The 411 on Search Engine Optimization

search engine optimization

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a legitimate process of making sure your website has the best key phrases and appropriate metadata on pages and then is properly indexed by Google and Bing. Many SEO companies over-charge and over-promise results. They usually require a time commitment, somewhat legitimately since SEO takes a while to produce results. The memory of search engines is long. On the other hand, searches for your product are going to be crowded by the many competitors in the field. Promising a spot on the first page, even for local searches, is a stretch. Some SEO consultants overreach with their optimization practices and your site may be penalized by the search engines for those practices.

Search optimization has changed over time, as well. Site keywords were once considered very important. Today the major search engines (Google and Bing) claim they do not consider metadata keywords in ranking websites. Search engines tweak their algorithms--every day, literally, Google claims--in ways that adjust search results.

Can I do SEO myself?

SEO is going to cost you time or money. You can spend a lot of time researching how to do SEO or you can pay a lot of money to have someone else do it. If you want to do it yourself, you can start small by setting up the site with Google Analytics (free to use, although you must disclose you are using GA in a privacy policy), add meta elements like description to the <head> section of each page, make sure Google and Bing are indexing your site, and then over time analyze what is bringing visitors to the site. Then you adjust your website content to attract more visitors with the high-traffic response phrases.

Small choices can yield results. Making sure your images have alt tags, using your key phrases and words in website copy (text), and labeling your items for sale with UPC, ISBN, or model/part numbers can make a big difference in attracting online sales.

Working with a content management system like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla makes do-it-yourself SEO somewhat easier since you can add GA code to each page using a plugin, a plugin can automatically populate meta elements for the site or each page, and you can easily modify site-wide elements when needed (like headers, sidebars, footers, etc).

So, is SEO worth the investment?

Briefly, SEO requires a significant commitment of time and technical knowledge. Website owners can get a great start on SEO by making sure their website content is properly structured and then indexed by search engines. Beyond that, SEO can take a lot of time or money to tweak and get results. In the end, there are few guarantees that your website will become the top search result for your product or service. If you are serious about selling products online, paying attention to your site's content and tweaking it to generate online traffic is a solid investment. However, like most prudent investments, it may not produce immediate results, and those looking for a quick return will likely be disappointed.

Need some help with SEO?

Contact me for a free review of your site.