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10 Tips on Search Engine Optimization for Your Small Business Website

Getting your website up and running is only half the battle. You also want your customers and prospects to find your site when they are looking for a product or service that you offer. The best way to ensure this will happen is to have your website appear in the results when someone is using a search engine like Google, Yahoo, MSN, or AOL. There are two ways to make this happen - one is optimizing your site to appear in the list of sites that the search engines index and display, and the other is to buy your way into the results using a sponsored link or ad. Below are 10 tips to help get your site displayed in the results generated by the search engine indexes. Information on advertising your way into the results can be found here.

  1. Only worry about the top 4 – The most important search engines are Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. Don’t be fooled by automated programs that submit your site to thousands of search engines, because 94% of all web searches are performed on these top four search sites. So you might as well concentrate your time and money on these four and not even worry about the rest.
  2. Target your search terms – The easiest and the most important goal is to get your site listed when someone searches on the name of your company. This will help existing customers or people who have been referred by others to find your site. Of course, it is also nice if people find you when they are searching for a product or service that you offer. This is harder, and how hard depends on how many other sites also want to appear when someone is searching for that product or service. Generally the less general the search term, the better your chances of getting listed. For example, if you target the term “house painting”, you will be competing with a lot of other sites in the country, including large sites with a much better chance of appearing high in the results. If you target the term “house painting bakersville” you will have a better chance of appearing high in the results - and of finding potential customers in your town of Bakersville.
  3. Optimize your content – Once you have chosen a few search terms that you want to target (generally called keywords), make sure that the content (text) on your site includes these terms. The first 100 words or so on a page are the most important, so make sure your keywords are included there.
  4. Format your content – Search engine indexes focus on the content in certain areas of your site. One of these is the first 100 words on a page, as mentioned above. Another is the Heading 1 section of the page, indicated by being included between the brackets and in the HTML code. Most HTML Editors and web page building software allows you to highlight some text and designate it as Heading 1. Make sure you do this for the first bit of text on the page, ideally a headline of some sort, and make sure it includes your most important keywords (like your company name). Other areas where you can add your keywords are in the alt tags for images - the text that appears as a tooltip when you hover over an image.
  5. Add title and meta tags – The HTML title tag and meta tags are used by the search engines to generate their index - including the text that appears in your listing in the results. The title tag appears in the header bar of the site visitor’s browser, and the meta tags are invisible bits of HTML code that don’t appear when someone is looking at your site. There are a number of meta tags available, but the most important of these is the Description tag (the Keyword tag is generally not used by search engine indexes any longer). The Title tag should be up to 60 characters long, and the meta Description tag up to 250 characters. Make sure these include your keywords!
  6. Focus on your home page – It is possible to get pages other than your home page listed in the search engine results, but unless you have a big site with pages that cover significantly different types of content, it is probably best to focus your energy on your home page. The number of links to a page make a big difference in the ranking of your site (see next topic), so it is usually most expedient to concentrate on getting links to your home page.
  7. Get links to your site – The search engine indexes, especially Google’s, place a lot of emphasis on the number of links pointing to your website from other websites to determine your site’s “popularity” - and popularity plays a large part in how high they will rank you. So do whatever you can to get links to your site from other sites, and the more popular these other sites are, the more they help you. Good places to get these links are directories such as those on the websites of your chamber of commerce, trade association, or community websites. You can also pay to have your link included in sites such as yellow pages directories.
  8. Submit your site – Once you’ve optimized your site’s content for your keywords, it is time to submit your site to the search engine indexes. The most important is Google, which is free and can be found at https://www.google.com/addurl.html. Another good choice is Inktomi, which you can add for $39 per year at https://www.positiontech.com/inktomi/index.htm. And lastly, if you can afford it, the Yahoo directory is a good investment for $299 per year at https://add.yahoo.com/fast/add?+Business.
  9. Avoid the link spammers – There are a lot of “search engine optimization” companies that will offer to improve your search engine rankings for a fee. Some of these use “link farms” or “link spamming” to generate a lot of links to your site from pages full of links or from “doorway pages” that redirect to your site. The goal is to improve the popularity of your site with all of these other links. This is a risky proposition for two reasons - one is that they are frowned upon by the search engines and they have been known to ban sites that use them from their indexes, and the other is that a lot of the companies that do this for you are “fly by night” operations with less than reputable business practices. So use caution when considering such an investment.
  10. Consider getting assistance – And lastly, a little message from our sponsor. If you need a website and want to optimize it and submit it to the search engines, consider using a service that will do it for you. The whole process is fairly complex and can be rather daunting, so it may be worth the investment to have someone else do it. Our sponsor, Decisive Web Sites, offers a website building and hosting service designed for small businesses that cost only $9.95 per month, and they offer a Site Submit service where they will complete all of the steps above for you for only $95.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 27th, 2009 at 1:01 pm and is filed under Company, Faqs, Portfolio, SEO / SEM. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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