By Eric Evans, SEO & search marketing specialist, Merge

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving the visibility of your website in the organic search results of search engines like Google and Bing. Optimizing your website for search engines isn’t a formula. It’s a constantly changing and evolving process that needs to be evaluated on a periodic basis. You may be thinking, “Why do I need to be worried about SEO?” Below is an example that we are going to use to address your question.

Let’s imagine Joe is the owner of an exotic pet shop located in Somewhereville, USA. Joe carries a rare and highly desired type of toucan that very few shops have. A potential customer may want to purchase this exact bird, but none of the local pet shops he has visited stocks or can find one to sell. At some point in the process, someone will decide to “Google” for exotic toucans or pet shops to look for the bird. If Joe doesn’t have an SEO strategy or hasn’t implemented basic SEO on his website, then he will not be identified as a potential match for this customer.

Losing a sale because a customer can’t find your site is just like having a customer walk right into your store while you dive behind the counter so he can’t see you. Well, maybe not exactly, but you get the picture. So in an effort to jump-start your interest and point you in the right direction, below are the first two of five basic SEO principles that all marketers can apply to their sites. We’ll cover three other principals in a later article.

1. Tracking your success

The first basic principle isn’t just for SEO; it’s for your entire online digital strategy. Track, track, trackā€¦and did we mention track? If you don’t track and analyze your marketing efforts, how can you know if you’re converting users (or leads) into customers? Using our example of Joe’s Exotic Pet Shop, if he were using an analytics tracking program, he would be able to see who is coming to his site and how they are getting there. With this information he would be able to make informed decisions about how users are navigating his site and what changes could be made to improve their interface with it. One of the best analytics programs we’ve used is Google Analytics. After using many different analytics programs, both paid and free, we’ve found that Google Analytics is as good as any of them. Remember, the key to any analytics program is to properly set up goals and conversion tracking with measurable and attainable objectives.

2. Keyword research

What keywords should you choose to target? How do you optimize your website for those keywords? Both of these questions are great starting places for keyword research. They may seem simplistic, but these answers will be the foundation for your future SEO efforts. Your first step is to select keywords that fit with your business strategy and align with your company’s services. Let’s revisit Joe’s Exotic Pet Shop. His basic keyword list might include: exotic pet shop, unique pets, pet shops in Somewhereville, exotic pets, exotic toucans, rare toucan bird, etc. Now you have your keyword list and you want to optimize your site for those keywords, but how? Well, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a graphic that is modeled after something that Rand Fishkin created at SEOMoz.

Marketing Article JPEG

Remember that every SEO strategy should include a healthy amount of testing and refining. It’s critical to find the best combination of keywords for each Web page and your entire website.

In Part two, we’ll cover the importance of informative and entertaining content from experts, site popularity and social media.

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

SEO is an important way to be visible to prospective customers. So is an effective email campaign that sends the right messages to the right people. ZoomInfo’s data experts can help you make sure the right people are on your mailing list. Learn more.

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