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August 22, 2014 — A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By guest author Christina Sanchez Hebert, owner of Send It! Communications
“My business website shows up on page three of search results. What can I do to increase search engine visibility for my website?” Sarah, Cheyenne
If your business has a website, I’m willing to bet you get almost weekly phone calls from people claiming to be “Google experts” or even “your Google representative,” none of whom are actually associated with Google. They claim your Google listing is out of date, or that your website isn’t listed in Google, and that they can have you on page one in 30 minutes or less. They claim that their “SEO experts” have the inside track because they work with or for Google, or that they have a special arrangement with Google to guarantee you the top spot in search results.
Sounds great, right? Except in most cases, what they are offering you is not actually SEO, or SEO that will be effective in the long run. They also don’t work for Google, but that’s another post.
What is SEO, anyway? SEO, or search engine optimization, is a set of actions taken continually to make your website more visible to search engines for a specific set of keywords and/or topics. With around 97 percent of Internet-connected consumers searching for merchants, products and reviews online before making a purchase, a Web presence is vital for most businesses. Of course, the best website or social media profile is useless if potential customers can’t find it, and search engines are the primary means of driving traffic to a commercial site.
How often do you look at the second page of search results? Not often, because search engines are so good at filtering content and matching queries that you typically find what you’re looking for on the first page, and often near the top. This makes those top spots prime Web real estate, and the desire for businesses to see their names there is exactly why SEO specialists like me exist.
Unfortunately, that also creates a premium niche market. Most of those who are calling you every week are not actually SEO specialists; they work in a call center or office that specializes in making enough calls to meet their sales or appointment quotas. What they are offering to do for you isn’t SEO, it’s just paid advertisements on Google, and the second you stop paying them, the campaign stops and your site is nowhere to be seen. Worse, they also are calling your competition, so they create their own bidding war for those paid spots, costing you even more.
True SEO is something that needs to be done consistently and often; however, the efforts build upon themselves, making your site more likely to stay at the top of search results without paying for ads. True SEO increases your organic ranking -- the unpaid search results that are just below the ads -- and have more than triple the number of clicks as those ads.
The end goal of SEO is not high search rankings -- it is customers and sales. Proper SEO includes work on your website, including new content, a friendly layout and even colors and images that promote your credibility and make visitors want to buy. These things don’t need to be fancy; my own website is very basic but has market tested as “friendly,” “approachable” and “trustworthy.” Those who visit my site view, on average, three pages -- quite a large percentage for a small site. I often ask new clients how they found me and why they called me. While they typically find me through events or word of mouth, I often hear my website is easy to read and they felt they understood what I do and how I do it. This is the true goal of SEO: for search engines to rank your website high for relevant searches, and for site visitors to find what they’re looking for on your site.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at http://wyen.biz/blog1/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.