What is SEO? Is it important?

The last few years have given us a whole host of buzzwords, especially surrounding internet marketing. One of those is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

According to Wikipedia, “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the ‘natural’ or un-paid (‘organic‘ or ‘algorithmic’) search results.”

Techniques for achieving better rankings have evolved and dirty tricks like stuffing keywords into the HTML don’t work as well anymore. However, local, independent and small businesses still have trouble competing with huge national retailers for top results in basic searches like “restaurant”, “shoes” or “salon”. So is there anything that can be done?

Absolutely. A few simple steps can make your website or other online presence rank higher. A few easy tips:

  1. Use the title and description tags on your website to the best effect. This is what potential customers will see first and it should be clear and targeted.
  2. Create some benefit on your site – you can’t simply have a digital brochure. Find some way to be interactive and provide benefit.
  3. Use keywords in the text of your site frequently and with different variations, but in a way that feels natural. Include your region, city and state for local searches.

This is an industry that can’t be boiled down to one post, and I do not claim to be an expert, so I thought I’d direct you to some interesting videos that explain what to do. If you want results, it will benefit you to spend an hour or so digging around on the internet to find tutorials. Start with these and then look at the recommended links. Experiment, keep learning and soon you’ll be your own expert!

This first video is an interview with Matt Cutts, one of the engineers at Google that creates those algorithms to pull up the most relevant sites for the searcher. You’ll find him all over YouTube explaining Google’s rationale, plans, experiences and recommendations. The video is a couple years old, but is just as relevant as ever.

Here is another shorter video (about 5 minutes) with more tips from Matt Cutts, including how blogs can help create links to your website and keep content fresh for the search engines.

Are you wondering if this is even worth your time? Is this something I need to worry about in five years time? See Cutts’ answer:

And if you want access to more official Google help for webmasters check out their Google Webmaster YouTube channel.

Question for the comments: What have you done to improve your rankings? Have you seen any success? What search terms do you target?

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