When you first start a small business, there are dozens of different things you have to think about. From registering and setting up the necessary tax information to ensuring that your prices are at the right level so you are both competitive for your customers but cost-effective for you, setting up a business can be more stressful than actually running it.
On top of all of that, someone mentions “SEO” to you. Search Engine Optimization.
They tell you how important it is to have your website optimized properly so that it receives the highest number of organic visitors as possible. Perhaps your eyes glaze over. Maybe you understand SEO, but think you can’t possibly do it on your own — not with everything else you already have to manage. You begin to look at your budget, trying to figure out how to work in at least several hundred dollars weekly to hire a professional SEO consultant to manage the task for you.
You then realize that it isn’t actually possible and end up going into a decline, thinking that if you can’t afford to hire an SEO professional, you may as well not bother setting up the business as it is never going to get off the ground as there is nothing you could possibly do in regards to SEO yourself. And if you can’t handle SEO, how is anyone in this day and age going to actually find your business online?
Well, that’s not necessarily true.
You must remember that SEO, while being a professional service, is one that doesn’t require anything as advanced as a degree to become competent. It simply requires that you to keep up to date with the latest practices, after you have learned the basics. Most of this information is discussed freely online.
If you are worried about SEO, particularly as you can’t afford a professional company, then take a look at the following five steps as they should be able to provide you with some basic SEO knowledge that you can implement yourself.
1. Keep it simple.
The most important point to keep in mind regarding SEO is that you need to keep everything simple. From the coding that your website is made up of to the design (remember, aesthetics play a part in SEO, too), you have to keep everything as simple as possible.
Search engines look at how easy it is to load and navigate a website and therefore if you have any unnecessary code, text or images included, look at getting rid of them. It may not be the difference between being ranked on the front page of the search engines or not, but it will definitely help in general with improving your overall ranking.
2. Provide for the customer, not the search engine.
This point may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but when you are developing your website and business and are keeping SEO in mind, it is massively important that anything you do is for the customer and not for the search engine.
Several years ago you could fill your website with all of the key terms that you wanted to rank highly for and sooner or later the search engines would realize your website was related heavily to this term and rank it well. This (both unfortunately and thankfully, depending on which way you look at it) is no longer the case today and search engines have evolved, for all intents and purposes, into using more human-like behavior in determining page relevance. Therefore, you will generally see greater success in the search engine rankings by developing your website with the end user in mind and not the search engine itself.
3. Make sure everything works.
Images. Links. Contact forms. RSS feed signups. Everything. Remember, search engines are like humans now, so put yourself in the shoes of one of your customers. If you came to your website and clicked on a link and it was broken, you would rightly be a bit annoyed. Translate this into search engine terms and you will be penalized. Maybe only slightly, but if it happens on a regular basis and with several links on your website, you can expect to see a drop in rankings.
4. Reciprocal linking is not as bad as people make out.
If you were to head to a webmaster forum and ask about reciprocal linking, it is highly likely that you will get a barrage of replies saying that it is the worst thing in the world and if you do it, you may as well take your website offline straight away. Or words to that effect.
The truth is that if you can get a link from another website but it means that you have to give one in return, go for it. The search engines are not necessarily going to penalize you for it (as long as you’re linking to high quality and relevant sites) and it will not have a detrimental effect.
That leads us perfectly into the final point.
5. All links are good.
People will try to tell you that having a link to your website from a directory that also features 100 other links on the same page is a bad thing. They will also try to tell you that you should only have links from websites that are in the same niche or sector as yours and going against these two points will have a detrimental effect on your website.
The truth is, any link is a good link — or at least they’re unlikely to hurt you.
Links on other websites pointing to yours work by showing the search engine that your website is popular, as other websites are linking to it. Therefore, the more links you have, the more popular your website is and the greater ranking it receives.
However, not all links are equal – but none are bad, that’s the important bit. Search engines realize that you don’t always control the incoming links to your site. If they penalized your site for an incoming link, they would facilitating sabotage by your competitors. It’s not in their interest to do it.
Imagine it like this.
The search engine is an empty jug and your website, which sells baby clothes, is a plastic ball at the bottom. Now, website A, which is about clothes for dogs, adds a link on their website to yours, which puts 50 milliliters of water in the jug, raising your website, the plastic ball, by 50 milliliters.
Now, a mother and baby website also links to you, but because the website is in the same baby niche as yours, this time it adds 150 milliliters of water into the jug, making the ball rise more than the link did from the cat and dog website.
The only thing to remember is that each website has its own jug of water that it can distribute amongst all its links, so if a website has 50 links, each will get one fiftieth of the water. If it only has 10 links, however, then each link will get a tenth.
This may be a basic way of explaining things, but it shows how the process works (and also brings a more physical meaning to the term ‘link juice’).