Imagine you started a small business. Imagine you raised the capital, found office space, developed prototypes, combed your contacts for potential clients, and hired a sales team.
Now imagine you did all that without spending any time or money on advertising. Not a dime, not a single second.
Of course, that would be silly. You wouldn’t start a business without advertising. So why would you start a business website without a strong search engine optimization plan?
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
It’s a technical term for advertising your website through search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. A good search engine optimization specialist can make sure your customer base sees your website every time they search the internet for the service or product you provide.
Let’s say you have a party supply store in Doylestown, PA. You sell things like balloons and helium tanks, streamers, and decorations to people throughout Bucks County, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and other neighboring areas. You’d hire a search engine optimization specialist to make sure your website was one of the first results people see when they type phrases like “party supply Bucks County” or “party supply Philadelphia” or “party supply Doylestown” — or just “party supply” — into a search engine.
Wait. Can’t you just do this yourself?
Well, you could. The tools to market your website are right there on the Internet, and it’s getting increasingly easy for website owners to do their own search engine marketing. There’s a learning curve, but with a few months of practice you could probably get your website fairly well noticed by the search engines.
Think of it this way, though: You could also make your own television commercial. Good cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper, and high-quality video editing software has been scaled down to the point where it’s affordable and user-friendly for anyone who knows how to use a computer. You could even contact local stations yourself to get your commercial aired at the right times.
But that would take a lot of time to do right. You’d need to take a crash course in shooting good video (Here’s a hint: Hold the camera still), and then you’d have to learn the editing software. You’d have to make sure you had good sound quality, and then figure out what file format your final ad needs to be in. Then you’d have to figure out who to talk to at the local stations, and how to negotiate for the best prices.
In the end, it’s probably best just to leave it to a professional. You won’t need to spend a thousand hours teaching yourself the basics, and you’re sure to get the experience and skill that comes with hiring a professional. It’s the same with SEO. You could do it yourself, and if your budget was high enough, you could even bring on a new staff member to do it full-time (and pay that person a full salary with benefits). Or you could get the best bang for your buck, and hire an SEO specialist to keep your search engine rankings high.
So is SEO simply a matter of getting good rankings on a search engine results page?
Usually, yes. We call these “organic” results — the natural list of websites that Google or another search engine returns when you enter a term like “party supplies in Bucks County.” But there’s another kind of search engine optimization, and it’s called “pay-per-click.”
Google, for instance, has a service called AdWords, through which clients can pay a fee to guarantee ad placement in a listing of search results. Check it out the next time you do a Google search; the AdWords advertisements are listed under the “sponsored links” section on the right-hand side of the page. AdWords allows you to target local audiences, so if you need search engine optimization in Bucks County and the surrounding areas, AdWords is a perfect solution. Yahoo! has a similar pay-per-click program.
Getting people to notice your website is as simple as hiring the right SEO firm. And the right SEO firm is the one that excels at both organic and pay-per-click search engine optimization — in Bucks County or anywhere else.