Web-savvy people, close your eyes. This is a definition of SEO, “search engine optimization,” for the average Jennifer (or Jason).
SEO is a group of “internet things” you can do to help people find your website when they are looking for your subject, service or product, all without buying ads to send them there. These “internet things” are mostly words you put on your website, or in its code. And sometimes on other websites too.
After this, explanations of SEO get very techy very fast. So I’m getting you warmed up for SEO with pre SEO.
I’m making up the term Pre SEO. Here’s my definition. Pre SEO is three things you can do, all by yourself, to start thinking in an SEO direction, to get ready for the real thing.
For many startups and small businesses on limited budgets, paying someone to do “search engine optimization” on your website is financially out of the question. “So if you can’t do it right, do it wrong, but do it,” as my former boss once said.
Here are three things that a non-technical entrepreneur can actually do to get revved up for SEO.
1. Track words and phrases that people type in a search box to find your site. These are called “keywords.”
Here’s a keyword story. A friend sells presentation training services — speaking and writing training — on Twain Associates. His keywords were phrases like “presentation training”, “corporate training,” “presentation coaching.” We checked his website traffic reports (explained in the next paragraph), and what were people typing into search boxes on Google and Yahoo? “Public speaking,” “powerpoint slides” and “soft skills.” Of course, that’s how real people, not familiar with corporate jargon, thought about his business. Moral: you want to use your customers’ words as keywords, not yours.
Collect keywords people use to find you. Your website host (or internet service provider, like GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com or 1and1.com) already produces free reports of your keywords, but you probably haven’t looked at them. Contact whomever you are renting your chunk of internet real estate from. Ask their help to locate those reports, which may be called “traffic reports,” “website statistics,” or “site analytics.” You’ll need your company’s login and password.
If your website is hosted by Godaddy, for example, you log into your Godaddy account, click “Hosting and Services” tab, and then My Hosting Account. Next look for the “Statistics” tab on the upper right. Click it and select “Launch Free Web Stats.”
Look at a couple months of history on both the sensible and crazy words people use to stumble upon your site.
2. Review the text of your home page for frequent words and phrases.
What words and phrases appear most in the text on YOUR homepage? Click this link, type in your website URL, click the button below that says “Analyze Keywords” and see for yourself.
How do the words on your home page compare to the keywords people use to find your website, those from step 1?
Explore related keywords. Use Google’s free keyword tool to suggest other keywords. Also consider a 7 day free trial from Wordtracker.com to generate new keywords, maybe even keywords that draw more traffic and that you may not use. Both these tools give you keywords alternatives to consider adding to your website text.
3. Find out what other sites link to pages on yours. And consider emailing related sites, asking for links.
You can see a list of some websites that link to yours right now. Just click this link to Google and type “link:yourwebsite.com”, as in “link: scorechicago.org.” Click search and look at the websites that come up. Now try your domain in Yahoo, which typically lists more links. The free traffic reports explained in step 1 also list “referrers” to your site.
You want links from sites in your field or subject area, especially those with a high “page rank” in Google. (Check a Google page rank here). When you have more “external links,” Google rates your site higher is search results.
Here’s my linking example. SCORE Chicago has 15 counseling locations, often at chambers of commerce or Small Business Development Centers. Some of these organizations put a link to SCORE Chicago on their websites to encourage their members to use our services. But some don’t. So I identified the ones that did not and asked for a link to us. These external links both help their members find us and boosts the ranking of our website in search results.
When you have a handle on who links to you, think about who should but does not. These might be vendors, partners, or trade associations — websites related to your business. Then email a couple and ask them to add a link. They don’t have to, but they might.
After you have shifted through first gear with pre SEO, you’ll be thinking in an SEO direction. You’ll be looking at factors that make it easier for web surfers to find your website. You’ll be ready to have someone add revised text using popular keywords to your home page. Or to request links from websites in your industry or subject area, as well as online directories. When you have funds, you may even consider purchasing professional SEO services. With pre SEO, you’re on the right track.
Did you understand this? Can you do these three things? Please let me know in a comment.
If you’re feeling really brave, why not kick it up a notch and check my post SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Intro, Videos and Links.