Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Search Engine Optimization for the Small Business Owner

I wanted to share a great article by Gary Hughes. It will be helpful to every small business owner. Please read his bio at the end for information on his website.

You've worked hard to design and develop a website that will promote your products and services to the world. You've spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars to get your site online. But where are the visitors? I mean, you've always heard, "If you build it, they will come."

Why Aren't Customers Lining Up To buy?

That's the largest problem faced by small businesses attempting to do business on the internet. Larger companies have the resources to pay for traffic. They can advertise on the busiest sites on the net to attract potential customers. They can promote their sites through multiple channels including radio, television, and event sponsorships.

How Can a Small Business with Limited Resources Compete in
This Arena?

The best way to drive traffic to your new website is through the use of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Traffic from search engines will usually yield higher conversion rates due to its targeted nature. Individuals performing a search for a
particular product or service have already demonstrated their motivation to obtain what you have to sell. You just want to be sure you're optimizing for the correct search terms and that you're following all the rules.

Liberal Use of Keywords

You may have heard that on the internet "content is king." This is because search engines can only determine the value of a site based on the textual content within the pages of that site. Search engines can't see pictures or video. (There are methods to assist them to do so, but that's beyond the scope of this article.) To rank highly in the search engines for a particular word or phrase, your selected target phrase should be used throughout the content on your site.

How Often Should You Repeat Your Keywords?

The various search engines operate slightly different in this regard, so it's a little tricky. Here are a few general recommendations to get you started on the right path:

1. Use your selected keyword or phrase near the top of the page. Search engines assume that a site that includes content that begins with a specific keyword should probably rank highly for that term.

2. Use your keyword or phrase in a headline tag (H1, H2 HTML tags). If you aren't familiar with HTML tags, do a web search for HTML tutorials or pick up a book on HTML. Most website editors will allow you to easily define headings. The key here
is to use the keyword in a heading to emphasize the fact that your site is targeting that subject. Just be sure not to overdo it. If the word or phrase is repeated too often, some search engines will consider this "keyword stuffing" and penalize or ban your site. You want to be sure to avoid this.

3. Repeat your keyword or phrase within the content of your site. Again, you want to demonstrate that your site is a good resource for the selected topic. You don't want to go overboard. Search engines may think your site content is keyword spam and ban you from their listings. A general rule is to maintain a keyword density of around five percent. Keyword density is the term used to refer to the ratio of keywords to total words on a page. For example, if your content was 100 words in length, you would want to have your keyword repeated five times throughout the page. Keep in mind that many search engines can now determine word or phrase variations. To keep your site content
interesting, you should probably try to use variations of your keyword. This may actually help to boost your results since your content is less likely to be considered spam.

4. Use your keyword or phrase in hyperlinks. Another way to add your chosen keywords to your content is to include them in the links on your page. This includes both inbound (links to other pages within your site) and outbound (links to external sites)
links. Using your selected keywords in inbound links helps to emphasize the relationship of your site to your chosen keywords. That's because a link that includes your keywords demonstrates relevance of the site content to the chosen topic.

What Are Some Other Search Engine Optimization Strategies?

Beyond the use of keywords within the content of your site, there are a few other things that must be done to rank highly in search engine results. The most important is to increase the number of sites linking into yours. Why is this important?
Search engines assume that a site with a higher number of links into it will likely include content of interest to their users.

There several methods for increasing the number of links into your site:

1. You can locate and join forums that are relevant to the content of your site. These forums will usually allow you to sign your entries with your name and website address. This will be counted as a link into your site. Be careful to read the rules of each forum before posting because they are often different. Also be sure to make your postings relevant to the discussion of the forum. Don't sacrifice your online reputation
by becoming known for spamming forums. Using this method correctly can actually position you to be viewed as an expert in your chosen field.

2. You can seek out sites with complimentary content and offer to exchange links. This is usually a win-win situation because both sites will benefit from an increased number of links. The drawback is that you're giving up a link from your site. You really want to have more inbound links than outbound since search engines typically have a formula for determining site value that favors higher numbers of inbound links. Outbound
links count as deductions from the count of inbound links. They're good for another reason, though. The other site's visitors may locate your site on their links page. This will
increase traffic to your site in much the same way that search engines will. And again, these are targeted visitors since they arrived from a site that offers products or services that are similar to your own.

3. You can write articles and publish them to article distribution sites. This is a great way to increase traffic to your site. It can help to position you as an expert on a
particular subject, readers that have chosen to visit your site have already been partially qualified (they are interested in what you provide), and one article can potentially provide
multiple inbound links. This is because the article can be picked up by many others and used to increase content on their own sites. Since you are allowed to include a link to your site in the author details section of the article, your link will be maintained as it is distributed.

4. Another good way to increase links into your site is to produce content that visitors will want to share with others. This may include funny stories, comics, funny or informative videos, etc. If you include a way for site visitors to easily link to your site content, they very often will. This is a great way to get large numbers of inbound links quickly. You will also have the positive side effect of increased traffic from word of
mouth that doesn't even depend on the search engines.

As you can see, getting visitors to your site requires some effort. But it is definitely well worth it. Global Internet traffic is growing rapidly and will probably continue to do so
for the foreseeable future. Doing a little extra work now to secure your place in this marketplace will be very rewarding for many years to come.

Gary Hughes is president of Imparadise LLC, a software
development company that specializes in developing custom
business software to improve organizational efficiency. He also
provides instruction for small business owners to assist them in
promoting their products and services on the internet.

Small Business Web Solutions (http://www.completesolutions.com

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