If you’re a small business owner, SEO is definitely something you want to look into. It’s 2012, you have (or should have) a website up and running, but just having a website isn’t nearly enough. You have to show it to your potential clients, people who are looking for the services that you provide, and you’re not the only one competing for their attention. Your competitors are already optimizing their websites for the search engines, and you’ve probably realized that you should do it too.
The easiest way, of course, is to hire an expert, but it costs money; if you’re just starting and you don’t have a budget for it, there are things you can do yourself. SEO isn’t exactly a rocket science – it’s not too easy either, but a bit of common sense and some basic knowledge can sometimes go a long way. Of course, not all of it can be covered in detail in a single article (unless it’s about 30.000+ words long), but the basic directions are here:
1. Choose your keywords well
You sell green widgets in Somecity. Your goal is to get as many people interested in green widgets in the Somecity area to visit your website and discover that your green widgets are the best in the world.
The thing is, most people don’t type “green widgets Somecity” in Google when they search. They type “green stuff Somecity”, or just “green stuff”. They are looking for what you’re selling, but in different words. And the words are how Google will know what your website is about, and what people are searching for. So, it’s up to you to find the words that: a) describe your website / your business, b) are being searched for.
To do this, go to:
https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__u=1000000000&__c=1000000000&ideaRequestType=KEYWORD_IDEAS&hl=en_US#search.none, check the “Exact” box on the left and see which phrase is better, green widgets or green stuff, then shape your website accordingly.
Also, make sure that you add Somecity to your keyword phrases. Even if “green stuff” is being searched for 20 times more often than “green stuff Somecity”, it’s not the right keyword for you because the competition is probably too tough to beat, and even if you manage to do it, you’ll end up getting a lot of untargeted visitors. Localizing your search will help you reach people who are really interested in your green widgets much faster.
2. Link building – smarter, not harder
Small businesses in most cases operate locally, which is why you’ve added Somecity to your keyword string. Now you’re taking it a step further: you don’t want to waste your efforts in building links all over the Web, not even the SEO agencies do that. Focus your strategy on local websites – local business listings, bloggers, local news; include industry websites in your prospect list too, that way you’ll cover two most important aspects of your website.
Email your friends who own websites, your business partners and your clients and ask them to link back to your website – it will give you a nice boost. Wherever you can control it, use your website/brand name as the anchor text for your links, as well as phrases that contain your keywords, like “finest green widgets in the Somecity area” (if your keyword is “green widgets Somecity”).
Also, get a Google+ local listing, it’s really easy to do, and it can mean a lot more than a bunch of unrelated links. See if you can get some of your clients to write a review for your business there (the more reviews, the better), even if it doesn’t seem important to you personally. Remember, Google+ is Google’s product, and this listing with reviews can make a difference between zero and several phone calls a day.
3. Don’t obsess over it
This isn’t strictly an SEO tip, but it’s a very important one. SEO, social media and all that other stuff can be seducing; there are advanced strategies that you can find yourself tangled into, there’s time spent on analyzing your backlink profile and engaging on Twitter – these are time eaters. Don’t go there, at least not at once. Later, as your website grows and as you learn to do your SEO without obsessing over it, you can experiment with more advanced techniques; but for starters, just do the basics until you get some results.
During his career in SEO industry, Jeff Gross has seen many small businesses doing the optimization part wrong and finding their websites penalized by Google because they’ve been listening to bad advice. As of lately, he is a CEO at Npromote.com, an SEO Company in NYC.