By James Florence, Contributor
In many ways, digital marketing isn’t that different from other forms of marketing. For instance, they all share the same objective: to increase a business’ visibility to potential customers. The difference with digital marketing is that in addition to paid advertising, there are ways to boost visibility that don’t cost a dime. Most of these fall into the category of search engine optimization, more commonly called “SEO.”
Simply put, SEO is a collection of strategies for increasing your website’s prominence in search. When a user enters a term, phrase or question in their web browser’s search bar, the search engine combs the Internet for content most relevant to that query. The aim of SEO is to improve the odds of search engines choosing your content over others’.
SEO may be free, but it’s not easy—there are a lot of rules and they’re constantly evolving, so you’ll need to invest a good amount of time and focus into proper execution. Here are a few aspects of SEO you’ll need to address:
Like a physical building, every website has a skeletal framework that underpins its visible elements, and this framework plays an important role when it comes to search. Back-end HTML, link structure and even the composition of URLs can affect search engines’ ability to index your site. By getting these right during your site’s construction, you’ll already be ahead of the game before you start adding content.
Content like articles and images are key features of any website, but they also influence SEO. Besides having plenty of well-written, keyword-laden copy, it’s important to add alt-text to images and other elements that search engines are otherwise unable to index. However, you don’t want to overdo it (keyword stuffers never prosper), so be sure to follow best practices when adding content to your site.
It’s often said that the key to success is not what you know but who you know, yet few business owners realize this also pertains to the web. While the “what” (content) is certainly important, another valuable SEO tool is building connections with other websites, aka link building. When a prominent organization (The New York Times or a government agency, for example) links to an article or image on your site, you’ll get a boost in search purely by association.
Any site traffic is helpful, but if you’re getting more hits in Japan than in your local service area, it won’t do you much good. That’s why it’s important to infuse your site with information that will increase its relevance to local search queries. In particular, your NAP (name, address and phone number) is a key ranking factor for Google and should be consistent wherever it appears, including your website and local directory listings.
Since each of these aspects involves more than can be addressed in a paragraph, we’ll spend the next few installments exploring these in greater detail. By increasing your familiarity with SEO best practices, we hope to give you a new set of tools for your online marketing toolbox.
To read more of James Florence's work, check out his blog posts for diamondcertified.org.
Read other entries in our SEO for SMBs series.