You're ready, you want to get your small business website online and start raking in the traffic. Hold on a second, take a deep breath, and remember that as with most businesses, “If you build it, they will come” may work in the movies, but it doesn't cut it online. No matter how tricked out your site is, you'll be lost in the vast ocean of websites out there unless you find a way to put your startup business site in front of your target visitors and send them to it.
If you've done any research into methods of driving traffic to your site, you may have heard the terms SEO or search engine optimization bantered about.
So what is search engine optimization?
Simply put, search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of tactics and strategies you can apply to your web presence in order to maximize your exposure in the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo and MSN. The steps to effective search engine optimization include keyword research, optimization of your own website using those keywords, effective design and architecture of your site, and building effective inbound links. These search engines generate massive amounts of traffic each day, and if you can get a grasp on what's important to them when they're deciding who shows up on the first pages of search result, you can take steps to get your site in that prime location. The benefits to your site can be significant, and, best of all, there's no direct fee to you for that incoming traffic.
Some search engine optimization caveats
Don't get the idea that SEO is cost-free. Effective search optimization takes a lot of time, either your own or an outsourced firm's, and there's clearly a cost to that. In subsequent articles, we'll discuss the best methods for assessing and working with an outsourced firm, as well as the key factors that constitute an effective search engine optimization campaign.
Don't forget that SEO is not simply a technical approach to building websites, it needs to be a viewed as a component of your overall marketing strategy. Which means you need to take a holistic view of SEO as it affects your total marketing mix, and review and evaluate it the way you would any marketing tool. It really doesn't matter if you achieve a top ranking and drive loads of traffic if that traffic doesn't convert and help you achieve the end goal for your website.
And remember that it's always easier to work toward a successful search engine optimization campaign before you've created your website (or before you head into a redesign), so keep that in mind as you plan your website development efforts.