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Clear as mud.

If that is your understanding of how search engine optimization works, you are not alone. The thing is, you’re a savvy small business owner who knows this SEO thing is important. It comes up at networking meetings and in searches as you try to educate yourself on ways to keep up with the rapidly changing face of online marketing.

We get it.

Because chances are, you didn’t get into business to spend hours critiquing and interpreting whatever numbers Google analytics pumps out for you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Nor should you need to!

That’s why we’re here: to offer some quick and dirty tips to help you gain the insight you need without taking you away from the job you love.

First of all, the easiest way to understand SEO is to think about when you do a Google search. Analytics control what a searcher finds, adding a marked incentive to get your content at the top of a search for a given topic.

Where this comes into play most often for small businesses is local searches, like “best dog groomer in Phoenix,” for example. The goal is to be as close to the top of the search results as possible, since most users are less likely to continue clicking through several pages to find what they’re looking for.

How do you accomplish that? How do you make Google’s “page one?” Search engine optimization.

Here’s what you need to know:

1)     Quality content is necessary: This may sound like common sense, but quality over quantity is never more true than it is for SEO. Google tracks everything, and engaging content is more likely to result in better numbers because it’s more likely to generate shares and links. But it doesn’t stop there. Having an understanding of what long-tail keywords and optimized tags will be most effective and how content looks and reads are also crucial.

2)     Backlinks are king: Anything linking inbound, or back to your site, from another source is considered a backlink. And that is a very powerful thing. Research suggests backlinks are responsible for 70 percent of search engine rankings. While it’s possible to purchase backlinks, systems are in place for that to backfire. You’re better off integrating SEO into your content marketing plan and implementing a process over time. Entrepreneur suggests this can be done by becoming a recognized resource in your industry, being a guest on podcasts or writing guest posts for other websites.

3)     Delegate if you can: While onsite SEO is recommended, it is understandable if it can’t be a regular priority. That’s where outside resources come into play. Like anything, it can be challenging to let go of a project when it’s your passion, but it’s that much more important you do. Someone who is trained to run assessments can analyze where you’re at and make necessary changes in a fraction of the time it would take most people to do the same thing. Mashable provides a valuable list of questions to consider asking before hiring an SEO expert in a time when there is no such thing as a quick fix.

Because these days SEO may be clear as mud but that doesn’t make it any less important to small businesses. But nothing is going to happen overnight.

Ultimately you know what’s best for your business, and that is where you should focus your efforts. While SEO is an important element to social media marketing, it is just that – an element.

A small piece of this very large puzzle we call being an entrepreneur.

Resource Links:

How to make the most out of content:  http://www.rswebsols.com/tutorials/seo-tutorials/make-content-seo-perspective

7 Small Business SEO Tips:  https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2230037/7-small-business-seo-tips

6 Link-Building Tips for Bootstrapped Entrepreneurs:  https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/280522

12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Expert:  http://mashable.com/2013/10/22/seo-hiring-questions/#Sbwv27E.aiqb