What is SEO? How does SEO work? Will SEO work for your business? Do you need SEO? These are all very valuable questions to ask. If you hope to make money in your business, SEO is one way to do that. SEO is my favorite way to make money, actually, and I’ll tell you why and also explain how SEO works for business.
I love making money with SEO because I don’t have to physically drive traffic or sell my services. I have identified what problems my services and products solve, and I’m using SEO to connect with people who already need those things.
For instance, you needed to learn how SEO works for business – and here you are, connected with me, a person who loves to teach about SEO. Perhaps, you’ll book an SEO Keyword Planning session , or watch some of the videos in this post about SEO, and I will make some money. I didn’t need to go out searching for you, or convince you to look at my work. Instead, I wrote this post that is optimized for the right keywords, and you, a person who searched those keywords, found me.
First of all, do you need SEO? I have yet to find a business that could not benefit from SEO, honestly. If you want more clients, then SEO can help you.
If you aren’t able to devote the time to improving your website, or you don’t want to have a website at all – then SEO might not be for you. If you currently have enough clients, and don’t want anymore ever…then SEO might not be for you. Otherwise, it’s not that you “need” it as there are tons of ways to be successful, but that it will benefit your business if done right.
A lot of business owners shy away from SEO, because it feels too difficult or technical. It feels like an entire language that you have to learn, and the results are not always obvious like they are with collecting leads in other ways.
But if you can get the hang of it, SEO can bring you consistent, easy, pre-qualified traffic. I don’t know about you, but those are my top three ideal types of traffic. And you don’t have to convince them to buy from you – because they already want to.
So let’s start with what SEO is. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and refers to optimizing your web presence for search engines. But what does that mean? It means that SEO is translating your website into a format that’s easy for search engines to read.
Primarily, we’re working with Google, and primarily, we’re working with your website. But there are other search engines, and there are other aspects to your online presence that you can use SEO to optimize. Today, though, let’s stick to optimizing your website for Google’s algorithms.
You might ask why Google, in all its glory, needs you to translate your website for them. There are a few reasons:
Let’s start at the top: Google isn’t as smart as you think. Google isn’t human. It uses what are called “crawlers” to crawl your site for information in a specific way. It can’t read everything on every website and fully comprehend it, because it’s just not that good. As an example, Google is really bad at understanding what pictures are showing.
So it’s your job to help Google understand what your website is about. The more you tell Google where to put you in search results, the more it’ll put you there.
Google uses a combination of its own intelligence and user signals (like clicking, time on page, leaving pages, etc.) to determine which results best answer the user’s question. Thus, good SEO is a combination of increasing the user experience of your page, and the searchability.
Secondly, there’s a lot on the internet. At least 3.7 billion pages. So Google can’t get through them all at a really deep level. They have to figure out, quickly, which page to present for a certain search term to get the user the answer it needs. You can use SEO to help Google understand when it’s your page that should be presented.
And of course, no one knows your products and services better than you. No one understands who you’re trying to reach better than you. So instead of leaving this up to chance – use your (soon-to-come) SEO knowledge to proactively tell Google where you want to show up.
Alright, so how does SEO work then? There are a few main factors, and this is a beginner SEO article, so let’s keep it simple.
The core of SEO comes down to keywords. What are SEO Keywords? A keyword is literally anything that a user might search on a search engine. “Banana” is a keyword, but so is “What is the best way to peel a banana?” And so are “bananas near me,” “B-A-N-A-N-A-S,” and “banana strawberry smoothie recipe”.
You might imagine different things coming up on Google for all of those different keywords. That’s because you intrinsically understand how search engines work (because you are likely a product of the internet age!). Maybe this will help it to feel a little simpler.
Why are SEO Keywords important, though? Because these are how you tell Google what searches you should show up on.
Your business will need 2 categories of keywords: primary keywords and secondary keywords. Primary Keywords are ones that are your main, core keywords. Every single person who searches these should be your ideal client. They are usually what’s called “long-tail keywords” when it comes to small businesses, in that they are a little more niche and specific.
Primary Keyword Ideas:
Do you see how everyone who searches any of these is looking for one, single, specific service? They don’t want a photographer – they want a wedding photographer. They don’t want a graphic designer – they want a graphic designer for restaurant menus.
I’d recommend an SEO beginner prioritize about 5 keywords max that you want to be ranking well for. I’ll show you how to find them in the video below – but what about any others that you stumble upon in your search? Those are great to keep in mind as secondary keywords!
Secondary keywords are for other searches that match your work, but not necessarily as well. These may also be things that you do, but aren’t your main core income source. For instance, I teach on a lot of topics – they can’t all be my number one focus. People who search these might be a good match for your products, but maybe not 100%.
Examples of secondary keywords to match the primary keywords above:
Secondary keywords could be single subject ideas for a blog post or landing page (Can you mail a wax seal?), or they can be something that you pepper into the appropriate pages as needed (SoCal photographer). I believe you can never have too many of these – but for beginners I’d stick to 30 or fewer so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
This video will show you how to find good SEO Keywords for your business. For primary keywords, I like a search volume of 300-500 per month. For secondary keywords, it’s not as important to stay in a certain range, but as a beginner you won’t necessarily be able to rank on keywords with extremely high volume.
