Catherine Wilson photoBy Catherine Wilson

What in the world is SEO? And, how it can it help a contractor grow the business? We’ll try to answer those questions in this article in non-tech terms, so you’ll better understand these concepts and how they affect your online marketing.

1. What is a search engine?
Google, Bing, and Yahoo are all names of search engines. They are the all-inclusive index of every page and image found on the Internet. When you type words into the search bar at the top of your browser, one of these search engines will scan the Internet for the words you typed and other content related to that topic. As a contractor, you want search engines to quickly find your website and other information about you, especially if you are more of a B-to-C contractor.

2. What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
SEO refers to the strategies used to help the search engines find your website when someone is looking for the services you provide. It includes the use of keywords, backlinks, and other means to tell the search engines what type of information will be found on your website. The strength of your SEO strategy can help you reach the top listing in a search engine, outranking your competitors.

3. What is a keyword?
Keywords are one of the most critical components of SEO. These are the words, phrases, or string of words Internet users type into a search bar. As voice recognition becomes more popular, spoken questions also become keywords. For contractor SEO, some keywords might be: contractor, builder, plumber, electrician or something similar.

SEO image4. How do I select the best keywords for my business?
Not all keywords perform equally well. Keyword research is critical to selecting the most effective keywords to use in your search engine marketing for contractors. If your keywords are too common, they will be found on every contractor website and make it difficult for you to stand out. Hiring an SEO specialist to select your keywords can pay off in a higher position on the search page.

5. Where do search engines find keywords?
The proper positioning of keywords is just as critical as selecting the right keywords. Search engines like Google, look for clues (your keywords) in several places when trying to determine the topics on a web page. Some of the places the search engine looks are: the url, title tags, meta descriptions, content headings, the body of the content, and alt tags for images.

6. What are title tags and meta descriptions?
When you type in a word or phrase in the search bar of your browser, a list of possible web pages shows up on the search page. These short titles and descriptions you see were written just for that purpose and are imbedded in the background of each web page. They are referred to as the title tag and meta description for that page. It is vitally important that these areas are optimized for search with your best keywords.

7. What is a URL and why is it important for SEO?
A URL is an Internet address or name, such as www.mycompany.com. Each of the pages on your website and every blog post has its own URL. Search engines look at the URLs of your pages to help it determine what information it will find in the content. The more descriptive the URL, the better.

8. Does the number of words on a page matter?
In addition to looking for the topic associated with a web page, search engines also try to rank websites by how complete or valuable the information might be. There are many different factors used to rank the value or authority of website content. One of the factors involves the number of words on the page. If your page has less than 100 words, Google search is likely to ignore it completely. The best word count for your pages can vary depending on the length of content used by the competition.

9. Google likes unique content. What does that mean?
When a search engine scans the words on your website it looks to see if it can find the same phrases or sentences on other website pages. If it finds the same content elsewhere (even on your own website) it marks that as duplicate content. Duplicate content gets a lower value ranking. It is critical that all the content on your website is unique to show up at the top of a search.

10. How does a blog help my SEO?
If your website content hasn’t been changed or updated in a while, it will drop down in its value ranking. Having new content placed on your website as blog posts helps preserve your website’s high ranking with search engines looking at contractor websites.

11. What do images have to do with SEO?
Yes, search engines look at images too. When images are placed on your website or in your blog articles, they can be labeled with an “alt tag” to tell search engines what the image is about. This is another opportunity to use your top keywords for the page.

12. How can Google Analytics help me?
Google has a free tool called Google Analytics to help you improve your search engine marketing. You can use Google Analytics to research and choose keywords. You can also use it to review the effectiveness of your search engine marketing. The tool offers reports that show where your website traffic is coming from, which pages are most popular and which keywords are delivering the most traffic to each page.

13. How do backlinks and directory listings help me?
Backlinks are links to your website from other pages on the Internet. These can be your own pages, like blog articles with hyperlinks back to your website pages, or they can be links on business directories across the Internet, social media or industry related sites.

As you can see, search engine marketing has become quite complex. However, it is still one of the most important and effective means of marketing a general contractor today. You can find additional SEO tips at LocalSEOCheckList.org to help you out.

Catherine Wilson is an associate with ABC member firm Home Pro Digital and can be reached at 262-720-3939.