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SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a buzz word these days. You’ve probably heard over and over that you need to optimize your web site for the search engines. But is this really critical? Are there drawbacks?

People need to find you on the web

Research is showing that most people who use the internet visit a company’s web site before making a purchase. They may be looking at your products or services, reading bios of key personnel, reviewing samples and case studies, or checking the hours of a retail operation. So it’s clear that having a web site that’s easy-to-use is critical to any business, even one that is not internet-based. But is it critical that it be search engine optimized?

Referral-based businesses may be stressing out too much over SEO

People need to be able to find you on the web, but what are they searching on? If you are a business built on referrals, it’s more likely they’ll be Googling your actual business name, rather than a more generic key word. For example, the number one keyword for people coming to my site is “Visible Logic”. I’m not getting a lot of traffic from “graphic designer” or “web design”. Both of those terms are just too vast and filled with too much competition.

Let’s think about what would be involved to produce a lot of web traffic on the words “graphic design” or “web site design”. To get on the first page of Google with those words would take a lot of optimization of text, updating and maintaining content, finding referral links, etc. Now I’m not saying I don’t want to be on the first page of results, I just don’t think it’s worth the time and effort.

Graphic design and web site design both can be commodity services when they are offered at the lowest levels. Logos for $99 and web site for $200 are generally the first things you find when searching these types of general terms.

Set Goals and Prioritize

As with any part of your business, you need to have goals and priorities in mind. It is doubtful you have unlimited time or money to put into SEO, but you should follow some best practices that are neither expensive nor time consuming:

  • Make the most of the content you do have: Use h1 tags and alt tags correctly. Don’t overuse graphic images, fill in keywords, descriptions and other meta data on all pages.
  • Write content with the reader in mind: If you write with your ideal client in mind, it increases the chance your text will be relevant to both readers and search engines.
  • Keep your site current: Build a plan to update, add and maintain content. Use a CMS tool to make this easier. Consider adding a blog or article library, but realize this will take time and effort so make sure you’re up to the task.
  • Ask for links from groups and associates you are involved with.

What do you think, how relevant is SEO to your company? How much effort, time and money are you investing in it?

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