The days of questioning whether the Internet was a passing fad are long gone, unless your name is Prince. If you want to survive in today’s marketplace, you need a prominent presence on the web and people need to be able to easily find you through a search engine. Search engine optimization is a cost effective way to have your small business website develop a prominent position on the web.
The statistics tell the story. The top 10 search engines handled 10.8 billion queries in August 2009, a monumental number that grows monthly, industry monitor searchenginewatch.com reported. Add to that the fact that 80 percent of all visitors to the average site arrive there through a search engine, by some estimates, and it becomes clear how much important search engines and Internet marketing are to delivering viewers to your web site .
“On the Internet the three most important things in business — location, location, location —are spelled Google, Yahoo!, and Bing,” said Bruce Clay, president of Internet marketing company Bruce Clay, Inc. “In traditional brick and mortar operations, you try to put your store in high traffic areas; on the Internet , it’s search engines.”
Clay highlighted how important it is to get to the top of the listing on the first page of big search engines. He said showing up in the second position on the list brings in twice the traffic of showing up in position four, while being in position three nets three times the visitors of being in the eighth position. Utilizing efficient search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing techniques can help your small business website get noticed by search engines.
Choosing your keywords
Enter the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), where a well-placed word describing your business can mean the difference between a trickle and a river of visitors stumbling upon your website.
There is quite a bit of psychology involved in optimizing your website so that it will rise through the rankings. You’ve got to anticipate what your potential customers think about when they search and then you’ve got to embed those thoughts in the form of simple, but relevant, words or search phrases on your site. These signposts on the information superhighway, called keywords or keyphrases, are used by the search engines to know what your site is about and to accurately serve it up to web surfers.
Christopher Barr, the senior editorial director at Yahoo!, said SEO is complicated. Page design, server setup and other technical aspects need to be considered by technically proficient people. Search engines use a complex and nuanced algorithm to look at a mix of things on websites to assign rank: whether keywords are distributed throughout the content, whether other sites link to yours and the links you have to other sites, the keywords you have embedded in your website’s code that visitors can’t see, and even whether your site organizes its content into bulleted lists or uses bold text to highlight keywords.
He said business owners can easily control the content they present to visitors.
“The most important thing to be up high in search results is to produce original content with real value — it must be unique so it serves visitors,” Barr said. “Be crystal clear in what you’re trying to communicate, and use the appropriate keywords in all the different ways you think people will search for them.”
Original and relevant content is important for several reasons related to how search engines analyze sites: It drives more visitors to your site, one of the most basic measurements a search engine uses to determine your place in its ranking. Original content also sprinkles more search terms throughout the site, making them more likely to be recognized by search engines. Lastly, it compels other websites whose users might find your content of interest to link to yours, which is like having the Internet community voting for the importance of your site.
Be clear and literal in your writing, Barr says. The algorithms don’t understand nuance or irony in language. And put the most relevant keywords at the beginning, especially in the page’s all-important headline, because a search engine like Yahoo! only reads the first 65 characters.
If you’re not ready to get into the gritty details of improving your website’s profile, then there are a slew of companies that can help you out. Beware, though, of companies that solicit business through spam emails, those that guarantee ranking you number one, and those that are not forthcoming with answers to questions you ask. There are many shady players in the business and some that won’t do you or your website any good. m
If you are going to do SEOyourself, then you need to know that it will take effort to keep expanding your web presence.
“SEO has a lot of moving parts,” Clay said. “This is marketing; it takes effort. If you want to be a pro, it takes more than just working at it once a month.”
Clay’s website offers free advice, as does Yahoo! at its SEO Guide and with its free keyword research tools designed to help you understand what surfers are thinking. Google offers a number of tips to optimize your website and avoid being scammed by companies offering the world to small businesses looking to increase their Internet marketability. Google also has a free keyword search tool.
The University of California Berkeley also has an excellent SEO tutorial for those just starting out.
You can also consider using search engine submission services that will help you SEO your web site and submit the content to search engines. For a review of Search Engine Submission Services, visit our sister site, TopTenREVIEWS.com.