Are you a business owner with plans for a new marketing strategy or website? If so, you’ve probably already been told by your friends, co-workers and back-seat-consultants that search is your gateway to the promised land. In the past few months, I’ve seen a rampant increase the the number of owners (specifically those with small businesses) obsessing over the need for improved SEO (search engine optimization) and ranked positioning in Google. Unfortunately, this is a detrimental way to handle your strategy.

So whats going on with owners? My theory: They’ve been fed a lot of false information from someone whose knowledge base is either irrelevant or out of date. The overwhelming information and conflicting opinions are enough to scare the daylights out of most business owners and it gives those of us interested in the good side of SEO a bad name.

Need-to-Know Terms

You don’t need to be an expert, but understanding a few basic terms and how they work will shield you from the mountain of jargon consultants are likely to throw at you as they try to sell you optimization services you may or may not need. To help you out, I’ve whipped up a quick SEO 201 Cheat Sheet.

Click-Through Rate: Once your site is indexed, Google keeps close track of how often the search result leading to your website gets clicked over time. The more clicks on Google, the more valuable your link is perceived to be and the more likely your website will stay at or gain in its current rankings. Writing good meta descriptions which will compel searchers to click your links will improve your Click-Through Rate.  If you have a WordPress website, the Yoast SEO plugin makes this a simple part of writing every blog post or adding each new page.

Relevant Terms: Google robots read and categorize the large majority of the words across your entire website. How your website ranks in a given search is in direct correlation to the types of words on your website which are related to the given “keyword” or “keyword phrase.” Perhaps your key word is heating and air conditioning. Google is smart enough to know heating and cooling, furnace, air conditioner and HVAC are all related terms.

Some phrases are searched more often than others. As you write content for your site, be sure to ask your SEO consultant to review the relevancy of words on your current site and offer up new terms you can use to be found in higher-volume searches.

Google+: Google wants to know you’re a real business serving real customers, and will reward you for playing by the rules. Be sure to take the time to set up Google+ or Google My Business accounts for your company. This will allow Google to verify the location of your brick-and-mortar headquarters.  Also link your website to your Google+ page and post links to individual blog posts to remind Google of the business you are in.

Total Backlinks: This used to be the granddaddy of Google search metrics. The logic was, “If a website has a lot of links pointing back to it, then the brand must be extremely important and should rank above everyone else.” Google has done a lot to fix this fundamentally flawed and gameable logic, much to your benefit.

Links are not the first thing Google looks at, however, links do still play a crucial role in building authority and trust with search engines.  Don’t worry about quantity, but quality, legitimate links to your site do count.

Social Shares: Does an active social presence help search position or doesn’t it? Matt Cutt’s says it doesn’t  but a study by SearchMetrics indicates it might. The bottom line? Social shares with links to good, well written and popular content will improve your search; spammy links don’t.

Still hungry for more? Check out the entire study: Top 40 Search Factors of 2014,