For instance, “wedding invites” gets about 450,000 searches per month. But it has some big names ranking at the top. “Light blue wedding invites” has about 390 searches per month, but a smaller website has a better chance of ranking for that.
Watch this video to learn how to find good SEO Keywords.
Before explaining what to do with the keywords, I want to point out 3 keyword mistakes you should avoid!
First, focusing on traffic and not your product is tempting. There are a LOT of keywords in existence…basically any word or phrase could be a keyword. So it takes a lot of effort to find your good ones at the beginning. You might find something that’s got a decent amount of traffic and just say “okay great, that’s my keyword!”. However, that’s not always what’s going to get you paid.
For example, I sell a print matching tool for graphic designers called The Printable Palette. That page on my site ranks well for the keyword “Color Chart”. However, if a person is searching the term “Color Chart”, they likely aren’t looking for my palette as it’s more of a niche product for graphic designers. They’re likely just looking for a simple primary/secondary color wheel kind of chart. So I don’t optimize for “Color Chart” but choose to optimize for things like “Printable Color Palette” or “Digital Print Color Matching” which are more relevant to my product.
The lesson here? It’s more important for your SEO work to get you paid than it is for it to get you traffic.
Secondly, focusing on difficult keywords. You might think “If I can rank on this keyword with 400 searches per month, why shouldn’t I go for this other one that’s got 1,000 searches a month instead?”.
It’s a balance, truthfully. Maybe you’ll be able to rank on that 1,000-search one. But maybe your site isn’t established enough to do that. Want to get an idea of if you can rank or not? Simply type that keyword into Google and see who’s currently in the top spots. If their websites and businesses seem similar to yours, you might have a good chance. If a giant corporation is in the top spot – you might want to focus elsewhere.
And lastly, assuming what people are searching can lead you astray. A great example of this is in the wedding invitation world (my world!). Everyone in the industry calls a set of invitation, RSVP card, envelopes, etc. an “invitation suite”. It’s the correct term for that. But what does SEO say?
“Invitation Suites” – 880 avg. searches per month
“Invitation Cards” – 201,000 avg. searches per month
“Watercolor Invitation Suites” – 0 avg. searches per month
“Watercolor Invitations” – 880 avg. searches per month
YIKES. That’s a massive difference. So the lesson here is to do the research. Don’t just say “I sell wedding invitation suites. That’s going to be my primary keyword” without backing that up with real data. I am often surprised by the things that people are (and aren’t) searching.
Want some help with this process? Book a 90-minute keyword planning session with me! You’ll leave with:
Now that you have your list of ~5 primary keywords and ~30 secondary keywords, what do you do? You’ll pepper them into your website in a variety of places. This shows Google where you want your pages to show up.
An important reminder here that while Google is not thinking on a human level – they are pretty smart. So it’s best to use the keywords in ways that make sense, not just stuffing them in. This is literally called keyword stuffing and is a bad SEO practice that will hurt you.
Now, let’s actually put those keywords to use!
Use your SEO Keywords in a few ways:
Again, we don’t want to haphazardly stuff the keywords in, but use them in ways that make sense. Google will also be reading the words around your keywords, and getting a full contextual picture of what your site offers. So if you’re the mandolin teacher, you want that primary keyword (how to learn to plan the mandolin), and Google will also expect to see other words and phrases related to that – chords, music, bluegrass, instrument, strings, play, tuning your mandolin, what is a mandolin, etc.
So let’s go over the steps we’ve covered:
Step 1: Find good keywords
Step 2: Infuse them into your website
…it can’t possibly be that easy, can it? Honestly, it can. These are the core steps to SEO for a small business. Big companies like Best Buy or Target are doing tons of tiny technical things to rank higher and higher on thousands and thousands of keywords. But as a small business, those things aren’t nearly as important as just figuring out which keywords you want to rank on, and getting those infused into your site.
But if you want to take SEO to the next level, let’s just take this a step farther. Are all your current pages optimized? I now challenge you to add a new page, whether it’s a blog post, landing page, or resource page. Optimize this page for a secondary keyword that you like. For example, I have this page about Dubsado that is optimized for the keyword “Dubsado Coupon Code”.
It’s not linked in my site navigation, you can only get to it from search or if you know the link directly – but it’s gotten me about 40 clicks recently. Those are 40 people who already know they want Dubsado, and are so ready to purchase that they want a coupon code – and each time they use mine I make $30.
After creating some additional content for your website, what can you do next?
But this doesn’t need to feel difficult or technical in order to work. I have bad core web vitals and low page load speed. I rarely check my analytics. But I’m getting around 15,000 organic visits to my website every single month, and my revenue is increasing in kind – all with this simple strategy.
Step 1: Find good keywords
Step 2: Infuse them into your website
Those two steps are how SEO works for Business. Nothing fancy, nothing crazy technical, just good content that’s well-researched and that people are already searching for.
Want some help with SEO + Keyword Planning? Book a 90-minute session with me! You’ll leave with:
Hi, I'm Laney!
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I make wedding invitations and I teach artists how to work smarter, make money, and run a business that works for you.