Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). What are they, and better yet, what's the difference? How does the role of SEO effect St. Louis businesses? Let's take a look at each and consider what's entailed.
Search Engine Optimization For St. Louis Businesses
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A search engine isn't a person, it's a robot. So instead of promoting your website like you would to a person through sight and sound, you have to speak in a way that the robots understand. Making the search engines take notice of your site is called optimizing, and the more optimized sites like Google and Bing think your site is for popular online searches, the higher you will rank. It has been said often that if a search is made and you don't come up on the first page, you will never be found. Some go even further to say that if you are not on the first page above the fold (the viewable area of the screen before people have to scroll down to see more) then you will suffer dramatically. Unfortunately, depending on how quick the surfer needs results, this is fairly true.
So what can be done to OPTIMIZE your website and slowly get it to climb the ranks. Well, it's not an overnight process by any means. In fact if you're wanting honest answers it is on average a 6-12 month effort to rank in the top few results for the major search terms in almost any field. You've probably heard many promises to "Get you to number one on Google in no time!". What they don't tell you is they are probably only optimizing for a search of your business name. NOT THAT HARD considering you're probably the only business in your area with that name. What you really want to rank for is the keyphrases people will type into the search when they're looking for your particular service, but have no idea who you are.
For instance: If you service and install pools, hot tubs, and pondscapes, it does no good to rank only for your business name. Chances are if someone types in "Jack's Awesome Aquatics", you'll come up in the first few results. What you really want to rank high in the results for is your service, and the area you perform the service in. Ex. - "In ground pool installation St. Louis" or "Koi pond Saint Louis, Mo.". Remember, the whole reason to do this is to spread your name to those who need your help but don't know you're out there yet.
So what are some methods that can help to optimize. While certainly not ALL of the SEO optimization green flags that Google looks for in your site, here is a small list of some things that can be done to boost rank.
- Keyword driven domain name. Your business name in your url is all well and good on the side of your truck, but the first place Google-bots scan when determining your worth is your domain name. Translation, www.poolinstallationstlouismo.com or www.poolcleaningsaintlouis.com are FAR more valuable than jacksawesomeaquatics.com .
- Domain age. Nothing tells Google you're a reputable business like a few years under your belt. If you're new don't worry. You can inversely let Google know you're serious about your work by registering your domain for the longest period you can afford. A 10 year domain registration means you have serious plans to help people. A 1 year registration screams, "Who knows if this will even work so let's save the cash."
- Draw attention to the most important text. Take the key phrases you think people will use to search you out on Google and make them stand out. Large Heading Tags (H1 & H2), Bolded Text, Italics Text, Linked Text to other pages in your site (called interlinking). Look at this page and how things are bolded, headlined, and linked. Making more sense now?
- Meta-Tags. While these don't mean nearly what they did 10 years ago, they're still important. It's the first place the search-bots look to see what your site is about. They're the "Cliff Notes" of what your content will go on to explain.
- Image Alt Tags and Title Tags. Google can't see your pretty photos and icons, so use these tags as a chance to tell them what they're about. Throw in keywords wherever they relate....BUT DON'T SPAM OR OVERUSE!
- Backlinking. One of the biggest ways to show Google you're trusted and authoritative. Here's the synopsis. Links to your site from other sites are ok. Links to your site from other sites of the same subject matter are good. Links to your site from other sites of the same subject matter that are very well known, possibly famous, are a JACKPOT! Your goal is to get hundreds if not thousands of them for Google to REALLY take notice. Getting those one at a time is almost useless but 6 String Creations can build hundreds weekly. Quality links, too, not junk. As us how!
Search Engine Marketing For St. Louis Businesses -
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
This is the broader vision of how a search engine drives traffic to your website and ultimately converts visitors into customers or leads. There are many ways of marketing your website to the search engines, but first consider what marketing is in it's truest form. It's getting the word out about, or promoting something. In this case it's your website. So what options can you use to promote to the search engines?
Pay Per Click advertising or PPC.It's certainly the least fun way of getting visits but while you're waiting for your site to catch on in popularity, it's the fastest. Basically it's where you set a budget with a search engine such as google, and an estimated Cost Per Click (CPC) will be estimated for you. Sometimes this can get pricey, but it is done in the hopes as your site builds organic popularity (more on that below) you will pay "$" amount for the click that brings someone to your site, but make back "$$$" for your investment. Our goal at 6 String Creations should you choose this method to get started, is to get your site ranking well in a hurry which will eventually phase out the need to pay for clicks and traffic entirely.
Local Business Listings.6 String Creations will register your website with all of the major local business listing and review sites for you, increasing online awareness of your company. The goal of this effort is to get you as many positive reviews by as many customers as possible. While this is not DIRECTLY related to search engines, many search engines such as Google have build a businesses review score and pattern into it's algorithm to determine how high your site should rank in the search results. Sites with many good reviews across a variety of the business listing and directory sites (Yelp, Kudzu, Google Places, Manta, Superpages, etc...) will experience an immediate boost in how high they rank on sites like Bing and Google.
Analytics.After you've put your efforts into marketing your business online you need to know the if's, how's, and what's of what's working, paying off, and what should be scrapped. This is where analytics comes in. 6 String Creations installs Google Analytics on every website we do to allow for clear and concise data so we can scrutinize and fine tune our efforts as well as always make the results available to you, the site owner, so you can track how much our service is paying off. Analytics is a series of bar, pie, and list graphs presented in VERY easy to understand layouts. After time you analyze what is getting great numbers and push further with your efforts in those areas, then find what is performing weakly and decide to fine tune or scrap those efforts. THIS...AGAIN...is why we cannot stress enough that your website is ALWAYS an ongoing venture!