In today’s market, many customers no longer rely on conventional advertising to find solutions to their various needs. The prevalence of search engines like Google has streamlined the process of pre-purchase research, giving users immediate access to the most informative, accurate answers to the questions they ask.
Because search engines have refined their methods of searching so well, marketers have to put their full effort into making sure their online marketing content appears as high as possible on a list of search results. This practice is called search engine optimization, or SEO.
Search engines list their results in order of what their algorithm determines to be the most relevant info. The first result is typically paid-for sponsored content, but after that it comes down to popularity and relevance, meaning the results are a very organic representation of what similar searches have led to in the past. SEO takes advantage of how the search engines and people operate when they need a question answered.
The key to SEO: Words, words, words
It may seem difficult to crack into the top listings of search results, but when good SEO practices are used, it becomes a much less daunting task. Perhaps the most important practice is the use of keywords - common words that apply to your content that people will most likely use when they search for your topic.
Once upon a time, search engine technology was more limited in its scope, which left content creators with the habit of using a keyword as much as possible with minimal variation. Thankfully, search engines have become much more sophisticated, so keyword usage is less restricted. Search engines can show results not just for keywords but for similar alternative phrases, so feel free to vary your keyword usage slightly - “athletic equipment” and “equipment for athletes” will both yield similar results.
Helping your prospects narrow it down to you
In online marketing, choosing a specific, long-tail keyword over a broad short-tail keyword is also a good idea. If you choose “restaurants” for your keyword, you compete with everyone else on the internet who writes about restaurants. A more specific keyword like “local fine-dining restaurants” will narrow down the results to help you reach a more specific market. Use layman terms here; you should speak the language searchers are likely to use.
You should also include your keywords in more than just the article. Headlines, titles and even URLs are all must-haves to include your keyword to reach search engines. Alt-text on images is another important place for keywords, as search engines don’t catalog the images themselves. Your page should be optimized around your keyword as much as possible.
Connect with other content
Keywords aren’t the only way to reach search engine users. Linking to outside articles is another best practice of online marketing and has the obvious effect of making you more reputable and building relationships with other content creators, but it also improves your credibility to search engines as well. Search engines follow the links on the pages they scan. The more reputable the sources you link to (and link to you), the higher search engines will hold you.
Remember, quality is far more important than quantity in this case; too many links will make you appear spammy. Setting up local directories on Google+ is also a good way to draw attention and stand out in your community.
Another consideration that is becoming increasingly important is mobile optimization. Mobile devices account for the majority of online searches now, so if your website doesn’t translate to mobile layouts well, you lose out on a huge portion of the market.
Technology is constantly adapting and changing, so online marketing professionals need to do the same if they want to avoid getting lost in the noise. Stick to effective keyword usage and optimization for search engines to stay ahead of the curve.