Small Business Promotion Portland, MEIt is unlikely that there is a single small business out there striving for online success which is not taking SEO (Search Engine Optimization) seriously and with very good reason. It is a business SEO strategy that will determine how quickly a website achieves a high ranking in the search engines, how well it maintains its ranking and ultimately how many visitors it receives.

Search Engine Optimization, in its simplest form, is the process whereby a website has its pages fine-tuned to appeal to the search engines for a certain set of keywords or search terms and builds up a good online reputation by gaining links to the site from other reputable and related websites.

Optimizing the pages of the website is often referred to as on-site SEO and involves creating Titles, Descriptions, Headings, Bold Text, Alternative Text for Images and, of course, the main textual content to include primary and secondary keywords. The keywords must constitute a proportion (or density) that the search engines consider appropriate but not so much that the site will be penalized for over-use of the keywords (sometimes referred to as keyword-stuffing). The keyword density in the various elements of a webpage is not a pre-defined percentage because rankings are always determined in relation to the competition. But a good SEO consultant will be able to advise on the appropriate keyword density for a particular set of targeted keywords.

The ultimate goal of off-site SEO is to build a good online reputation by creating links to the website. Many people still believe this is just about creating as many links as possible. But the search engines have become more sophisticated and SEO has followed suit. Link building is now focused on relevance, the page rank of the site from which the link has come, the type of link and the text associated with the link (anchor text). So, yes, you need a substantial number of links, but the quality of each link is more important than overall quantity.

But if your SEO campaign is a success and your small business achieves a page 1 ranking, does that guarantee the success of your company? Unfortunately there is much more to online business success than just SEO. To achieve online success, there are a number of other factors that have to be treated just as seriously as SEO.

Social Media

Create a business Facebook page, get active in Twitter, create a blog (and actually post to it regularly), invite people to bookmark your site from social bookmarking sites like Delicious. Ask people to bookmark your blog from Reddit and StumbleUpon. If you can’t manage your online social life and your business, then employ a ghost-blogger or social media marketer.

Website Design

Ask someone independent of the business to review your website for its look-and-feel, usability and functionality. Does your home page and your other main landing pages have a “call-to-action” above the fold (i.e. the user doesn’t have to scroll down to see it). A call-to-action can be something as simple as a button inviting the user to “View Special Offers Here.”

Traffic Analysis

Traffic Analysis is vital for all websites but particularly so if a site is getting plenty of visitors but has a low conversion rate. Conversion rates can vary quite dramatically by market sector, but you should have an idea of a typical percentage for your type of business. Analyze your traffic data to see which keywords are bringing visitors to your site. There may be a high percentage from long-tail keywords you were unaware of that indicate a visitor who may only, for example, be looking for information or advice. These visitors may push up the visitor numbers, but they are not the right type of visitors for converting into paying customers and can result in misleading figures for both visitor numbers and conversion rate.

Email Marketing

Don’t neglect this highly effective method of reaching potential new customers and retaining existing customers. Produce a regular newsletter or mailshot every week or every month with useful information, special offers, news etc. But don’t make the mistake of trying to sell something with each email – the purpose is to ensure that when customers are ready to buy, they will visit your website.
So search engine optimization is vital for all small businesses, but it is also important to see SEO in the context of a wider marketing approach.

By Michelle Symonds (c) 2011