Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must-have for any business, whether you're just starting out or have been around for years.
One study reports that a whopping 89 percent of consumers turn to a search engine to find information on a product or service before buying. That's a huge opportunity not to be missed.
There are lots of awesome SEO agencies and people who can help you do SEO the right way. Sadly, there are also plenty of not-so-legitimate SEO practitioners using questionable tactics that might generate positive immediate results, only to bite you in the behind later by getting you in trouble with Google. And once you get penalized by Google, it takes an enormous amount of effort to get back into their good graces.
Here are three ways to go about getting SEO to work for you:
1. Hire an outside firm or contract specialist.
If you don't know a thing about SEO, it's tempting to hire someone who lives and breathes the latest Google algorithms and updates. But be careful and do your homework when selecting a vendor. Ask them for a list of links they've obtained and make sure they're of good quality. Interview a few of their other customers and see what their experiences have been. If an SEO guru says he can get you onto page one or a hundred thousand backlinks in a month, run the other way--fast. Here's a great guide on how to spot a bad SEO proposal.
2. Leave it alone.
This is not an ideal choice, but probably won't hurt for the time being. If you just don't have the time or money to invest in SEO right now, that's OK. Just try to do the basics--like including a title tag that describes your business, using your keywords in URLs and in your content, and being active on social media.
3. Hire someone full-time.
If your company is growing, it might be more efficient to bring a specialist in-house. (This particularly applies if you've been using an agency; those agency fees can add up quick.) We did this at my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, about two years ago and it was a great decision. Our SEO manager knows our business inside and out, and works closely with other folks on the marketing team--from PR to content marketing to website design--to make sure everything we do looks great in Google's eyes.
Did any of these approaches to SEO work for you and your company? Would love to hear it in the comments below.