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Search Engine Optimization or SEO. While many businesses may have an idea of what it is, they may not understand how it works or, at least, how to make the most of it for their business. Every business wants to get to the 'top spot' in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. but to do that you have to first understand how SEO works.

Understanding Search Engines

Understanding how search engines work is critical when trying to improve the search ranking of businesses. Without this understanding it is primarily a guessing game and businesses need their SEO strategy to be based on knowledge, not a guess.

Crawling: To begin the process, search engines do what is referred to as Crawling, which does just what it sounds like - it crawls across all the information on the Internet and locates new or updated sites and information. Using Google as an example, they have an enormous set of computers that handles the search portion of their function which is called the Googlebot. By using those infamous Google algorithms, Googlebot "crawls" through all of the data across all of the Internet looking for sites, data and information that was not there previously.

Indexing: When Googlebot compiles all the new words, sites and information that it found during its "crawl", along with the pages where that information was found, it is called Indexing. It is during indexing that things like title tags are processed and compiled as well.

Serving Results: When someone goes onto Google, or any search engine for that matter, and enters keywords to conduct a search, the search engine will then locate all the pages that have the words that were entered into the search and pull out the pages and/or sites that are the most relevant to those keywords. The more relevant the page content is to the words in the search, the higher up in the results that page will be displayed, otherwise known as page ranking. This function also uses the predetermined algorithms as a part of its final determinations.

Now that you understand a little more about how a search engine crawls a business website, it is time to start working on creating a website that will appeal to the search engines.

When you take into consideration the mass of information that search engines are sifting through across the Internet it should make you realize even more why an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and content strategy are so important.

What To Include In The SEO Strategy

  • Keyword Research - using words from the business's niche market as well as for the industry and target audience
  • Content that is optimized, client-focused and helpful, not just marketing-based
  • Optimized pages and posts

Start With Keyword Research

This is where strategy should begin. Find out what keywords customers and potential customers are going to input when they are looking for a business's product or service. Thankfully there are a number of things that can assist with this.

Online Keyword Research Tools

Social Media - see what people are talking about on social media about the business's niche.

The customer service and sales staff - they are on the front lines of any business and have the most direct interaction with customers. They can provide the questions customers are asking or items they are most looking for.

Customers - while the sales and customer service staff interact with customers daily, make a direct connection with them as well to find out their needs or any problems a business's product or service can solve.

Create Content That Readers Can Trust (And Feeds The Search Engines)

People go to businesses they can trust and that can help them. One way to create trust is by becoming a thought leader in the industry through creating content that is relevant to the reader and something they would actually search for on Google (Ex: How to SEO a blog post).

Content Ideas

  • Blogging on "how to" topics
  • Creating FAQs pages/posts
  • Resource pages for specific geographic areas

You'll want to make sure to use keywords within the content which should already be part of a business's local SEO strategy. Be sure to check any old posts on the site and ensure they have been optimized and, if not, change them.

To keep website visitors on the site, each page or post should also include at least one link to another page within your site to keep them moving throughout.

In addition to creating SEO focused content, it is also necessary to optimize title tags, image names and image descriptions. Even though these are not visible to website visitors, this information is important to search engines as the information is indexed as they crawl the site.

I realize that this seems like a lot to do, but remember, the search engines are crawling every piece of information on the Internet and a business needs to be optimized to stay relevant in search results.

The SEO strategies outlined here, when implemented, will increase site optimization, attract more visitors, and keep those visitors on a site longer. All of which is what is needed to move the rankings higher on search results.

* Lead image adapted from mendhak