Q: The term "SEO" (search engine optimization) confounds a lot of people. In a nutshell, what's SEO and why should a small business owner with a website care?
A: It's true. These days SEO does have a lot of meanings. It used to be that you could just build some links on other websites and wait for the rankings to appear a couple weeks later. In today’s world, Google's® algorithm is much more advanced—now SEO includes creating compelling content, interacting on social platforms, and getting reviews for your products and services. I think every small business should care about SEO. The main reason is that it's free advertising for your company; some small businesses can save thousands of dollars just on one organic listing! I've seen some small businesses that do it right and they rank for thousands of keywords. But it's not just keyword rankings when it comes to SEO; some small businesses also have product videos on YouTube® and Google Places™ -- both of which can show up in Google search results.
Q: What are some common misconceptions about SEO?
A: A lot of people think that SEO is this mystic art that only a few people know. From my perspective, this couldn't be any further from the truth. SEO is a discipline; you have to be a dedicated individual who can interpret subtle movements and be willing to take the long and hard path sometimes. I get asked all the time how I became so good at doing SEO—and the reality is I stopped cutting corners. I make sure that I take the proper time to get things done right the first time. All to often I see websites where people have copy/pasted other websites’ content, or they've built a ton of cheap links on directory sites. Then they ask me what's wrong… the answer is clear and obvious.
Q: What kind of financial investment can a small business owner expect to make to improve search engine ranking?
A: The great thing about SEO is that it doesn't have to cost a dime. You simply need to carve out time in your schedule to write about your passions. If you are a passionate business owner (and most are), you should have no problem creating a blog for your website and writing weekly posts. If you don't have time for a blog, get active in the social community and interact with people looking for products/services similar to yours.
Q: What types of online tools are available to improve SEO?
A: GoDaddy's Search Engine Visibility tool is a great place to start if you want to know if your website is properly optimized. As for other tools, there are a lot of them out there… some good and some bad. One free and simple tool that I love is http://sharetally.co/. It allows you to see all of the social interactions that a particular URL has gained over time. This is really important if you are active socially.
Q: What's your No. 1 advice to small business owners who want to rank higher in search engine results?
A: If you are really interested in SEO and you want to succeed, I would suggest reading up on the subject. At MOZ, a blogger named Rand writes a fantastic blog with lots of useful information. Other trustworthy resources are www.searchengineland.com and www.seroundtable.com.