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Questions & Answers

So, I hear about "search" and "search optimization" and how important it is for
a small business like mine?

A. We are all familiar with Search...we do it everyday when we open Google or Bing and enter in a search query. What we might not know is how Google determines which results we are going to get for our search term.

Search Optimization means different things to different people. To me, in context to the types of businesses I work with, it means understanding queries of your ideal client and optimizing your content to be found, in search engines, for those queries in organic (and blended) search results.

An effective organic search strategy isn't easy. Small businesses, with limited resources, will find it *challenging* to create content valuable enough to be linked to, shared, and ranked.

What does it mean to be optimized for search engines? 

A. It means that search engines have indexed your site, can read the content on your site and understand what your site is about. It indicates you have been intentional with your copy, your page titles, your descriptions, your tags, your images, and that search engines can trust your website is the best result for the search query. While on-page optimization, all the elements listed above, are important, off-page SEO has a bigger factor.

Here’s the top questions you’ll need to answer. Explanations are taken from Google’s Guide for Webmasters.

Does Google know about your site? Can they find your site?

A.  Although Google crawls billions of pages, it’s inevitable that some sites will be missed.

When the Googlebot misses a site, it’s frequently for one of the following reasons:
  • the site isn’t well connected through multiple links to other sites on the web; 
  • the site launched after Google’s most recent crawl was completed; 
  • the site was temporarily unavailable when we tried to crawl it or we received an error when we tried to crawl it.

Can Google index your site?

A. Occasionally, webmasters will discover that their sites are not appearing in search results. The issue could be one of ‘indexability’ – whether or not the Googlebot can make a copy of a web page for inclusion in our search results.

Structure and Content

A common reason for non-inclusion in search results is tied to the structure and content of the web page. For example, a page that requires a user to fill out a form may not be indexable by Google. Nor can a page using ‘dynamic content’ (Flash, JavaScript, frames or dynamically generated URLs) always be easily indexed by search engines.

If you are wondering whether this might be your site’s problem, try viewing the site in a text browser like Lynx or in a browser with images, Javascript, and Flash turned off, which will signal whether all of your content is accessible.

Is your site the most relevant to the user's search?

Once the site is discoverable and indexable, the final question to ask is whether the content of the web pages is unique and useful.

First look at your text as a whole. Are your title and text links descriptive?

Does your copy flow naturally and in a clear and intuitive manner?

Just as a chapter in a book is organized around specific areas and themes, so each web page should be focused on a specific area or topic. Keywords and phrases emerge naturally from this type of copy, and users are far more likely to stay on a web page that provides relevant content and links.

What's a keyword? Is there some magical way to come up with keywords or
is it more precise than that?

A. Keywords are the words that are being typed into search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo by people who are searching. Coming up with the right keywords for your business isn’t magic, and it isn’t even intuitive. In fact, most business owners don’t choose the best keywords for their business because they see things so differently than their potential customers. The keywords that first come to your mind, may not be the best keywords for search engine optimization.

You will need to do Keyword Research to determine the best keywords and phrases for your business.

Couple of things to keep in mind:
  1. Search queries that consist of multiple words are more targeted than single word queries. 
  2. The keywords with the biggest search volume are not always the best keywords. For example, if you are a birth doula you may think showing up for the term "doula" is the best phrase possible. You have to step back and ask yourself,; "what is the intent of someone searching for this phrase?"

    It could be someone looking for information on becoming a doula, for general research and information, or just other doula's checking out competition. While you would get more traffic for the term "doula" the chances of that traffic being your ideal client go down significantly. Your time and attention would be better served by being found with the term " Your City, birth doula" and "Your City doula services" as well as others.

What sorts of resources would you recommend for business owners who want to
tackle SEO on their own?

A. This one is tough because there are so many great resources and teachers choose from. The SEO community incredibly active and helpful.

For learning SEO in general, I recommend starting with one of these:

For Local Search:

And my favorite Women of SEO