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Creating a website is crucial for any business, but just having the site is only half of the online marketing equation. The site also needs to appear at the top of search results to be discovered by the right people (targeted customers). SEO, or search engine optimization, can make that all happen. SEO is a practice that maximizes the number of quality visitors to a website, and that can translate to increased real world dollars for our clients. According to Search Engine Land, SEO is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. Here are the basics of best SEO practices, and how we put it into action for our clients.

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Search Engine Optimization

First things first – what are search engines and what do they do? Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, are web based programs that use something called web crawlers to enable users to search for information on lists of websites. A web crawler scans the content and structure, or site map of a website, and uses that information to determine its ranking on a list in search results. People naturally click on links at the top of a search, so it is our job to ensure that each website is optimally built to be most visible to web crawlers.

Keyword Optimization and Research

Quality website content must include keywords, which are the terms typed into the search engine boxes. For example, if someone searches for a dentist, some keywords they might use are “dentist Atlanta,” or “dentists in Atlanta, GA.” Properly marketed websites with those keywords in their content will be listed in the results. Keyword optimization is a multifaceted practice that works to attract clicks from a quality, targeted audience. If the keywords used attract viewers who click away immediately (which means a high bounce rate and poor rankings), better keywords are needed to attract the audience that will stay, and we use the most up-to-date research tools to identify the best keywords for each client’s website. Search engines look at keywords in content, title tags, the web address, and in meta description tags (the little snippets of description that show up under the website in search results), so keywords need to be strategically placed in these locations for maximum results in search engine rankings. You don’t want to get carried away though and “keyword stuff” your website so that it looks unnatural to Google and the other search engines; this will lead to penalties and poor rankings.

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Quality Link Building

What else can be done to climb the ranking ladder? After the website is properly built with a good search engine foundation, an ongoing SEM (Search Engine Marketing) process should be implemented. Google assumes that quality links to a website URL mean it’s credible and trusted, and gives priority ranking to it. This means that efforts need to be made to build links around the web to “get the word out” about a site. This can also be the death of a website if done poorly (ie: Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird updates)! Back when search engine optimization was a little easier, an SEO company could build hundreds of low quality links to a site and improve it’s rankings in no time. Google, and the other search engines, have since gotten more strict on how they rank sites. These days, websites needs high quality incoming links and link building to improve search traffic. Some link building strategies we suggest are: asking other relative websites to post a link to a client’s website (link exchange), submit the link to local directories, set up high quality web 2.0 sites (Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc), implement social bookmarking, and others; we also want to insert links to other sites into the client’s website content. Social media also now plays a huge part in link building and website rankings as well. Sharing links on social media is crucial because people share information to millions of sites via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and this contributes heavily to ranking in search results.

Analyzing Website Traffic

Website traffic is the number of visitors a website gets. Quality content, keywords, social media, and links bring traffic to a website, but we have to know if the visitors are the ones we want for our clients. Analytics, or an analysis of traffic on a website, help us determine the quality of a website’s visitors. For example, a high bounce rate, or number of viewers that navigate away after one click, means the site is attracting the wrong visitors or may be designed poorly. That’s why analytics are crucial to SEO, because they can tell us what is working and what needs to be changed in order to bring in viewers who will stay on the website. More quality viewers mean more business for our clients.

Search engine optmization is an intricate web of practices that must be employed to make a client’s website soar to the top of search engine results. After all, what good is a website if no one can find it? Our clients need not be intimidated by terms like SEO, web crawlers, link building, and keyword optimization. We speak the language and put it in action so they don’t have to.

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