Virtually every business owner knows the importance of online marketing today. The question is, “where do I start?!” There are a ton of different things you can do to get more traffic to your website – one of the most famous (or infamous) services for this is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. SEO is a service that web developers offer wherein they make your website easily found by search engines whenever someone is doing a search for your type of website. When you start inquiring about these services, you’ll find out that it’s not as cheap as you’d prefer. In fact, you’ll often find a pricetag labeling thousands of dollars for SEO services. The reason why most people are paying thousands of dollars for SEO services is because they have bought into the SEO Myth.
The SEO Myth is this:
“It takes a lot of hard, confusing work that you can’t possibly understand unless you are an SEO guru to get your website seen by search engines, and therefore thousands of dollars in SEO service fees is justified.”
That’s not true by any means! Here’s the truth:
- SEO isn’t as complicated as some companies would like you to believe
- Though you pay thousands of dollars, NO ONE can really guaranty you the top position on Google
- There are several things you can do for free, without being an HTML expert that will help your search engine rankings
Don’t get me wrong; getting your website seen on Search Engines does take some work. It just doesn’t take thousands of dollars’ worth (typically). Though there are some forms of performance-based SEO that can be expensive (such as pay-per-click), there are also several things you can do for free if you have the time and know-how. If you don’t have the time and/or know-how, then pay someone to do it for you, but make sure you know what you’re paying for, and they’re charging what’s fair.
The sad fact is that most SEO companies are trained to use verbiage and explanations that intentionally confuse the average lay-person (that’s right – they are trained to confuse you!).
They do this for two reasons:
- To make it seem like no one can do it except for them
- To justify their outrageous cost
Before doing business with anyone, ask questions to see exactly what the company is going to do for you to get your website seen by search engines. I know you are asking yourself, “what are those FREE things I can do on my own?!”
Here’s a list of things you can do that are sure to boost your Search Engine rankings.
Activate Webmaster Tools on search engines
Webmaster tools is a free service that all search engines offer. You mainly want to do this for Google. Just go to the search engine you want, and do a search for “webmaster tools” and it will take you to the right place. It will give you the option to do a ton of things like: submit your site to their search engine, find out statistics, submit a site map, etc. The main thing you want to do is submit and verify your website. There are a few different methods of verifying ownership of the website, and some of the methods do take a little bit of HTML know-how. The easiest way to verify ownership would be to confirm your hosting account when it asks you. Doing this will make sure that Google will properly index (file) your website.
Create and claim listings in search engines
Just because your website is indexed, doesn’t mean that you’re properly listed in the search engine. You still need to create a business listing. In Google, it’s called “places”. If you do a Google search for “places” it will take you to the right spot. Just fill out all of the information and claim it before someone else does! Creating a Google places page will secure you a spot on the Google Map, as well as give you the opportunity to choose the right keywords and business categories to choose from. Do the same thing in MapQuest, Yahoo, Bing, YP.com, Yelp, Superpages, and as many search engines and directories you can. The most important thing to remember when creating and claiming your listings is to add your web address. Which leads me to the next tip..
The Golden Rule: Backlink EVERYTHING you do to your website
The goal isn’t to just have a lot of different listings out there on the internet; the goal is to link them to one source – namely, your website. The more listings and websites linking to your website, the more Google will recognize your website as something relevant to what searchers are looking for.
Create social media sites
Google is very good at what they do. Their job is to make sure that searchers are finding the most relevant content for what they’re looking for. Their programmers are constantly finding different ways of pulling up the right content. With the rise of social media, Google and other search engines are putting a lot of effort pulling up content that people are interacting with on Social Media. For example, if a company that specializes in local plumbing has a Facebook page, and Google notices that they have 100+ followers actively engaged in what that company is posting, then they’re likely to be relevant to “plumbing” in whatever area they’re in. Make sure to take advantage of this free source of advertisement.
Stay Current on social media and get people engaged
It’s one thing to have a Facebook page for your company. It’s a-whole-nother thing to be active with your company Facebook page. If you have a Facebook page and do nothing with it, it’s serving no purpose. This, however, takes ongoing work. So you have three choices: do it yourself, hire someone inhouse to do it, or contact a company (like Butler Web and Design) to do it for you. If you do it yourself, be consistent (if you promise a weekly tip, post a weekly tip). Make sure that you’re not just posting nonsense – post stuff that you know people will “like”, share, or comment on. Remember, you are trying to get people engaging with your business.
Build your audience
Make sure you do everything possible to get as many followers, friends, subscribers, fans, etc. as you can. Invite all of your personal friends. Bribe, beg, ask, etc. One thing we found helpful was to offer an incentive to all of our fans. As a startup, we had only about 70 “likes” on Facebook. However, around Christmas we sent out a blast on our Facebook page saying something like “thank you for all of your support. As our token of appreciation, we’re giving away a free Starbucks gift card to one of our fans.” We made sure to tell our fans to invite their friends to “like” us so that they could have a chance to win. In only two days, we increased our following 20%, and it only cost us $10!
Be an expert – provide free resources
Today, people are more curious than ever. With the vast amounts of free available information we have at our fingertips, people are educating themselves on things they never would have cared about 10 years ago. Make yourself known as an expert in your field. Offer free resources to people that are strictly educational (sales-pitch free). Write blogs and articles. Create a YouTube channel and make informational videos. At the end of the educational resource, you obviously want to let people know how you can help them, but make sure not to be so used-car-salesy (no offense to my used car salesmen friends!). Don’t have the fear that once people know how things are done, that they’ll end up actually doing it themselves. Most likely they won’t. People don’t always hire a mechanic because they know nothing about cars; they hire a mechanic because they don’t have the time or desire to mess with it themselves. They’ll leave it to the experts.
Creating free resources is also helpful because it takes blogs or websites to be able to post these resources on, and all of those will be back-linked to your website. More back-links = more exposure.
…Don’t buy into the SEO myth. Though getting seen on Google does take some time and work, there are several things you can do for free on your own. If you do decide to hire a company to do SEO work for you, make sure they charge you what’s fair. Remember, some people are trained to purposely confuse you. Listen for patterns of beating around the bush. If you find yourself scratching your head after every conversation, then it may be a warning sign. What you don’t want to happen is to find yourself scratching your head after your project is finished wondering “what in the world did I pay for?”
Make sure you work with someone who can explain things to you in terms you can understand. This doesn’t mean that they need to educate you on all things HTML; it simply means that you are left with a general understanding of what you are paying for. Don’t pay for anything with hesitance – be confident in your decision to work with a web developer.
At Butler Web and Design we offer all of these services and more, and we’d love to help you out. If you want to get more involved with Social Media, check out our Unlimited Maintenance Plan online, or contact us at phone 559.797.3414 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to Sean’s interview with Holly.