Why Does SEO Even Matter?SEO is a business-critical activity that can increase the frequency and quantity of customers who find you versus a competitor. The brief summary of your web page that displays in search engine results acts as a free "ad." How you, the author, code it determines the nature of its content and how well that "ad" can be found. The difference in being listed in the top 10 search results, on page 1, versus several pages back for a search query can mean the difference between profitability and obscurity.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes ultimately find themselves starting on an even playing field navigating SEO best practices to top one another. In the photography industry, several portfolio website services offer solutions that integrate some elements of SEO, but to ultimately best your competition, you can't beat the freedom of optimizing the code of your own hand-built web page. Not everyone has the expertise or time to do this, but understanding the basics of SEO will allow you to better evaluate online portfolio services to determine which provides the better solution if you decide to go that route.
SEO Best PracticesThe ultimate best practice for SEO is to write content for people and not search engines. Still, understanding what search engines like or look for is important. There are numerous search engines, but the reigning king is Google, which as of January 2013 holds a market share (U.S. market) of 67% followed by Bing at 16%, Yahoo at 12%, Ask at 3% and AOL at 2%. (See www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/2/comScore_Releases_January_2013_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings). Most approaches to SEO are universal, no matter the search engine. Seeing that Google holds such a large market share, their clout generally influences how their competitors function and most people optimize their website for search.
Optimization for search has two distinct facets: on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO focuses on refining components of code and content on the web page/website you're optimizing. Off-page SEO focuses on steps to drive others to interact with your web page/website. While one can achieve short-term benefits from on-page SEO, SEO, in general, is a long-term endeavor that requires a great deal of dedication and consistency. While SEO sounds menacing to the uninitiated, the steps to implement improvements are quite simple.
Think StrategicallyIf you have a handle on the following questions, you'll have an easier time with SEO and your business endeavors, in general.
What is your brand? Brand, as defined by Ashley Friedlein, "is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception." If you're not thinking about or shaping how your brand is to be perceived by your customers, they may not be getting the full story or, worse yet, getting the wrong story. Your SEO efforts will only be as good as your ability to encapsulate who you are and what you're about.
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