There is little doubt search engine marketing for small business has changed dramatically in the last three years. The speed of change is accelerating with major changes in just the past 12 months and updates continue to be rolled out on a regular basis. What worked well just 18 months ago will not necessarily work today and, worse still could actually result in a website being penalised and demoted significantly in the search engine rankings. This article reviews the recent history of search engine marketing, the current situation and how to get results today.
Search Engine Marketing – A Brief History
The search engine algorithms are complex so what follows is only a basic overview of the key issues. Three years ago all that was required to give a website the best chance of appearing on page 1 was to have some basic content cram it with keywords and build some backlinks (relevant or not).
The search engine companies (Google, Bing, Yahoo) prime mission is to deliver appropriate results against any search phrase a prospect may type in. Returning search results which do not match the search term or are of poor quality is against their interests. Google (and others) therefore make every effort to take out those who may wish to game the system. Over time the search engine algorithms have devalued (penalised) sites using keyword stuffing, irrelevant links and other dubious practices.
So what search engine marketing practices work today? It is important to remember, in very basic terms, the internet is simply links between documents. When there are more than one document relating to a subject (and in most cases there are many thousands, on a single topic) the search algorithm needs to decide which is more relevant to the search query. In basic terms it looks at words (keywords) in the document and makes a match with the query.
Keyword match alone is rarely sufficient to make a judgement between pages so the algorithm must make many other evaluations to rank pages effectively. At this point the debate rages over what factors the algorithm considers but it almost certainly makes a judgement based on relevance and trustworthiness. This is a subject too deep to consider in detail here but it is likely one of the methods used by the algorithm to measure relevance and trust is the incoming links to a document (page).
The SEM Basics For Small Business
The basics revolve around keywords and links. Good quality keyword research and choice is key as is the use and placement (tags, descriptions, headings, content etc) of those keywords. Appropriate link building is also key. However, more important than ever is content that is relevant and useful to the target prospect.
Content builds credibility and engagement with customers and prospects. More than that, it is difficult to build good quality links without content and, increasingly it is becoming a ranking factor judged by the search algorithm. Again, debate rages about how much of a ranking factor it is today but the indications are it will be a significant ranking factor in future.
Without worrying too much about detail, best practice search engine marketing for small business involves producing a website filled with relevant content and updating that content via a linked blog on a regular basis. Good keyword choice and practice and placement also have significant benefits.
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