Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is hot hot hot. If you own a business, you’ve been absolutely inundated (as we certainly have) by companies selling you “SEO Services” or “Page Rank Services” at outlandish prices. What the heck are these companies talking about? What exactly can you expect for the $400-$1,500 per-month asking price? Is it worth it? Let’s talk Oak Park SEO.
To begin: SEO is a legitimate concern. When someone searches for something on Google, the businesses listed first get more visits than those listed last; that’s pretty obvious. SEO is the process of boosting your company higher on the results page, and the methodology used to accomplish this fete varies as widely as you can imagine. There is enormous financial incentive to being listed first:
1. you get more traffic on your website, which (theoretically) increases sales
2. your company is listed in place of your competitors (zero-sum game)
3. if you’re listed first in one category, you’re probably listed first in others
There’s a constant struggle between marketing companies using gimmicks to put a client company on top of search results, and algorithms at Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! parsing these gimmicks and trying to find real companies that add value based on keyword search. If you pay a company to put you on top, you’ll get there. Buyer beware: you probably won’t stay for long!
Thinking locally, Oak Park is pretty competitive in every industry. In order to do some comparison, we’ll use our own page rank as an example. Our favorite keyword is “web design” (it’s tagged on this post, in fact). If you go to Google and type in “web design near Oak Park, IL”, what will you see? inPresence? Kind of…
We’re not on the first page, directly. However, that second link (yeah, the Yelp link) is us, inPresence, on Yelp. Scroll to the next page, and you’ll find us there. Do we mean to be on page 2? Not really, but we’re already second on the list organically. We didn’t pay Yelp to be listed first, but we did a really thorough job on our Yelp page, and Google algorithms trust Yelp rankings. This rabbit-hole logic is used to make countless calculations every time you use a search engine, and the search engines are parsing the way you use the results to make the next results even more adaptive. If you skip over the first five results, and so do the next 50 searchers for “web design”, Google figures out quickly that it should boost the rankings of 6-10 and demote 1-5.
If we use some common sense, we can easily and quickly raise our page rank organically, or at least guide your web development team (inPresence can help you with that…) towards your strengths for SEO. Some tips for OP SEO:
1. Use the Oak Park brand for positive promotions
If you want to offer a sale, if you sell something that’s only available in Oak Park (check out www.sugarcuptrading.com), or you have an Oak Park twist on an old idea (you’re located in a historic building for example), use that in your blog posts, tags, and just plain write it all over
2. Cast a wide net, and return often
Use Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Facebook, and Twitter to establish that yes, you are real and yes, you have been open for business for years and years. Companies make millions by inventing fake track records for junk companies; stick to what’s real about your business, and your SEO will reflect it
3. Start with something nice
Have a nice website built, and post/update frequently. Even if you are adding testimonials from customers or posting a funny picture a local kid drew on your sidewalk, having continual updates to your site shows that you’re committed to your online presence. Customers can see instantly if a website has fallen into disrepair.
4. Take your time
Organic growth online is slow. If you expect something to “go viral”, it won’t. If you spend your time crafting the “perfect” tweet, you’ll be wasting your time. Put things online that are important to you as a business owner and your customers as community members. You probably won’t see huge results for a few months, but once you start posting weekly, you’ll get angry emails if you skip a week.
5. Add value
Constantly reposting and sharing extant content is fun and easy, but it won’t help you get found. If you want to move higher on SEO rankings, add some internet value. Write your expert opinion on a current event, review a product you sell in your store, or make an awesome video of why people should come to your business instead of the competition. If you try hard on the internet, you’ll get great results (or an epic fail, which is equally useful in driving traffic).
Feel free to comment on my SEO thoughts. All respectful feedback is welcome.
And just to be typical, here’s a quick video about SEO from the interwebs