My Nanna turned 90 recently and my mother wanted to track down a piece of sheet music of a song that my Grand Dad used to play and sing to her in the 1930s. The song was called “I miss a little Miss”. My mother had searched music shops high and low for it but to no avail. After much searching online I found a copy for sale in an antique store in Minnesota. I bought it for $20 USD and it was delivered to me within a month. Soon after, I was in Daylesford in central Victoria. I walked into an antiques and collectibles store and there, hanging on the wall, was the exact same sheet of music selling for $4. If that shop had a website that could be found in the search engines, they would have had my sale. This is an example of how any business can benefit from the Internet providing that they can be found. All the Daylesford shop had to do is write a couple of sentences about any new stock item that they received and post it onto their website. Then if they followed the principles outlined below, the Daylesford shop could have established their brand and secured a loyal customer.
Since Google began operating in 1998 it has dominated the search engine industry. It has become so popular with Internet users that it has even become a verb – “just Google it”.
So many businesses spend thousands of dollars on their websites but then have no idea if search engines or for that matter whether their potential customers will ever find them.
Why is it important to be found in search engines?
According to analysis firm Jupiter Research, one of the world’s largest Internet business research firms, 85% of all website traffic is generated by search engines. So if you are not being found in the search engines you are missing out on 85% of your potential customers.
How does it work?
In the pre-Google days one of the main reasons that sites did not get found was because the search engines didn’t update their databases that frequently. Most of the search engines now update their records hourly. It used to take months to see any result from optimising a client’s web site, however these days I have seen some sites skyrocket to the top of the rankings, in a matter of hours.
One of the most cost effective ways to increase traffic to your website is to make sure it is developed and maintained in a way that makes sense to the search engines as well as the people that use it.
Search engines have “bots”. No it is not some sort of incurable disease. A bot is short for robot. Sometimes you will also hear these referred to as search engine “spiders”. A bot is software that automatically crawls over the web from link to link and indexes what it finds. If your site is unreadable to the bot it ignores it. The search engines place importance on things like headings, page titles, frequency of certain words, known as key words and whether some words are in bold or not. It also analyses your links on the site.
I have known some clients who have been in the search engines on page 4 or 5 of the results. This is not as bad as not being in the results at all…. but it is not much better. To get people to see you, your site at least needs to be in the first or second page of results and preferably be in the top five or six on the first page.
Key phrases– know your customer
A key word is a single word that someone types into a search engine. A key phrase is a combination of words that are typed into a search engine. Knowing what your potential customer will be typing into the search engines is crucial to them finding you. If someone is searching for “golf clubs” they may also be interested in other “sporting equipment” or “sport magazines” or “Tiger Woods” and just because one person types in “golf clubs” someone else may type in “golf gear”. Having a website that targets related keywords as well as the obvious keywords is essential for getting ahead of your online competition.
So what happens if you and your competition have sites that are targeting identical key words? Which one will get listed first? Assuming everything else about the sites is equal, in the case of Google it comes down to “Page Rank”. Google ranks pages on how important it thinks they are.
Google gives a page a score out of ten. 4/10 is ok, 6/10 is very good and 8/10 is excellent. Evenwww.google.com.au is only 5/10 so don’t feel bad if yours is low! One of the main ways that Google calculates Page Rank is by assessing how many sites link to yours. One of the main considerations in any search engine marketing strategy should be to set up quality links back to your site. When you do get someone else to link to your site get your keywords in the link not your web address. For instance if I wanted to rank for SEO Melbourne I would link the words SEO Melbourne back to my site.
Search Engine Marketing
So now you have decided to raise your online profile, who do you get to help you? Sometimes web developers may have an in house Search Engine Marketer, however keep in mind that this exercise is one of marketing not website building. So you need a company that understands both marketing and search engines. For instance there are plenty of websites out there with lots of traffic but they have very few sales. Marketing to the right customer is more effective than the “shotgun” approach.
Checklist for growing your business online.
Keyword research – discuss with your customers, staff and management what words they would type into a search engine if they were looking for product & services likes yours. Remember to think laterally.
Don’t let your site get ignored. Make sure it is search engine friendly. This achieved by having it structured correctly.
Once you are happy that the structure is right, the site then gets populated with your chosen keywords.
The search engines will now find you but in order to appear ahead of your competition you need to establish a strong network of links with other sites.
If all of the above is overwhelming to you then call in a professional.
If your business has a product or service that it can sell online then effective search engine marketing is a sure way to drive traffic to your site and increase sales.