SEO for Dummies

I follow a lot of really cool blogs about Search Engine Optimization, I can’t say I read them all but I try to.  It’s my job to do that.  I don’t expect you to do the same.  My job is to know about SEO for when you have a question, or God willing need my help.  I’ve been in business in San Antonio for under a year, but I’ve been blessed by tapping into various communities who change me practically every day.

Today I was sitting down at Week 2 of a new Camp Sanera class.  @AliciaSanera asked me to come by and share how I’d grown personally, and I was happy to meet the new class.  Afterwards a few of us stayed behind and were talking about SEO, and how most people, including I’m sure some of you reading this, are completely clueless as to what SEO is, how it actually works and when it is necessary.

The problem is your average SEO is a crook.  Makes my life harder, because I’m always doing damage control for the lies spread by other SEOs.  I’m not perfect, sometimes I reach for goals that are unreasonable, but I’d like to think I’m very honest about what is possible, but also what I’d like to achieve.

My new buddy Mani Karthik wrote a blog titled “5 Ways to find out if an SEO is lying to you“.  He touched on some really sad realities within the Search Engine Optimization community.  So let’s talk about some of these things, do you really need SEO?  What is SEO going to provide you?

How does SEO Work?  What is it? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  Different people will define it differently, but I’ll define it as being aware of trends and tactics to create web content that will place highly on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.  SEO works by targeting the keywords people use to find content on Google.  One of my keywords for Image Freedom is “San Antonio SEO” so often on my site you’ll see images titled “San Antonio SEO” or that phrase placed in my content (like in this blog, shameless).

When targeting a keyword, you want to be aware of two things.  #1) Is this a keyword people will ACTUALLY search for, and #2) can I place this keyword in a way that won’t look out of place or obstruct a users experience reading my content?  Number one, take the keyword you want to target and log over to The Google Keyword Tool which I talk about a lot.  Type in your keyword and you’ll get results like this.

I used the Keyword Tool to search for "San Antonio SEO"

I used the Keyword Tool to search for "San Antonio SEO"

The graphic here shows that there are 1,300 searches each month for “San Antonio SEO” which isn’t a whole lot but is enough that it’ll make the phone ring if I’m the one that comes up on Google when a company is interested in SEO.  For most businesses, you’ll want to go after keywords with more search volume, but sometimes the keyword you come up #1 for is easy to do because it only gets a few searches a month.  The more search volume a keyword gets, the most potential value that keyword has.

Does that make sense?  The more people who are interested in “San Antonio SEO”, in my case, the more potential visitors to my site are out there.  So if I can rank really high for a keyword with tens of thousands of monthly searches, my web site traffic is going to spike because so many people will be seeing my site.

Secondly, you want to place your keywords on your site in a way that doesn’t obstruct the user experience.  If I’ve learned anything from my six weeks in Camp Sanera it’s that user experience is everything.  This is where design comes in and your web site needs to be setup as easy as possible, so you don’t make the user work for what they want to find, and don’t pack each line with so many keywords that it becomes unreadable.

“San Antonio SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEO San Antonio, Web Design, Internet Marketing, Experts”
OR
San Antonio’s SEO Marketing Solution. No hidden costs. No drama. Just the web design your business has always deserved.”

Which line speaks to you more?  Do you want a list of keywords, or do you want an honest statement?  See how my description still targeted my keyword, but did so in a content driven way?  I’m from the camp that you don’t insult your user by cramming so many keywords into a paragraph that it becomes unreadable.  That will cost me business, guaranteed, but I’m not going to do that for you, so why should I do it myself?

What are backlinks?  Why do links matter? Besides putting keywords on your site, and naming things with keywords in mind, you want to also build links to your web site.  Why does it matter if people link to you?  The way this works, is Google is asking other web sites if they’ve heard of any cool sites worth visiting, and most webmasters wouldn’t link to a site unless they liked the content, the design, or SOMETHING offered by that site.  So when Google visits and sees that you are linking to someone, they check that person out and you’re basically giving that other site your seal of approval.  You have just created a backlink.

The more backlinks you have the higher you typically rank on Google.  Sites like mine with hundreds of backlinks might have a PageRank of 3 or 4, where sites with 10,000 easily have a 5 or a 6 PageRank.  There is also a relevance factor to these links, you want to be linked to by sites that are related to your business or your blog.  So if you sell Tennis Balls, consider building relationships with a Tennis Racket or Tennis Shoe company because a link from those sites is going to be more valuable than a link from, say, a Tire Company.

I can’t afford an SEO consultant, what can I do? The cheapest way to build your SEO is to create awesome content.  Be authentic, be genuine, be yourself and share honestly with the world.  Marketing messages don’t work anymore, the second you tell me what to think, I’ve already tuned you out and am probably off playing Peggle on my iPhone.  If you build relationships with your web site you can reach a much higher potential than if you stick to “HOLY CRAP BUY THIS” methods of advertising.

Did you learn anything?  Awesome!  I’ve got some homework for you:

#1) Consider Blogging: If you had to write 5 blog articles about your business or your web site, what would you blog about?  Take those ideas and put them into The Google Keyword Tool and see if any of those topics get a lot of search traffic.

#2) Admire the Competition: If you have competing businesses that are getting the kind of sales you’d like to achieve, take a look at their web site.  Is it obvious what that site is about?  Is it easy to find a map, a phone number, a product?  Could your web site do this better?  How could you stand out next to their web site?

#3) Oodles of Backlinks: What web sites out there would link to you?  Are you a member of an organization that would link to your business?  Have you donated money to an organization that might spotlight your service?  How could you generate references of your business out on the web?

My goal is to make SEO accessible to everyone and hopefully by educating folks on what is out there, it’ll be a lot harder for you or your friends to be taken advantage of by shady SEO’s promising the stars.  Comments and questions appreciated!