Among the seemingly endless—and constantly changing—things small business owners need to stay on top of, SEO, or search engine optimization, ranks right up there in importance. As the clutter becomes almost unfathomable, the ability of any small business to be found by potential customers becomes more and more critical. If you aren’t already doing it, now’s the time to get going.
Eric Stein of MonkSEO Monkseo.com, a Chicago-based SEO services provider, lays out three basic principles as the foundation of all SEO efforts, especially for small businesses:
- Keyword research
- Meta tags
Some say that as SEO continues to evolve, these basic concepts may be replaced by others in importance. But we agree with MonkSEO and other sources: Small businesses, especially, those making serious SEO efforts for the first time, are best served by learning about and mastering these basics first.
The importance of (the right) keywords
Determining the right keywords is important because you’ll use them to ‘optimize’ the pages of your website. Which simply means that you are doing specific things to your pages that will increase the chances that your site will show up—or show up high in a listing of results—when someone does a ‘natural’ (unpaid) search online. The presence of relevant, searched-for keywords on your site is made up of two main factors: keyword placement and keyword density. Other optimization techniques can include HTML code, meta tags.
Keywords are important not only as cues to lead customers to your business through searches, but also because you’ll use them as anchor text in building backlinks. Anchor text is the visible, clickable text that in a hyperlink, usually appearing in blue and underlined.
Deciding on the right keywords is no small task, either. You want your keywords to have enough traffic and searches to make this whole search thing worthwhile, after all. But for words that are too common—and really, almost any single word or even two words will be—the competition is so overwhelming, you just can’t win. So put your efforts into three- or four-word keyword combinations. Use tools like Google Adwords and Market Samurai (link) to analyze keyword traffic and competition. Obviously, you’re looking for keywords generating maximum traffic with the lowest possible competition—that you’ll want to then use everywhere you can, from your website and online articles to blog posts and videos.
You’ll definitely want to read the rest of MonkSEO’s excellent instruction on the other two foundational elements: meta tags and backlinks. Even though you’ll feel like an expert, armed with this new information, MonkSEO correctly points out that this stuff can be time consuming! So at some point, you’ll probably want to hire someone—even on a part-time or contract basis—to focus on it for you. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to ways to improve SEO—something that will eventually become a habit in a constantly-evolving discipline. This article covers three very doable tasks:
- Get active on Google+
- Start a blog
- Knowing where (and how often) to put keywords
If you’re really feeling ‘search strategy confident,’ you may want to tackle the issue of SEO vs. PPC (pay per click)—understanding the pros and cons of each; how they could work together in your own strategy; and whether you really even should be investing both.
Certainly not least, every small business owner needs to commit to staying on top of emerging trends in SEO. Read more on two great—but different—takes on SEO trends to watch in 2013. One is from smallbiztrends.com; the other, from websitemagazine.com.
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