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Do you know what Search Engine Optimization is? Here's a hint: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has played a part in every Google search you've ever done. More likely than not, SEO is why you chose one business over another, or why you clicked on a certain link. It makes search engines work for you!
In case you've never heard of SEO, here it is in a nutshell: Search Engine Optimization is a way to leverage several features on your website in order to raise your rank on searches. That means whenever someone types in keywords that have to do with your product or service, they will have a better chance of coming to you instead of your competitors. These features can include:

  • URL or web address
  • Website meta tags
  • Page content
  • Number of pages
  • Inbound links
  • Blog post content
  • Blog post headlines and tags
  • Alt-tags on photos and graphics
  • Off-site URL usage such as comments on other websites
However, it's not as easy as simply typing your company name or sales pitches over and over again. Believe it or not, there is a method to SEO madness. Luckily, there are plenty of professionals and tools out there to help you get as high as possible on a search results page.

Use white hat techniques to bring your page to the forefront

One important thing to remember about SEO is the same thing as they say in real estate – location, location, location. We've seen this be forgotten far too many times by local clients. For example, let's say Neil owns a store that sells cell phones and wants his website to bring customers into his store. He might say that since he's in the cell phone business, his main keyword should be "cell phone". And, to a certain extent, that's true. After all, lots of web copy about puppies or silverware probably wouldn't get the hits he needed. But, it's also just as true, and safe enough to assume even without checking Google, that there are maybe just a few companies out there who have larger web presences than Neil's House of Cell Phones. Using just "cell phones", he's never going to get to the top of that list. It's not only because huge phone companies have the lock on SEO for cell phones. It's because, if someone is looking for a cell phone store close to where they live or work, they're probably not going to type in "cell phones" on Google. They're going to include a postal code, or city name, or neighborhood moniker. They may also add a make or model number of a specific cell phone, or maybe a brand name. Maybe they want to find a store that's open late on Thursdays, or all day on Sunday. Or they could be looking for a cell phone store because they need advice or a repair or accessory. These are things where the big brands can't touch Neil. If he plays his SEO cards right, he could be the number one result for these searches. But many business owners don't see the Internet this way – they see it as worldwide, and think they can make worldwide SEO work for them. Not gonna happen. Another mistake people make is to use the keywords they think are important. Now, there's no doubt that you know your business well. But you know it from a completely different point of view than a potential customer who is surfing the web to find you. You have to get into not only the mind of that customer, but their search habits as well. Again, this is where SEO professionals and web tools can help – especially when it comes to businesses that are exclusively online. Say you have an online diet business. Your company's mission is to teach women how to lose weight in a healthy way, over a long period of time, by changing their eating habits as a whole. Guess what? No one is going to come to your site if your keywords involve those things. That's because the top 150 keywords and keyword phrases for dieting are about losing weight quickly and easily. Now, does that mean that you have to change your business model to reflect these search terms? No! After all, it's the Internet – someone will always want what you're selling. But first, you have to get them to your site. This is where SEO comes in, particularly where web page content is concerned. An SEO professional would rightly advise you to post several articles using those keywords and keyword phrases, to get people to your site. By now you're wondering how ever will you do that, when those keywords are the opposite of what you're trying to sell? Well, here's the good news – as long as your posts are on topic, thoughtfully written and contain good content, it doesn't matter how those keywords get in there. So you could write "lose 10 pounds in 4 days" a bunch of times in the post – it doesn't matter what your opinion is! You could write that women who lose 10 pounds in 4 days will suffer health problems, or gain it all back, or whatever else it is you believe. You'll still get people coming to your site – and probably changing their minds!

SEO is a useful tool for businesses, when done right.