Almost everyone with a website has heard about search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly does that mean, and why should you care? According to Thomas Holland, president of the online marketing agency The Dark Horse Group, SEO is the process and strategy websites use to rank high in search engine results for specific terms. “It includes, not only things a website can do internally to improve its ranking, but also externally on other websites. We consider SEO to be a subset of tactics of search engine marketing (SEM), which focuses more on the actual marketing of a website.”

SEO can dramatically impact a business, notes Holland, but there are many common myths that lead to misunderstanding and less impact.

Myth: Ranking high equals more business.
Reality: Ranking high equals more traffic—not necessarily more business.

Myth: The benefits of good SEO occur immediately.
Reality: The benefits of good SEO take time (months or even years) to have lasting impact.

Myth: Changing text on pages and in URLs will deliver a significant SEO effect.
Reality: Not only is this not true, but it can have a devastating impact on a small business with decreased traffic and broken links.

Two simple tips to get you started:

Use key words where it counts

It’s important to rank high for your brand name, so you should have a clear understanding of what you offer and use the most appropriate keywords to target your audience. What are the right key words? Ask yourself: What products and services do I sell? Also, conduct some simple research by testing keywords in the major search engines to evaluate what terms your competitors are using, as well as identifying which ones best fit your business goals.

Content is king

Producing consistent and high-quality website or blog content based on products, services or other relevant information is an effective strategy. But be mindful not to sacrifice useful information and customer experience for too much emphasis on keywords or overcomplicating your site. (An added benefit to maintaining great content is improved customer engagement and increased brand identity!)

Above all, notes Holland, remember that SEO is a tactic, not a top-level strategy for driving traffic to your website. “As a small business owner, you need to think about how you can use SEO to complement your existing marketing and sales strategies, and not think of SEO as a replacement for these!”


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