Small Business Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days.  I've heard of guys asking up to $25,000 per year for this service, and the ones who promise to get your site on 'the first page of Google.'  You think Google approves of those guys?  It is Google's sincere aim to provide the best, most relevant search results to its users.  Google has been dealing with scammers since day one, and they are pretty good at it now.  If you think you can outsmart Google with some kind of deceptive SEO that does not truly reflect the content of your site, you better guess again.  In fact, Google has a special form for you to apply for reconsideration if some 'SEO' you or a firm you hired applied to your site led Google to penalize your site:

Site Reconsideration

So what can you do to legitimately optimize your site for accurate search results?  There are a few things that local small businesses should consider:  First, does your title tag (in the 'head' section of your home page accurately reflect your business?  You only have 66 characters to work with in your title tag, but besides the actual name of your business, the title should also include your location.  For many local small businesses, this addition alone is enough to move their website listing to the first or second page of search results.  This is effective if your location is a small town or suburb, and there are not too many competitors in the same industry at that location.  For example, if you had an auto repair shop in Tualatin, OR (a suburb of Portland), you could improve your search ranking with a title tag: 'Frank's Auto Repair, Tualatin, OR.'  However, a title tag: 'Frank's Auto Repair, Portland, OR' would not be very effective, since Portland has so many auto repair shops.  Still, either of these tags will be more effective than simply 'Frank's Auto Repair.'  Whatever information about your business that does not fit in the title tag can go into the meta description tag.  You have about 160 characters for your description, and it should accurately reflect the content of your website.  Google will check to see that it does!  The description tag is a good place to fit in keyword your customers will be searching for, as long as they accurately describe your business.  Also remember that the description tag is what people will see when they find your business in search results, so it should never be simply a string of keywords separated by commas.  It should be a real description of your business, punctuated correctly, that truly describes your business.  This will help your customers to find you and know what to expect when they do.  You should not repeat words in your description that already appear in your title.  Think of each word as a golden nugget to be used carefully to portray your business exactly as it is.

Webmaster Guidelines

Finally, you can optimize the content of your site, the body of your web page.  Google pays attention to your heading tags (h1, h2), so use those tags for the titles of each page and include relevant keywords if they fit in nicely and make sense.  Either use text links with appropriate names, or if you use image links (buttons), make sure you use the alt attribute in each image and the name is appropriate for each link.  This also applies to all the images on you site.  Googles robots cannot see your images, so they are relying on your alt attribute to give them accurate information about each image.  When you are designing you site, imagine that you are the end user.  Be sure that each link sends you where you expect to go based on the name of the link.

It is also very helpful to have a unique title and meta description tag for each unique page of your site.  Make the title and description distinctly different from you home page to accurately reflect the content of each unique page.  And make each pages url descriptive of the page (i.e. aboutus.html rather than 2.html).  This will allow google to index each unique page individually and give your customers more chances to find you when they are looking for an item or information contained on one of the unique pages of your site.  Obviously, the content of each page should be accurate and relevant to the title and description.  Google is always on the lookout for people trying to deceive them (and so deceive their clients), so don't be one of them!  Be honest and accurate in your descriptions.  If you have any links on your site to other sites you do not want to be associated with, use the rel attribute with the 'nofollow' value.  You can also use the meta robots tag with 'nofollow' and/or 'noindex' in the content on any pages of your site that contain links you do not want Google to follow or information you do not want Google to index.  Google has a helpful SEO guide you can find Here.  Check it out for more helpful tips. 

The bottom line is that there is only so much you can genuinely and legitimately do to optimize your website's rank in search results.  Beyond that and also in conjunction with that optimization, the next step to consider to get more exposure and more business for your site is Google Adwords and Google Tags advertising.  That is why they exist, because everybody cannot be on the first page.

There are a lot of details to consider in designing effective ads and in choosing effective keywords and keyword phrases.  This guide is just to help you get started.  If you would like more help optimizing your website, setting up your Adwords account and developing an effective internet marketing strategy, I only charge $125 as a one-time consultation and set-up fee.  I don't charge a monthly maintenance fee because I want you to get the most possible from your advertising dollar.  Instead, I show you how to analyze and manage you own ad campaign.  If you would like assistance refining your current campaign and exploring other internet advertising options, I have very reasonable rates.
If you don't have a website for you business yet, I can help you create one.  And if you do, I can help you to redesign it so that it gives you the optimized results you are looking for.

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