Before You SEO… Make Sure You KNOW

S.E.O.—“search engine optimization”—is a classic, powerful tool worth including in any online marketing strategy. As more of your competitors get on the web, it’s more important than ever to make sure customers find your site first. But in the wrong hands, SEO can yield lackluster results and quickly become a money gobbler. Before you choose a provider to run your SEO, read this article and become an informed consumer.

How does SEO work, really?

In 2010, more than 80% of Americans made an online purchase1.  Most of them used a search engine to find that product; in February 2012, 73% of all Americans were using a search engine at any given time2. SEO helps guide these millions of customers to your online store. It all starts when the customer searches for a product…

All major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing show a long list of results whenever a customer enters a search term.  A particular website’s ranking determines whether it will be shown on the first page of results….or the 100th. Let’s pause here—why is this so important? Well, 98.95%3 of search engine users only look at the results on the first page. So if your store’s website isn’t on the first page, it might as well not exist online.  Here’s an easy tool for finding your current website rank.

How can a business get on that coveted first page?  Search engines reward websites with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals” by listing them at the top of search results. Unfortunately, choosing the right combination of signals becomes more difficult every day, as the internet becomes an increasingly competitive space.

The most practical solution is to hire an expert. In the long run, this course will probably even save you more. Instead of fiddling with “signals” on the computer on day, you’ll be focusing on your business. Think you can do it yourself? Before you decide, first take a look at how the founders of Google described their rankings process when Google was first released—click here.

How can it boost my sales?

It’s all about location, location, location. With a physical store, the site you choose determines what kind of people visit your store. For an online store, the concept is the same—with one important twist. With a physical store, people see your store every time they drive by or shop in the same commercial center.

In contrast, when people shop online they can skip right to their destination without “driving by” your store. A good SEO strategy gives your store a prime “location” on search results for the customer’s desired destination. An excellent SEO strategy goes one step further and makes sure that customers see your store before they notice the competition.

Best Practices

To do SEO right, you or your provider must know all of possible signals—and their optimal placement—decide which ones will be most effective for your business, track results, and make frequent adjustments as the landscape changes. Keeping track of it all could be a full-time job!  Below, we’ve put together a just few of the important SEO do’s and dont’s.

1Search Engine Use 2012, Pew Internet & American Life Project (March 2012)
2Global Trends in Online Shopping: A Nielsen Global Consumer Report (June 2010)
3Granka, Joachims, and Gay. Eye Tracking Analysis of User Behavior in WWW Search. (Cornell University, 2008).

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