You’re stuck.

You want potential customers to be able to find your website when they search the Internet, but your business is showing up on page 2, 3 or 4 of a Google search.

The bottom line:  People aren’t going to find you online.

How can you move your site from no man’s land to the first page of a search? 

It’s called search engine optimization, or SEO, and we asked two local experts to share their key tips for it.  


1. Use the right keywords

It might sound simple enough, but the challenge is to use relevant keywords that people will search for – not the key words you wish they would search for. For example, Harden said, a retirement community might want to refer to itself using the words “independent living” rather than “nursing home,” but people will search using “nursing home.” A potential solution would be to write something to the effect of “you might think of it as a nursing home, but really it offers so much more,” Harden said. Melton recommends looking at what other people in your industry are using for their keywords. And you want to make those keywords easy to find. “There are a lot of websites out there where their landing page would just have pictures,” Melton said. “Well, Google can’t read a photo. It reads words.” Also be aware of your meta description on Google, which is the short description that appears with your company on a search. Most content management systems give users a way to manually set their meta description. 


2. Make your user experience worthwhile

You’ve heard the slogan “content is king.” That’s true when it comes to SEO. “From Google’s standpoint, they want to show websites that have good content,” Melton said. A common problem businesses run into is that their sites talk about their products or services, but the sites don’t really provide anything valuable, Harden said. In other words, “Are people wanting to come back to your website? Do you offer expertise in an area or topic or niche?” she said. Not only that, but search engines like fresh content – such as a company blog.


3. Make your content link-worthy

A true test of whether your content is worthwhile is if other people or websites will link to you. That could be on a social media site or on another company’s website. That’s the fastest way you can move up and down in rankings, Harden said. Google changed its algorithm this year to cut down on sites that pay a third-party site money to link back to their site, trying to trick the search engine. Another change: Sites used to be rewarded for containing a lot of links to other sites, Melton said. Now they are rewarded more for having other sites link to them.


4. Be social

Google will pull social media activity from Google-Plus in its search results, and Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine will pull results from Facebook, Harden said. So a strong presence on social media can help your SEO. It helps to put links back to your website on your social media posts, and it also helps if other people link to your website or blog from their personal social media accounts. Speaking of blogs, they help with SEO, said Melton. “I think ‘blog’ is kind of a four-letter word because it’s so time-consuming,” she said. Writing 300- to 400-word blog posts, though, will help keep fresh content on your site. The number of people who follow the blog might be low, but “you’re blogging to Google.”


5. Know which search engine to focus your time on

The rules for SEO on Google and Bing are slightly different, but Google has about an 85 percent market share in the Midwest, Harden said, so it pays to focus more on Google. The rules are similar enough that most things a website does to improve SEO will suffice for both search engines.