Before getting into tips and tricks, here is some background information about SEO for small business owners.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a strategy in web development or design that usually includes post-design promotional activity intended to enhance recognition of a site by search engines. The goal is having your small business website appear on or close to page one in Google, Yahoo, MSN, and the other major search engines. The result, especially being listed #1 on page one, may mean more traffic driven to your website with the ultimate goal of visitors converted to buying customers.
SEO may also mean a person, or Search Engine Optimizer, who is a direct employee or outside contractor with the responsibility of adjusting your small business website programming code, site content, and promotional activities to achieve page one with search engines. Like any profession, the performance level may vary widely from one to another.
Brick and mortar small business owners often launch a new website and expect the site to take over as the front line of marketing their product or service. This can be a mistake. Others just want to enhance their image by showing sophistication with a www domain that presents more content than will fit on a business card or brochure.
The first group wants traffic driven to their site, yet few small business owners truly understand Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, so some fall victim to persons offering SEO services for a fee. For the second group, just being online with a website that never changes meets their expectations, and they realize success depends on direct customer contact and marketing. A third group is similar to this last group, except they expect that just having a website will magically bring instant fortunes.
If you didn’t guess by now, there are no tricks to search engine optimization. Tips for SEO success should be based on proven techniques with long term positive results. Tricks that try to manipulate results by deceptive means, may succeed short term but will eventually fail.
Search engine algorithms for establishing ranking like Google’s PageRank are secret. The best one can do is guess how and why they change by tracking each quarterly update. Most watchers of PageRank, or PR for short, are trying to unravel what Google finds important and then manipulate their strategy to improve their ranking in search results. That could be a mistake. If adjusting strategy means manipulating what some think is important, too often they resort to deceptive means with short term gains.
I’ve written many times that deceptive practices will backfire. You will be punished. If you track PR, or follow the advice of SEO gurus, then you’ve heard the cliche “Content is King”. My position continues to be that the secret to search engine optimization is designing sites for visitors first, and then adding original quality content often to get noticed by people, and search engines.
“Content is King” needs to be changed to “Original Quality Content is King”. Traffic is meaningless if visitors don’t stick around long enough to be converted to paying customers. I believe that the tweaking of algorithms in 2007 and the downward shift in overall PR for so many sites is more than a temporary adjustment. Furthermore, I do not believe that Google is punishing website owners who provide original quality content. Instead, I believe that millions of websites set up and tweaked just to trick search engines are being caught and punished, and the PR scale in 2007 has shifted downward for quality site owners to fill in that void and redefine the PageRank range.
Small business website owners need to understand best practice SEO strategies. Here’s some search engine optimization advice that I published on my website in 2007. First is the main course from my menu to feed search engines that used an analogy comparing search engines to restaurants. Following that list are practices to avoid from that same article on my site.
Positive Search Engine Optimization practices to consider:
1. Keywords in the Page Title
2. Keywords in the H Tags
3. The Age of Your WWW Domain
4. The Size of Your Website
5. Backlinks (inbound links to your pages)
6. Keywords in Text Links
7. High Quality, Original Content
Negative or deceptive SEO practices you should avoid:
1. Do not have affiliate only advertising pages. You need original content.
2. Do not have over optimized pages. It won’t help SEO and may confuse your visitors.
3. Do not have link schemes, inbound or outbound. Deceptive practices will backfire.
4. Do not have identical content hosted on two separate domains (mirror sites).
5. Do not have plagiarized content. It is illegal, and search engines can tell.
6. Do not have foul language as in cursing, or content that is hateful or racist.
In conclusion, continue to evaluate your small business website strategy for SEO. Take advantage of the best practices and avoid the negative or deceptive methods, and you can succeed. The majority of small business entrepreneurs service a local market, so the ranking of your pages compared to the world could mean that very high PageRank is impossible. By following the tips given here, you may have enough to edge out your local competition, and that’s probably all that matters.