SEO Demystified

As a business owner with a web presence, you’ve probably heard about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by now. As a local business with a physical location, maybe you’ve heard about “local SEO” or that you should be optimized for local search. Maybe you’ve heard about organic SEO and things just got a little confusing from there.

If SEO is unclear to you, you’re definitely not alone. It is a very big, broad topic that’s constantly changing and can be hard to understand. It’s both an art and a science where Google makes up the rules using complicated algorithms and they won’t even tell us exactly what they’re looking for.   Since Google has over 75% of the market on Search engines, generally SEO only considers what Google is looking for.

In terms of Search Engine Optimization, you have two main categories, organic and local SEO.

“Organic” – Isn’t that how I want my Vegetables?

Organic SEO, sometimes just called SEO, is how close your website is ranked in regards to the top of the search engine when someone searches for a topic related to the content on your website. Research shows that 70% of the links we click on are organic and about 75% of us never scroll past the first page of results.

That makes your organic listing really, really important to driving web traffic to your site.

The key points of organic SEO:

  • Keyword Research is researching the actual search terms people are entering into their search engines when conducting a search related to your products or services and then using them strategically on your website so that when people search those terms, your site comes up.
  • On-page SEO is making changes to your actual website. Web sites that load quickly, are optimized for mobile phones or responsive, are well organized and have lots of great, original content with key words/phrases strategically integrated, are organically ranked better than those that don’t.
  • Off-page SEO is work done outside of a website’s actual web pages. It involves increasing the number of inbound links to your website. These links bring new traffic to your site and increase your rankings on search engines. Inbound links from other high-quality and relevant websites give your site a level of trust and authority that search crawlers can recognize, increasing your place on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Local SEO for local customers

Local SEO is optimizing your web presence for local search engine ranking. Note that I used the words ‘web presence’ and not ‘website’. This is the big difference between organic and local SEO. You don’t necessarily need a website to be listed locally (although it’s recommended), just a Google + listing that includes all the important information about your business. Local SEO provides results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location. If I search for ‘best coffee shop’ on my computer right now, Google provides me with the results nearest to me.

Local SEO has grown dramatically over the last couple of years given the rise of smartphone usage and better connectivity with 3 and 4G. Although it has similarities with organic SEO, local SEO is ultimately very different.

The key parts of local SEO:

  • Local Listings & Citations are arguably the most important part of SEO for a business with a physical location. Citations are a “mention” of your business name on web pages other than your own, followed by your address, phone number, or both, regardless of whether there is a link to your website or not. An example of a citation might be an online directory, like Yellow Pages, where your business is listed but not necessarily linked to.  The key here is that above all you have to make sure that your information remains 100% consistent across every single data source on the web, even the listings that you did not create yourself.   If your information is not consistent, it will confuse the search engines, affecting your local search rankings or even worse, point your customers to the wrong address or give them the wrong phone number.
  • Online Reviews are the reviews people leave about your business and service on 3rd party sites such as Yelp or Facebook. The most recent research says that 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. Not only that but online reviews impact your local search results and they impact which results actually get clicked on.   Managing your reviews and encouraging your customers to leave reviews is an important part of local SEO.
  • On-Site Local SEO Optimization. It’s been said that you should have your NAP (Name Address Phone number) listed on every page of your website. You also want to make sure the site is optimized for local keywords (Orillia coffee shop vs. Coffee shop). Most recently, the importance of having a responsive website, or a website that is optimized for mobile phones is very important due to the fact that more and more people are using their phones to search for local listings.

So there you have it.   Now that I’ve gotten you thinking about organic and local SEO, hopefully this will get you started thinking about your online presence and what you can be doing to increase your chances of getting ranked on that coveted spot on page 1 of the Google search results page.

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