Recently I have gotten a lot of questions from business owners. They typically ask “What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? And why do I need it when my site is cool enough?” So I began a very simple process or set of canned responses. Some might seem harsh, but more often than not, they are true.
- Do you think having a cool, easy to navigate site is enough? – It isn’t
- Do you think developing a list of keywords YOU think are important is enough? – It isn’t
- Do you think that just getting 5 sites linking to yours like Yellowpages.com is enough? – It isn’t
- Do you think that Social Media is just for telling friends about your company? – It isn’t
- Do you think that the information you created 3 years ago is enough? – It isn’t
After they a) remember that they reached out to me because their position was bad on search engines, and b) suddenly they feel the tunnel of their perception of their site closing quickly around them, I bring them back to reality. Everyone of the items I just attacked about a site poorly positioned on web search engines is correctable, and typically without much effort. It is a syndrome that many small business owners have, and actually it is quite normal for large companies. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be in the field of Search Engine Optimization. I like to call it the “Egocentric Site Syndrome”.
Many times small business owners feel that they know exactly what they want in their site. They know exactly the content they need, and the words they will use… because they are the experts! They and They alone are the central (Egocentric) producer of the information for their site and the web designers couldn’t possibly know anything about their core business. But what they don’t realize is that experts talk much differently than novices, and likely people who are your future customers know nothing about what you do, or who you are. They aren’t looking for your Company name, they are more generic. They generally speak differently.
One thing that does distinguish users is the difference between a novice search user and an expert user of search. Novice users typically type queries in natural language while expert users use keyword searches. A great example of this is seen in Marissa Mayer’s keynote from a 2007 Google Scalability Conference and looks at just the words in a query.
- NOVICE QUERY: Why doesn’t anyone carry an umbrella in Seattle?
EXPERT QUERY: weather seattle washington
- NOVICE QUERY: Can I hike in the Seattle area?
EXPERT QUERY: hike seattle are
You can see that just the typical language used impacts what content you should type on a page. For instance if you sell umbrellas in Seattle… use the exact question on your page!
Social media, for many small business owners, is a fad used by the youngsters that they don’t need to worry about. They don’t know how to leverage it, or at least effectively. The numbers prove themselves, and it is growing faster than most know. Additionally with the growth of the core social media platforms, plugins and add-on tools are increasing. Take a simple WordPress site (like this) and with a single plugin you can ensure that every change gets posted to your Facebook page, to your Twitter account, and to almost any other social engine. With this Google and other search engines also increase your ranking. Plus they are mostly free! THat is like getting 500 advertisements on the place-mats in the local dinner for free! Additionally the market isn’t the 100+ people who might visit the dinner in a month but BILLIONS of people.
So to summarize it SEO is the art of gaining top ranking in search results for search terms that are likely used by audiences that the business owner are interested in by:
- Refining a websites content
- Refining a websites structure
- Adjusting or improving the websites technology
- Marketing of the website through Search Engine Marketing, and Social Media channels.
By simply realizing that as a business owner they are experts (and yes this typically pumps the ego a little) but that their site isn’t meant (in most cases) for the expert they have taken the first step in making their site more searchable.
Remember, it used to be that in business it was “Location, Location, Location”, but this is an antiquated statement. Now it is “Placement, Placement, Placement”!