There's a lot of confusion out there about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) today. Not just what it means, but the difference between Local and National search engine placement and marketing. While they overlap in a lot of areas, it's a lot easier to get to the top of Google locally than nationally. Here's why.
SEO is a combination of website optimization, search engine submission and backlinks to your website. When you have an optimized landing page, XML sitemaps and at least a Yext PowerListing, you have a shot to get to the top of Google Maps, as well as local search results for your specific keywords. If you want to rank nationally, you're going to need a little more link juice.
If you're running a WordPress or Joomla CMS, you'll need a plugin or two to optimize your website. Yoast for WordPress is the top choice, make sure you read the instructions fully to get the desired SEO. Activate your Sitemaps!
For Joomla, nothing is better than SH404SEF and JSitemap Pro for meta tags and XML sitemap generation. We also use a plugin called SEO Simple, which creates perfectly formatted META Tags for every page automatically. These extensions and plugins are tools, so make sure you know how to use them or they will just look good on your pegboard.
Submissions - Your site now has XML sitemaps, so use them! Submit them to at least Google and Bing, Yoast gives you other options to automatically submit them to other systems. You should also submit your site manually to DMOZ.org, and a few other free Directories.
YEXT PowerListing - This is vital for search engine placement, as it places your business in hundreds of online directories such as Yellow Pages, Super Pages, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, Google and many other business directories. This gives your website and business more clout on the search engines, when combined with SEO and Submissions.
Link Juice - Backlinks are links to your website from somewhere else. It's that simple. If another website is pointing back at you, Google sees that as a 'vote' for your website. The importance of the page 'voting' for you will dictate the amount of juice you get from that link.
So, if you have a link on 3M.com to your vinyl website, that's good link juice. If you post on a forum about vinyl and include a link to your website, that's link juice. Facebook and Google Plus posts of links to your website with a description? You guessed it, link juice. The more of this the better, either get busy online, or hire a company to do this for you.
So, how do you compete nationally on search engines for organic placement? Link Juice is critical, but the secret to success is niche markets. If you are a trucking company in Southern California, you'll get lost on page 4 for trucking companies in California. Now, have a page dedicated to medical shipments, fire suppression or something specific your company specializes in, you'll be number 1 for that search.
So how do I guess what people search for? You don't. Google has the Google Keyword Research Tool so you can see what specific searches are done in your industry every month. Sort them by number of searches and look for the top contenders that define your services. Make sure you use those phrases in your site, social profiles and anywhere you post information about your services.
So, the more link juice and the more specific you get, the better chance you have at organic traffic from search engines and directories. This is also important for Pay Per Click programs, and SEO will affect your cost-per-click; so optimize before you waste a ton of money on Adwords!