In an online world where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is king, some sites will have you believe that if you don’t hire out a top notch SEO firm that knows all of Google’s ‘secrets’, your site will never grace a computer screen of a customer. There’s a few assumptions here that are worth breaking down, and a few ideas that might apply to your small or medium enterprise.

SEO’s Biggest Myth

The proposition that SEO is essential and without it you will never get customers assumes that your business is online and online only. If your website is for a business that operates in the real world, you will be driving customers to your site through real world interactions, such as business cards. So don’t let some SEO firm fool you into thinking a big expense is necessary if your business is based in anyway outside of the internet.

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What is Necessary?

Think about how you reach your customers and how your customers reach you. Amazon.com needs to show up if you search for any book because it exists solely on the internet. But if you’re a local small business, you likely just need to show up when people are looking for your business specifically or your products in your local area. If you are a local aquarium store located in a town called DeKalb, you don’t need to rank number one on Google for the search term ‘fish’. But if your name is “DeKalb’s Number One Fish Store”, then you should try to show up in the search results for “Fish stores in DeKalb, IL” and certainly for “DeKalb’s Number One Fish Store”. For many small to medium enterprises, this is enough! And it’s not as hard as you might think.

Basics of SEO

Search technology used by the major search engines is getting better and better. Google released in the past couple years an update on their algorithm, called Panda, named after the genius who designed it. In a nutshell, the company used humans to categorize thousands of websites based on a number of categories related to the experience of the visitor. They then ‘trained’ the Panda algorithm until it could accurately predict what humans recognized as a good website. This is of course overly simplified, but nonetheless descriptive of what it does.

The great news about this is that what humans like is real, up-to-date content that gives them the information that they were looking for. So gone are the days when an SEO firm could pay for pages of links, called link-farms, to increase their rankings in search results. Indeed, good SEO firms now hire people to research and write quality content that websites can provide their users (I’ll let you in on a secret:  This is why the article you are reading exists!).

Great so there’s Pandas on the loose, but what can I do for my website?

Think about what humans like when using a website:

  • Easy navigation.
  • Interactions on social media.
  • Reading current information on the topic they searched.
  • No tricks or gimmicks in getting them to do something they didn’t want to do.
  • Nothing that flashes or changes colors.

So what are the five easiest things you can do to increase your ranking in search results?

  • Create an organized and transparent website structure.
  • Create pages on social networks like Facebook and Google+.
  • Create a blog that posts an interesting article once a week.
  • Keep any of the advertisements on your site minimal and clearly marked.
  • Exclude any flashing banners or blinking links.

Basically, whenever you are deciding how to incorporate something on your website, consider what effect it will have on the user’s experience.  If it will annoy them and make them leave, Panda might eat you like a bamboo shoot.  But if your website is a pleasant experience for them that gives them the information they need (that is, all the important info about your business), then you should show up in the results of the local market you are targeting.