Online marketing is crucial for the success of most small e-businesses. Many potential customers will be searching for your products and services and if they don’t find their way to your site, you might as well shut up shop!
Over three quarters of SMEs intend to increase their online marketing in 2010. Why? Because it's the most profitable way for them to market their business.
The key to online marketing is understanding what search engines need. (Since 90% of all searches in the UK are via Google, ‘search engines’ pretty much means Google.)
When you get it right, search engine marketing gives Google exactly what it wants to put your website at the top of customer searches. In most markets today this will yield thousands of additional visitors and produce increased leads and business.
How do search engines choose top positions?
If you or your web designer adds keywords to your website pages – keywords are the words most searched for online by people looking for products or services like yours – it can help your website towards your sector’s top search engine position. Google looks for common words on your site to give it a better idea of the subject matter, and matches these with words and phrases that people are searching on. Have a look at the next page, Optimising Your Site, for advice on generating and using keywords.
But although keywords are important, they don't tell search engines all they need to know about your site. In fact, Google doesn't like finding the same keyword lots of times on a page – they call it 'Keyword Spam'. And because lots of competing websites are likely using the same keywords, search engines need to look at other factors when calculating which site should be top of the search engine hit parade.
What else does Google want?
The job of a search engine is to provide the best performing, most relevant results possible for their users. Search engines like Google profile the internet's most popular websites, compile a list of elements that make a site good and award points for each element.
It’s simple: the more points your website receives the higher your website is placed. But you can also lose points if Google thinks you’re trying to manipulate its results. There are various different ways this can be done, such as unnecessarily repeating the same keyword (keyword spamming) simply to try and get to the top of the search results for this word.
So what are these elements that search engines look for? Google makes many thousands of calculations when visiting a site, which can be broken down into a number of main categories (you can find out more about how to improve your score for each of the items below in Optimising Your Site):
- Your website is built correctly and Google can read the pages easily.
- That your pages conform to Google's content and technical guidelines.
- That your website's content is frequently changed/updated
- Your website grows in size (Google likes big websites) and – most important
- Links or references to your website on other websites (called 'backlinks'). The more relevant and authoritative/popular these websites are that have backlinks to you, or reference your site, the better this will be for your Google ranking. Backlinks are so important because they act as a barometer of your popularity, help Google determine your subject matter as well as how relevant your site is in relation to your targeted keywords.
The more of the above you give Google, the higher your positions will be. If your competitor does more than you then they will rank higher than you. In simple terms, it is a popularity contest!