By Eric Evans, SEO & Search Marketing Specialist, Merge

In Part one of “Don’t hide from your customers,” we explained the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and described the first two of five basic SEO principles that all marketers can apply to their websites. In this part, we explain the remaining three principles.

3. Content is king

Expert content is king. Having relevant, targeted content will help search engines define what each of your pages is about. Whatever you write about, it should contain your targeted keywords and should be informative and entertaining. Being the authority of your industry is one of the best ways to be both informative and entertaining. The more informative and interesting your content, the more likely your users will link to your site and spread your message for you. In our example, how can Joe make his pet shop site entertaining? Simple. Since he’s an expert on exotic pets, he might have page after page of interesting facts and articles about the pets he carries. These pages could contain the types of creative facts that only an expert would know, and that is a recipe for great, unique content.

4. Site popularity and links

As it relates to SEO, your website is engaged in a 24/7 popularity contest. The same “cool factors” that you remember from your high school days hold steady in the online world. In the most simplistic sense, you need to drive your advocates, fans and customers to visit your website, spend time on it and talk about it in order to improve your SEO. Let’s revisit Joe. He’s one of the only exotic pet shops in his area and he has lots of people recommending his shop to their friends. However, his Web analytics reveal that his site traffic is poor. One tactic he might try is handing out something to all his customers to tell them about all the information they can get on his site. If he’s used the other principles we’ve discussed, their visit should result in organic linking of blogs, Facebook, or their own business to his. So, what’s the secret to cool? Having great content that people want to link to and share is one of the primary factors. This is called backlinking and it is the key to increasing your site popularity. Other sites linking back to your site is basically a measure of how many advocates you have that speak to your expertise. Google knows how many sites are linking to you and who those sites are. Joining industry specific associations and organizations that link to your site is also great for increasing your authority in your industry. The more the merrier is a great way to describe backlinks, but don’t get caught up in link farms or submitting to thousands of directories. Those can and will end up hurting your site more than they will help.

5. Social Media

One thing that we’ve learned about social media in the last few years is that ignoring it won’t make it go away. Social media can be a very powerful marketing tool if you target your audience correctly and contribute relevant messages and content. Having a Facebook page or a Twitter account doesn’t mean you have SEO gold sitting in your lap. You need to utilize those channels effectively by providing an informative voice into your participating community. For example, say Joe created a Facebook page for his business and requested all of his friends become fans. His business page might have hundreds of fans, but perhaps none of them are making any comments or posting pictures of their pets. Joe’s strategy might be to create a contest for a Pet of the Month and have fans upload pictures to enter. Then, he may ask his Facebook community to judge the entries. Don’t just sit back and wait for your fans to start the conversation. Jump in and engage your community. The larger question for us is, whether social media marketing can help your website’s SEO? Let’s refer back to Principle #4‚Ķpopularity. Both Google and Bing take social media into consideration when they rank your site, so don’t get left on the sidelines thinking this fad will pass.

Bottom Line: Don’t be like Joe’s Exotic Pets and skip out on SEO because it takes too long or doesn’t produce results quickly. The long-term gain from putting plenty of time and effort into your SEO greatly outweighs choosing to ignore it. Consider these five basic SEO principles, fit them into your business and Web strategy and then execute.

This article originally appeared on the Merge blog and is used here with permission.

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