By now, we all get it: Search engine optimization is really, really important. Like those who refused to buy cell phones until they were the last one standing (standing somewhere alone, where no one could reach them), even the most reluctant of small business owners are now realizing they can't just throw a website up and wait for customers to find them. Making an SEO effort is as necessary as the website itself.
The upside is that many people find SEO pretty fun. Look! You changed a few keywords and suddenly your website numbers jumped! And more sales came in! Ok, it’s not that easy but a few small changes can make a big difference.
What can you do to get more results?
The answer is 'everything.' As a small business owner you could spend all day every day updating your site, adding links, changing content, working with Adwords and doing a ton of other things. But while you’re doing that, who will service all of the customers coming in the door? Who knows? You're too busy working on your website.
SEO requires moderation. Not only are your time and your website's readability at stake, but it’s possible to over-optimize your site.
'At this year's South by Southwest festival, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts hinted that such a penalty would weed out sites that focus too much on SEO and too little on providing a quality experience for their users,' writes AJ Kumar for Entrepreneur.com's Daily Dose Blog. '[J]ust when you might feel like you're starting to get the hang of this SEO thing, it appears that search giant Google might start penalizing websites that are over-optimized.'
Don't let your optimization efforts go to waste. They key to balancing your time spent on SEO is moderating the time itself, as well as the content for readability.
How do you know which SEO techniques to concentrate on? According to Kelly Gillease of Search Engine Land, the secret is to follow the money.
'Spending your time focused on tasks that will directly drive revenue for the organization is job one,' she says. 'Routine search marketing efforts like adding new keywords or AdGroups and raising bids are core search marketing that drives revenue growth. Improving click-through rates and quality scores also drive better results and more revenue.”
Gillease also recommends organic techniques like link building and improving page content to increase traffic as two front-line priorities for SEO.
Your headlines, or what you name the pages and articles on your website, can have a huge impact on how many readers find your content. But just because Google likes a headline, doesn't mean a human will.
As Jonathan Rick writes for Mashable Business, some sites are famous for crafting headlines for SEO, such as the infamous Huffington Post article titled “What Time Is the Super Bowl?”
'In protest,' says Rick, 'writers for publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Atlantic each took turns slugging the SEO punching bag. The headlines describe their complaint: 'Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.' 'This Boring Headline Is Written for Google.' 'Google Doesn’t Laugh: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO.'”
To avoid inhuman content -- both in headlines and in text — Rick recommends blending creativity with SEO.
'The idea is to craft headlines that are both self-explanatory and catchy,' he writes. Also, 'for those looking to wring every drop of SEO juice out of every article, there’s a fourth arrow in your quiver: the meta description. It is from here that Google often pulls the two-line 'snippet' displayed for each webpage.'
By its very nature the world of SEO is ever-changing. But by taking a balanced approach to process, you can still keep up without overdoing it.
Interested in learning more about SEO? Check out these great resources: