If you operate any part of your business online, you’ve probably heard the word, ‘SEO.’ If you haven’t, you might want to listen up, as practicing SEO is transforming marketing and communications as we know it. It seems like everyone is doing it these days–and for good reason.

Let’s start with the basics.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is defined as websites receiving organic traffic from visitors searching for keywords and leading back to the site via search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. Some people refer to it with a “milk and cookies” analogy. This is because if you “play nice and do a good job,” you will receive the milk and cookies, i.e. rank higher in search engines. SEO’s goal is to not only make your site found easier online, it is to rank page relevance so that your site or pages appear at the top of the search engine results.

That usually means more clicks on your site and allows you to be seen more. The odds are the more people see your stuff online, the higher sales and inquiries you will receive, so putting a little time into bumping up your ranking in search engines is worth it.

If you’re optimizing your site for the first time, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Determine what keywords your audience is looking for.

While social media and other traffic methods can drive visitors to your site, search engines remain the leading navigation method for online users. This is because they specifically target organic visitors who are looking for things that connect back to your site.

For instance, if you own www.whatisanexample.com, and a client Googles, “What is an example?,” you may pop higher in the search engines if you’ve optimized your site. Since the client is specifically looking for the definition of an example and that is your primary service, they may be more inclined to look through your website’s various pages for supplemental information and potentially inquire for more information.

HubSpot has a great article on how to do keyword research. This is important because keywords are one of the major players in optimizing your site. You want your keywords to be narrow, specific, and targeted. The more strategic the keywords, the more likely potential clients could come across your site when submitting a search query in a search engine. You are going to have a much higher rate of success if you first know what your potential clients are typing in search engines. After you figure that out, you can update your content to reflect more of those keywords and gear your offerings more to what they are looking for.

2. Find out what your competitors are doing.

Go to Google, and type in the name of your industry. If you own a restaurant, type in “restaurant” and see what pops up. Now, narrow that down further to your city, i.e. “restaurant in Example, WA.” If you are not one of the first sites that pop up on the page, take a look at the first one. Click around on their site and see what they are doing well to get to the top of the search engine. Take note of they keywords they are using, the page titles, website domain, and service offerings. Get to know their site a little, and see how you can improve your site and ranking based on what consumers seem to like.

Note: You do not want to copy the site word for word. Simply take a page from their book, and apply some of the things you see viewers are responding well to. Just keep it original, and make it yours. After you get that data, you can begin optimizing your site. Search Engine Watch provides a helpful list on optimizing your site using everything from increasing content quality, updating meta descriptions, and linking effectively.

3. Monitor how the changes are going.

After you’ve optimized your site, let it sit for a little, and see how viewers respond. This is a great opportunity to figure out what works and gear your content towards your target audience. Now that your content is more targeted, track whether you are getting any new leads or increases in traffic. Google Analytics is a great, free tool to analyze your website’s online presence. Check your social media pages to see if you’ve received an increase in audience engagement or more likes/follows. There are tons of items you can analyze to see how the new optimized changes are going.

If things aren’t increasing immediately, don’t stress too much. Keep going!

Nancy Lopez said it best, “A competitor will find a way to win. Competitors take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves just that much harder. Quitters take bad breaks and use them as reasons to give up. It’s all a matter of pride.”

Tell us, what do you do to increase your site’s online visibility?

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