Search Engine Optimization has made many online businesses a lot of money thus far in this tech-dominated era. But marketplace principles dictate that where there’s high reward, there’s almost always high risk. Because SEO techniques are still young and continuously changing to adapt to developing policies from search engines like Google and Yahoo, it’s easy for the non-expert online business owners to find themselves swindled by one of the many fast talking, silver-tongued “SEO gurus” out there. 

Use the following foundation-level tips about Search Engine Optimization to help you separate the knowledgeable, trustworthy SEO specialists from the double-speakers. 

  1. The first step in the SEO process for any website is to conduct keyword research. 

Using free tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool can help you analyze what words and phrases people are searching for in your sector and the kind of competition that’s out there for those keywords. Sure, it would be nice to dominate a hugely popular niche like “weight loss” or “car insurance” – but the true SEO pros know that the best current niches are the “low hanging fruit” as opposed to the most popular (and most saturated) search terms. In essence, they’re the search terms with a decent amount of traffic and low competition. If either quality isn’t there, your odds of success are drastically lowered. 

  1. As alluded to before, optimizing your website for certain search terms requires a great deal of effort on the part of the site owner & the SEO specialist/agency.

They must first make their site accessible to search engine “spiders” (which can also be referred to as crawlers” or “bots”) that scour the entire world wide web for fresh content to index. From there, the SEO specialist/agency should then map out a coherent site architecture for your site based upon their keyword research findings. Have you ever been lost within the pages of a website because its structure is like a labyrinth with links and content? That’s what you’re trying to avoid. Keep your most important pages just a click or two from the site’s homepage and make sure your internal link structure is cleanly organized so that each page can pass “link juice” & authority down to each section of your website

  1. Also included in your SEO strategy will be the process of “link building”. 

An SEO specialist worth his or her salt will be able to tailor a link building strategy that will provide relevant and authoritative backlinks to your website. Don’t just judge your specialist’s work by the number of links you see leading to your site. Instead, see where those links are coming from. A single backlink from an authoritative & highly trusted page is worth a great deal more to your site than hundreds of low quality links.  The focus should be on quality and quantity (not just quantity). For your website, your SEO specialist should be able to obtain links from guest posts, links from partners and suppliers, links from good quality directories and links from press releases obtained from press release syndication websites. Building a high-quality backlink profile is a long-running and often tedious process, but your SEO specialist should have the patience and wherewithal to pull it off. 

  1. Lastly, your SEO specialist must be well-versed and adept at managing the most important recent development in Search Engine Optimization: social networking. 

Search engines can now crawl and index pages and content from social media websites and use this as a ranking factor, which means that a page with more “likes” and “shares” on Facebook or “tweets” on Twitter will potentially rank higher than an equivalent page with fewer. Most SEO specialists understand this, but might misuse social networks as solely a promotional (as opposed to branding) tool. Successful companies communicate and interact with the people they’re connected to on social media websites and don’t just use the “hard sell” tactic. They respond to comments on Facebook and reply to tweets sent their way with genuinely engaging answers or remarks. Social networking is most valuable when it’s used as more than a megaphone shouting “Go here!

So, there you have it. This brief rundown of foundational SEO principles should help you become acquainted enough with techniques and terminology to avoid choosing the wrong specialist. And while no one loves micromanaging, be sure to check in on your SEO agency or consultant from time to time to see them in action. Successful website owners know that it’s important to be part of the process instead of only reacting to the outcomes. 

Louis Rix is the Marketing Director of Netcars.com one of the fastest growing automotive sites in the UK.