What is SEO

There’s no doubt that as a small business owner, you’ve heard the phrase “SEO optimization.” But what is SEO, and do you need it on your website?

SEO: A Definition

SEO is an acronym for search engine optimization. It involves a variety of techniques used to help search engines determine if your website is relevant to what a user is searching for.

The SEO game has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Google now ignores keywords used in a site’s meta tags due to abuse and “over-stuffing” irrelevant keywords. The emphasis now is on creating genuine, quality content that provides real value to website visitors. How exactly does a search engine determine if a webpage has quality content that provides value?

Search Engine Ranking Factors

Quality not quantity

Visitor Dwell Time

How long a visitor stays on your website sends a signal to search engines on whether your website has useful content or not. If visitors are arriving at your site and then immediately clicking the back button on their browser, this tells the search engine that your site isn’t relevant to what the visitor was looking for. Think about this the next time you hit your browser’s back button!

Quality Backlinks

Backlinks are clickable links to your website from other websites. If a reputable website like The New York Times is linking to your website, that tells search engines that your site has value to it. When you get a link like this, the referring website is passing along “link juice” to your website.

Content that Helps People Solve a Problem

While it is true that SEO keywords matter, focusing on creating original content that your visitors will find useful is a much better strategy in the long run. After all, as a small business owner, your goal is to help your customers solve a problem. This sensibility should be carried through in your online presence as well.

Google doesn’t care how interesting your content is. Google cares about how interesting other people think your content is.
Matthew Howells-Barby, Director of Acquisition, HubSpot

Why SEO Matters in 2018


SEO is your website’s way of communicating with search engines about what your site is about. The problem with this is that there are currently over 1.6 billion websites in the world, with about 10 new websites created every minute! Millions of these websites are trying to get search engines to notice them and rank them on the first page of search.

In 1994, for example, there were fewer than 3,000 websites online. By 2014, there were more than 1 billion. That represents a 33 million percent increase in 20 years.
Adrienne La France, The Atlantic

The advantage that small business owners have in the SEO game is being able to solve a problem for customers, therefore fulfilling the “helpfulness” factor for search engine ranking.

The next step is how to translate that helpfulness into original and engaging content on your website that is discoverable. It is important to work with a website design company who is willing to learn what your values as a business are when creating content for your website. Gourd Creative offers SEO optimization standard with all of our website packages.

Why Google Matters

Google dominates the search engine market share and delivers 92.74% of online search results. While other search engines like Yahoo and Bing are still around, keeping your website aligned with Google’s search algorithm can open your business up to a larger playing field and ensure that your website is SEO-friendly.

Local SEO

Keyword Research

The screenshot below is an example of keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner:

Wedding photographer example

Let’s say that we are building a website for a part-time wedding photographer who is based in Kailua but available anywhere in Hawaii. They might be tempted to want to stand out in a smaller market by only going for “Kailua wedding photographer,” but that keyword only gets 0 – 10 searches per month in Google. They might want to consider using a secondary keyword with a higher average monthly search rate to complement the first one.

Assuming that our Kailua photographer is even ranking for that keyword, searches do not necessarily result in a clickthrough to a website. According to WordStream, only 2% of people will clickthrough to a website in search results. In addition, clickthroughs will not always result in a customer making a purchase.

Using Keywords to Qualify Potential Customers

Another thing that looks awesome is “wedding photography” because it gets on average 10,000 – 100,000 monthly searches. The first problem with ranking for a broad keyword with no locale is that it would be almost impossible to rank on page 1 for a keyword from an over-saturated market.

Secondly, our Kailua-based photographer might get a bunch of inquiries for weddings outside of their service area (Hawaii) and have to deal with turning people down.

It is crucial to find out which keywords not only fit what you do as a business, but which keywords are going to be the most effective to drive your business goals forward.

To SEO, or Not to SEO?

Hopefully, you now have a basic understanding of what SEO is and how it can open up new opportunities for your small business. Entire books have been written just on the topic of SEO alone, and we’ve barely scratched the surface here.

SEO should absolutely be a part of your marketing strategy if a part of your business relies on attracting new customers via the internet. If having a centralized online presence isn’t a significant part of your business strategy, even having a 1-page website with up-to-date information can be helpful for customers.

The Influence of Google

With Google placing emphasis on creating useful content in order to rank, it pushes businesses to focus even more on the needs of their potential customers through the internet. This might also make people rethink how they conduct business face-to-face with customers, proving that Google has a lot of power in determining how businesses are run in today’s data-driven world.

Gourd Creative is a website design company based in Kailua, Hawaii. We specialize in small business websites that help our clients reach their goals.

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