Question: Everyone told me I needed a website for my business. So, I had one built, but no one visits it. What am I doing wrong?
Answer: In the early days of the World Wide Web, just putting up a website was enough, as there were only a few thousand web pages out there. Nowadays, with over 30 billion websites online, you need to do more to attract traffic. SEO is one technique.
Jon Rognerud, in his book, The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization (2011), says, “Search engine optimization is the process of making your website more accessible or visible to search engines via tactics that involve on-page (text, code, links) and off-page (external link development) activities. The goal of optimization is to have the spiders not only find your site and pages but also specifically rank the page relevance..” (page 27). The spiders that Jon mentions are from the search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.
In other words, search engine optimization (SEO) can be described as building a roadmap from the search engines to your website so that people can find your product or service based on the keywords they type into the search engines. A search engine is basically an information retrieval tool. These tools send out spiders on the Web to index websites and store them in their databases.
Think about it. When people use a search engine, they are looking for keywords, not the name of your business. As an example, someone would type in “car detailing Boston”, not “Frank’s carwash”. SEO is used to alert the spiders that a specific website contains the specific keywords, as well as a geographic location.
There are a number of steps in the SEO process. The three most important ones are: keyword research, page optimization, and metadata. The first step is keyword research. Often the owner of the business does not realize what keywords the potential customer will be using. The technical terms the owner uses are not the same terms the public uses. Research is used to discover what words are being used to search for similar businesses, and where those keywords should appear on the website as well as in the HTML code. Often, the competition’s websites will be checked for what keywords they use as well.
Once the keywords are established, the website itself is checked to make sure it is as user-friendly and search engine friendly as possible. This includes making sure the navigation works, checking that all the inner links work, proofreading, and a number of other aspects of the website. If changes need to be made, the owner is alerted and recommendations are made for changes.
Finally the metadata needs to be built. This term refers to what are known as the meta-tags in the code of the website. Each page needs to have its own title tag, and a description. The search engines use the description tag as the snippet of information that appears in their results.
Once all changes are made and the metadata added, the website can then be submitted to the most important search engines and directories. Google indexes websites and a specific website can take up to three months to appear, so the website will not appear in Google the next day. Not everyone submits websites, many just wait for the engines to find it on their own.
Many people want a guarantee that their website will show up in the top 10 results of the engines. Due to the many, many factors that the search engines use to rank websites, the top 10 cannot be guaranteed. If anyone says they can guarantee this, run the other way as fast as possible.