Five things every SME needs to know about SEO

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a set of techniques used to improve the organic (natural) search engine rankings of web pages.

Google, which dominates the search market, with upwards of 65 percent market share, is the search engine to optimise for. What works for Google generally works for other search engines, but there are tweaks that are useful to optimise Bing-powered results.

Here are five things every small business owner needs to know about SEO.

SEO is highly complex

There is no magic formula, no shortcut: improving rankings requires a number of onsite and offsite activities that revolve around content optimisation, link acquisition, and site structure.

If any one of these areas is neglected, rankings will suffer. For most small businesses, obtaining relevant and high authority links (backlinks) to the site is the most challenging ongoing aspect of its SEO program.

SEO can require a complete site overhaul

If your site was not built to be SEO-friendly, it may need a complete rebuild in order to support an SEO program. This can also happen with large firms, but small businesses are especially vulnerable because their sites were often built by freelance designers or developers without a background in SEO.

SEO is continually changing

The formula, or algorithm, that Google uses to rank web pages is always being refined in order to deliver the most relevant results for a given search query. Because Google changes its "rules or relevance", SEO techniques that were effective even a year ago may be neutral or counterproductive today.

With this in mind, be sure to review and update your SEO strategy every quarter or every six months.

Select SEO partners with great care

It is vital to vet SEO firms thoroughly, checking references and scrutinising actual results obtained for other clients in similar businesses. If you can't understand what the SEO is telling you, or it doesn't quite make sense, you should keep looking.

SEO is not lead generation

Evaluating your SEO program means evaluating improvement in unbranded search traffic. It does not mean evaluating leads generated from your site.

The entire purpose of SEO is to make your site pages rank well for search queries that are important to your business. Once a searcher has clicked through to your site, the SEO job is over. Lead generation revolves around an entirely different marketing discipline known as conversion optimisation.

By Brad Shorr, All Business.com

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