Understanding SEO: A Guide for Small Business Owners

by | Jun 27, 2019 | Business Feature

In the early 1990s, the United States was home to about 20 million small businesses. Not one of them spent anything on “SEO.” Today, the number is more like 30 million, and SEO is an essential expense. Things have changed fast. That’s part of the reason that SEO can be confusing to some small business owners. Below, we’ll try to demystify it and show you why your business can’t afford to skimp on SEO and digital marketing.

Why SEO matters

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This means SEO experts try to make your online presence as appealing as possible to search engines. Why?

Because, today, search engines are the single most important source of customers for many types of businesses. Even if your small business doesn’t live online, and even if you’re on a busy corner of Main Street, you can bet that a huge chunk of your customers and potential customers are using search engines to get directions to the nearest business like yours. And if you’re not showing up in those search results, your customers are going to follow their Google Maps apps straight through your competitors’ doors.

It’s hard to understate just how big of a deal Google and the other search engines are. Google fields billions of searches a day, on all kinds of topics. There are millions using Google to find World Cup scores and DIY instructions, but there are also some people out there using Google to find your business and its services. You need those people to find you.

How SEO works

Google search results pages are the new Yellow Pages. They’re where customers find your business. So how can you get up into the top spots on those search engine results pages? That’s what SEO is all about.

Let’s get back to that full term “search engine optimization.” What we’re optimizing in SEO is not the search engine; the search engine is what we’re optimizing for. We want Google to find our site, be able to read it, and consider it an excellent answer to customer queries. So if you run an auto shop, you want people who Google “auto repair nearby” to get your business as a result.

You have a lot of ways to improve Google’s view of your site, the SEO experts at LinkGraph explain. Among the most important is building out links. Google’s search engine “spiders” (programs that Google and other search engines use to explore the web and catalog the sites they find) move from site to site on links, and they don’t forget what they’ve seen. The more links going to your auto shop website with “auto repair” in the linked text, the more Google will be sure that you are offering auto repair. And the better the origins of those links (that is, the more that come from reputable websites as opposed to no-name internet backwaters), the more respected Google will assume your site is. That’s the sort of thing that moves you up the search engine results page.

It’s not just what other sites write in links that matters, of course. The text on your own site is critical, too. Google will be far more likely to provide your site as an option for people searching “auto repair” if you have the words “auto repair” on the site. Associated terms can help, too; and you should remember that some people will search for “car repair” or “auto maintenance” instead. Getting the right keywords in the right proportion is part of the art and the science of SEO.

If all of this sounds a little complicated, it’s because it is. But this doesn’t mean that you should feel overwhelmed. All you need to do is to be smart about outsourcing quality SEO work to a firm that specializes in SEO and digital marketing. Do that, and your business will reach more customers.

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