Make Google Work For You

A quick primer on search engine optimization

You’ve undoubtedly googled your business by name. But did you ever search using more general terms for the products and services you offer—like a potential prospect who may not know you yet? If so, was your website listed high in the results? The process of achieving favorable placement for your site is called search engine optimization (SEO).

There are two sides of SEO: on-site and off-site. Both are important to successfully leveraging the power of Google (and other search engines) to drive traffic to your site:

  • On-site: Identifying and implementing carefully chosen keywords and phrases
  • Off-site: Building links from other reputable websites to yours

(You can also ensure prominent placement on search engine results pages through pay-per-click programs like Google AdWords, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)

Keyword Research & Usage
At SPINE, the first step in the SEO process is determining which terms (known as “keywords”) to target. We begin with an exercise with the client to compile a preliminary list. Using research tools, we then assess each keyword based on two factors:

  • Search volume: How often is it being used in Google queries?
  • Competition level: How difficult will it be to rankly highly for this term?

We also look at related terms that may hold value. Based on our findings, we recommend the keywords we believe will offer you the greatest opportunity to increase traffic from people searching for sites like yours.

Finally, we deploy the selected keywords across the site according to best practices. Inserting them into the content is only part of that process. Your target keywords will also influence elements such as site structure and navigation.

Google’s algorithm for generating search results places great value on links from other sites to yours. Inbound links help the search engine gauge the quality and relevance of your website. Quantity certainly counts, but so does quality. The more reputable Google considers a site, the more it can bolster your credibility and domain authority.

There are many approaches to generating inbound links, but they can generally be categorized as either “white hat” (ethical) or “black hat” (unethical). Here are some examples:

  • White hat: Developing high-quality content people want to share, appearing in news articles, getting listed on sites of relevant industry associations
  • Black-hat: Paying owners of other sites to link to yours, using “content farms” (see below)

Content farms are companies that publish large quantities of low-quality content for the sole purpose of embedding links to their clients’ websites. Google has cracked down on content farm sites through algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda, but it’s impossible to eradicate them all.

Beware of black-hat SEO tactics. If Google identifies and punishes a content farm site that links to yours, it’ll hurt your search engine rankings. Your brand can even suffer, as the material that many content farms publish is so poorly written it’s often nonsensical.

Getting Started
This is hardly a comprehensive guide to SEO, which has grown into an entire industry. There are entire companies devoted to helping clients appear higher in search engine results. That said, there are ways to improve your rankings that are less resource-intensive than engaging the services of a dedicated SEO firm. Which approach is right for you? Depending on the nature of your business, SEO can be vital to your advertising and lead generation efforts—or a complementary component.

If you’d like to discuss SEO strategies for your business, please get in touch.