Commentary by Nick Rakhshani

SEO, the 3 letter word that has revolutionized business. Whether we like it or not Google, Bing, and other search engines have been a God send to businesses of all sizes. If you can be found on Google, or better yet, if you are ranked high on Google, then you got it made!

Yes I know that can sound strange. But it is true. On the other hand if your business can’t be found on search engines, then you are losing business every day. Think of SEO as your best friend in getting sales. It is the one friend that works for you day in day out, 365 days a year. It doesn’t ask for a pay raise, or take sick leave.  It can make or break your business.

It’s kind of scary at some level too. That means we business owners are at some level at the mercy of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others. Because they control a lot.

SEO is the one area of marketing that your business can’t ignore. One of the best ways to be ranked high on Google is by creating engaging content on you website. Think of what your customers need, their interests, and persona. Then write content that addresses some of their needs. You don’t need to be a pulitzer level writer either. Need ideas to write about? There are literally thousands of ideas that you can use and most of them are on the internet. Yes there is a strategy to it, and yes it does take some skill. But that’s the job of your marketing team, to figure it out and help you make more sales.

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We still remember when the only in-bound marketing you needed for a successful business was the Yellow Pages. If you needed a plumber, doctor or CPA, you simply looked in the big yellow book. You might also buy a quarter-page ad in those days to get noticed. Or you might name your business “AAA Plumbing” in order to be first on the list of plumbers.

Well, those days are gone. Obviously, people today search the web for goods and services. Businesses can still pay more to boost their ads to the top of a website page. But, too many would-be customers people bypass such ads, believing that the “best” businesses are those that rise to the top of organic search listings.

SEO, then (depending on your type of business) can be very valuable. And there are many people out there touting ways to trick search engines into pushing your site high on their lists. But we advise staying away from those “get-rich-quick” schemes.

The first reason is that people, like the folks at Google, are continuously trying to keep these tricks from working: What works today may not work in three months. It’s a moving target.

Second, if search engines figure out you are playing games, they’ll block you.

Instead, we find that consistency and quality are the keys to good SEO. With that said, the details of how to build good SEO can be complex. Therefore, we reached out to an expert, Andrew Rountree of online marketing agency Addison Clark. In speaking with us, Rountree suggested five steps for building good SEO.

1. Choose a unique company name. 

You want people to be able to find you if they search (on Google or another search engine) for your company name, or something close to it. If you choose a frequently used name, this will be more difficult. For example, we initially named our company Richmond Performance Group. We didn’t understand what a poor choice this was until a year into our practice.

Half of the businesses in our area are called “Richmond” something or other. “Performance” and “group” are other words used frequently in business names. “Whitestone Partners” worked better.

2. Construct a strong website.

Make sure that your website describes exactly what you do, whom you do it for and how you do it. Use frequently searched terms in the descriptions. Embed the proper meta data, which should consist of strong page titles, good page descriptions and the right meta tags.

Remember, more is not always better. Loading your site with hundreds of meta tags will hurt more than help. Six to ten is probably a good rule of thumb. The meta data should also utilize frequently searched words that tie very tightly to the content on your website.

3. Embed a blog in your website. 

Add a high-quality blog to your website, and make sure that it’s embedded. If you let someone else (e.g., Word Press) host your blog, you won’t build as much SEO when people visit it. Also post regularly, for example, once per week.

Writing the blog posts yourself, moreover, will likely not be a huge challenge. If you don’t have the time, however, request permission to use content written by others or hire a ghostwriter who has reasonable rates. Regardless of where you get the content, make sure it is quality and that it’s germane to what you do.

Next, ensure that new content flows continuously. It is better to have one new post each week than to post 52 times in one week and then allow the blog to sit idle for 51 weeks. Finally, make sure that your titles contain highly searchable words that relate directly to the topic of the article.

4. Drive people to your website.

Nothing boosts organic SEO like a consistent string of visitors to your website. We have been very successful using a combination of automated Tweets that each contain a link to a particular blog article, coupled with interesting short pieces of advice, quotes and pictures and videos.

Tweets go out approximately once every four hours. When people click through to read the article, they go to the blog embedded on our website and improve our SEO. Obviously, this strategy will work only if you have a significant number of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram followers interested in the topics you’re writing about.

5. Make your site more searchable.

Including a site map can be helpful. There are aids available, such as Google Webmaster Tools, that skilled technicians can use to assess and improve the quality and searchability of your site. For technical help, we always rely on proven professionals.

Building and sustaining outstanding SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. However, in the right industry, it can be invaluable. We have enjoyed very good SEO, which has put Whitestone Partners at the top of the listings for several years. Many of our clients have found us while searching on Google.

So, to get to the top of the listings yourself, follow these five steps. They will put you on the right path.

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Nick Rakhshani