Small Business Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Forget all the social media hallopa for a second. Most business owners, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, want their site to rank well on Google searches. Often times they’ve spent some money building a website but their web developer (read: second cousins 17 year old stepson) isn’t experienced enough to get their site ranked.  If your prospect can’t find your website you can’t sell squat. No matter how cute your graphics or design is.

It's not Rocket SurgeryWhen it comes to company websites my philosophy is simple. Either get leads from it and sell products on it or just shut it down. The first step in this process is to get your site ranked. People need to find your site for specific terms. And quite honestly, it’s not rocket science. Most people think they know but really they don’t.

So, without giving away the farm here is a quick and dirty SEO guide I put together for a local mom and pop. This particular owner came to me because she has a  food business that she’s running out of her garage. She has a website but its not doing much for her. She is seeking ways to increase traffic and sales online. She has a web guy that “knows it all” but needed some reminders on how to get traffic and increase conversions.

Here is what I told her she needs to tell her web guy:

a. Define Your Keywords

Selecting relevant keywords is a central part of a successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. Make a list of 15 critical keywords/phrases you would like to be found for on search engines. Rank them. Review them and make sure you’re comfortable with this set. Do searches on them to see who else show up – this will help you establish it’s relevancy to you.

b. Content Optimization

Carefully sprinkle the keywords you identified into the first paragraph of your index.html page and all other content on your website – the first paragraph of each page is critical. Make sure your content still makes sense to a visitor though, meaning don’t over do this. Use your highest value keywords first and go down the list.

c. Code Optimization

The main thing here is to ensure the right sets of keywords are added to the appropriate tags. Again use your keywords strategically in the following sections of the page:

  • Title tag of each page
  • ALT-Tag of all images
  • Meta Description Tag – A meta description tag is text hidden in the HTML that describes the page’s content.

d. Link Building

Incoming links is the trump card of SEO. All major search engines place high importance on links coming to a site. In the simplest terms, search engines view each link to your website as a vote: If another site links to yours, it must think your site is valuable. Each link to your site contributes value in the search engine‘s algorithm, which can help boost your site’s ranking in search results. Good places to get links are: related blogs, vendor sites, partners sites, association sites, non-profit sites etc. Remember relevancy matters. In your case a link coming from a bookstore website is more valuable than one from a “pee-wee” league website.

e. XML Sitemap

Go to and follow the instructions there to generate your XML sitemap. Then log on to search console using your gmail account and upload the XML sitemap. That’s all there is to it.

This a very good starting point. Keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process. You need to keep working on link building and optimizing your traffic  on a regular basis. This is where Google Analytics comes in. Again, as I said before it’s not rocket science but it does require time.
Creative Commons License photo credit: bjornmeansbear

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