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Plumbing the Mysteries of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical element in successful electronic marketing, but frankly, to a tech spastic like me, it’s always been borderline witchcraft. Soooo, as on other occasions when faced with an important topic that I’m still learning about, I‘ve called upon an expert to sit in for a “guest” column in this space so readers won’t be deprived of at least the necessary basics. As with most aspects of electronic marketing, however, SEO is a moving target – not the least because Google wants it that way – so you’ll want to explore further, hopefully with Biz Buzz providing some initial direction. Without further ado, therefore, here’s some helpful direction on SEO from Bill Smith, President of Inhaus Media. Take it away, Bill!…

Search Engine Optimization:  How to Turn a Sea of Choices into a Puddle of Choices

As I drive through Peterborough around election time, I am barraged by dozens of political candidate signs everywhere I turn. The island in the circle at Shaws has become a sea of signs. How does this assault on the senses really work? Is the most colorful, the simplest, the boldest, or the quantity of a particular sign that gets attention? Probably none of those factors. The sign that gets the most attention is the strategically placed sign, the one with the best position. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works much the same way. Imagine your website is one of those political election signs and the driver of the car is someone searching the web. How can you position your website so they see it first? You’re not paying money to reserve your position on the medium in the circle (that would be paid advertising), you’re strategically placing it in front of people in a natural, grass-roots way. This is SEO and here’s how it works.

How Does Google’s Search Engine Work? Beuler?…Anyone?

In simple terms, you have a website and Google has a search engine that people use to find websites. Here’s the catch, Google doesn’t search the web. You heard me correctly. Google doesn’t ‘search’ the web, they ‘index’ the web and store millions upon millions of pages on hundreds of giant computers and when you key in a request, they search their own database. SEO is the art of getting your web pages found and indexed by Google and then to rise above the rest. To come up first position when your keywords are triggered.

Google is constantly sending out spiders (snippets of robotic code) that crawl the web looking for pages to index. Once they find them (if they find them), they store them, and wait for a search to happen. Along comes someone who would like to find something they’re interested in so they type in their keywords into Google’s search engine….tap,tap,tap…. “pizza-peterborough-nh”.  I know from working in Peterborough, that there are at least 7 different restaurants in this tiny town that offer pizza as a main dish. Who is going to come out on top of the search? How does a search engine determine the ranking? The answer is that Google asks over 250 questions for each search and based on these questions it will rank the results in order of importance. We don’t know exactly what all of those questions are but we do know some of them and we know they are relevant to the keywords that were just typed. Are these keywords all on the same page?  Do these keywords appear in the URL of a site or in the title of a page or both? Are the keywords in the first paragraph of the page? How close to the beginning of the paragraph? These are all questions that help Google sort out the importance of the content it is blindly searching in its database. As more questions are asked, the results begin to narrow and now Google is asking questions like…how many other sites link to this site? Are these other sites important and relevant sites? How fresh is the content I’m looking at?

Getting Your Site Indexed

Google will, sooner or later, find your site all on its own, but you can speed up the process by submitting your site directly to Google (and/or any of the other Search Engines) to be indexed. Their little robotic spiders will crawl onto your home page first so this is where you should put all of your business’s vital information. They will then look for ways to get to the rest of your site. If you don’t make this part easy, they won’t try too hard and stop right at your home page. Keep your navigation clean, your links from the home page clear and descriptive, and always provide a site map. The spiders will get into every nook and cranny of your site and index every page back to Google.

Who Likes to “Eat Fresh” More Than Subway? Search Engines, That’s Who

To jump onto another wonderful SEO analogy, fresh pizza is better than stale pizza. Keep your site’s content fresh and relevant and you’ll have a much better chance of pleasing the search gods. Do your own research on your site and your market. Find out what keywords people are using to get to your site or others like yours. Are you using those keywords on the pages you would most like people to visit? Take those keywords and add to them to make them more detailed and unique, by doing this you’ve narrowed the search results and, by default, raised your rank or position in the findings. Instead of just adding “Pizza, Peterborough, NH” to your content, add “Peterborough’s best fresh wood fired pizza takeout” – Google will like the extra descriptors. You’ve increased your possibilities and narrowed the results at the same time. I must now stop the analogies and the salivating.

Search Engine Optimization is a vital part of your online presence. Without an aggressive SEO strategy you might never be seen, like putting a billboard in the desert…..oops there I go again.

Bill Smith is the President of InHaus Media in Peterborough and can be reached at 603.924.9400 or by emailing info@inhausmedia.com.

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