and I’d suspect that many small businesses don’t know that either.
The good news for users is that there is a way to disable the personalization based on search activity. For businesses, though, there really isn’t anything that can be done to turn off the personalization for potential customers and prospects.
Search and Location
Google will automatically detect the searcher’s location and customize the results based on that location. (Google does make it possible for users to change the location or even broaden the location to the country instead of the more specific city, zip or street address.)
Having the location customization is a very helpful thing for users because if they search for dry cleaners or Mexican restaurants, they are going to want to find the ones that are close to them, not the ones that are on the other side of the country.
If your business has a physical location or sells a product targeted to any given city, it is advisable to claim your location on Google Places and Google+ Local to ensure that it is found by Google when customers search for your product or service. (Google+ Local is going to be replacing Google Places. However, I’m not sure if the transition is complete.)
It should also be noted that reviews on review sites rank well on Google and the other search engines. Therefore, it is advisable to make sure that your location is listed on the most used review sites in your area and that you monitor the reviews that you are getting on these sites and make adjustments, if necessary.
This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that given the fact Google and the other search engines are always refining their algorithms and that it might be impossible to rank well for all your desired keywords or keyword phrases, your business might want to consider using paid search marketing to get your business in front of potential customers and prospects when they search using Google or any of the other search engines.
Google and the other search engines are trying to deliver the most useful content to the searcher. That means that they are going to be constantly tweaking the algorithms and refining the way that results appear on the search engine results page.
As a business, it is important to keep up with the changes and do whatever you can to optimize your website for search.
This post was intended to point out some of the factors that you might not have been aware of and get you thinking about what you might want to do to help get your business found when customers and prospects search for the products and services that you have for sale.
If you are looking to learn more about marketing your business using SEO, I’d recommend reading Vanessa Fox’s book, “Marketing in the Age of Google, Revised and Updated: Your Online Strategy IS Your Business Strategy.”