2018 - When you create a website, SEO, or search engine optimization, goes hand in hand. It's a basic requirement if you want that website to get noticed and to get traffic, as the Web's robots automatically and regularly scour the internet for new websites and new content.
However, there is no field more prone to scams and empty promises than SEO. Everyone and their brother claims to be an SEO expert that can get your site on the first page of Google's results. You can pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars a month to thousands, for results that may not show up for 6-12 months, if at all. Individuals claim to do SEO, as well as legitimate companies such as Go Daddy. The latter charges about $48 per hour for SEO services, and recommends at from 10-40 hrs. per month for their services (that's $1,920/mo. at the high end).
When it comes to how much traffic is driven by search engines to your website, the percentage is substantial, and perhaps the clearest indicator of the importance of SEO. In 2014, Conductor suggested that 64% of all web traffic comes from organic search, compared to 2% from social, 6% from paid search, 12% direct and 15% from other referral sources.
Yes, you DO have to do some SEO work for your website to get some exposure. A lot of it is not rocket science and can be done yourself, or with a little help from the IT guy who created your website, maybe even your teenage son or daughter.
Here are the basics:
- Make sure your website has 3 key Meta Tags embedded into the code: title of your website tag, keywords tag, description tag. Every page of your website has to have these 3 tags. Tailor the key words to each page's content.
- Include a Site Map - kind of like a table of contents for what's on your website
- Make sure you have actual written content on each page, sprinkled with key words related to your business. Don't make the website all graphics and videos
- Make sure that all links are working, clickable and going to live pages
- Get "backlinks" from other websites related to your business. Contact the website owners and ask them if they will link to you if you link to them. Some will agree, some not. The most powerful links to get are from "authority" sites such as trade associations, government sites, and established sites with a long track record. These can be tough to get, especially government sites.
- Submit your website to Google and Bing (for free), using their website submission tool. Very easy, just enter the website address into their submission box. Don't submit the website until all of the above are completed and in place.
Search engines looks for the following:
- Quality of your content
- The user experience: site is easily navigable
- Site speed
- Multi-device capability: people can see your website on mobile devices as well as a PC or laptop
- Presence of meta tags
- Local SEO - use Google My Business
It may also help if you have a blog and post to it regularly. According to Hubspot — businesses that blog have 55 percent more website visitors and 97 percent more inbound links. By providing high value content you’re likely to be referenced by others.
Link your website to your Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram pages if you have them. Use easily clickable icons to get people there. A few quality videos on your site doesn't hurt either. Video is popular among Web browsers and with Google.
That said, most of the above work can be done by you, or you and the person who created your website. The cost is your time. This will go a long way toward getting you "organic" (unpaid) traffic, which will build over time as your site gets indexed and you refine it and add content. Getting indexed does take time, usually at least a few months.
SEO experts can do a status check of your website, write content for you, write posts for your blog, build backlinks from articles business directories, etc., on an ongoing basis - for a hefty fee. Is it worth $1,000-2,000 per month? That's debatable. The return on investment may simply not be there and that money could be better spent on advertising in the form of online ads, press releases, joint ventures and more.
If you don't have much time or staff to devote to SEO, and most of your business is generated from your website, paid SEO might be worth it. Just don't buy the most expensive service out there, and be sure to vet the so-called expert. Don't sign any yearly contracts - pay month to month and monitor your website's traffic and how often and on what page your site appears in search results. Ask them SPECIFICALLY what actions they will take. If it sounds too vague and general, find another service. I would also recommend going with a company as opposed to an individual. If there are problems, a company whose reputation is at stake is much more likely to work with you, or refund your money. A company will also have more SEO staff available to you, and likely has worked with many companies.
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