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What Every Website Owner Should Know About SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of revising and fine-tuning your website to rank highly in search engine listings. When a potential customer searches for your product or service, you want your business to appear in the initial pages of search results; if you aren’t listed until page 14, the customer may never find you. As a small business website owner, you should have a basic understanding of SEO to make sure your site is giving you the greatest marketing return.

SEO

Plan SEO Before You Begin Your Site. Avoid the extra cost of trying to optimize your site after it’s been built. SEO should be a consideration for planning both the organization and the content of your website. Talk to your web designer–most offer basic SEO services, and/or can recommend an SEO specialist.

Research Your Keywords. Keywords are the words or phrases your potential customers might use to find your product or service (i.e. “Rolex watches,” “copywriter,” “beaded jewelry”), and they should be strategically included in the development of your site. Keywords are the foundation of your SEO plan so don’t skimp on this step. Try to consider search terms from your customer’s point of view–they aren’t “insiders” in your field and may search using vague or inaccurate terms. You can research and identify popular keywords using several free online tools such as SEOBook.com and WordTracker.com.

Be Search Engine Friendly. Before search engines can rank your pages, you need to be included in their index. A Search Engine Friendly website allows search engine “spiders” to easily crawl and index your pages. Using clean, streamlined code (such as standards-compliant HTML and CSS), and including a sitemap (a page that lists the hierarchy of all the pages on your website) can help. If you have a database-driven website (i.e. a shopping cart, or a site built using a content management system), the links to your pages may include characters like “?,=, _, #” etc. Your web designer should be able to convert these to search engine friendly “plain English” links.

Get optimized. Although none of the search engines is likely to reveal their exact formula for ranking sites, the most important factors generally include quality content, regular updates, and getting other well-regarded sites to link to yours. Writing quality content means writing content that includes your keywords, but not at the expense of readability. SEO should never take precedence over communicating with your visitors. Adding a blog to your website gives you the opportunity to add well-written, relevant information on a regular basis. To encourage quality inbound links, you can start by linking to relevant (non-competitive) websites–you may get a reciprocal link.

Search Engine Marketing. Most search engines allow you to place sponsored ads in their search results pages for your selected keywords. Google’s Adwords program is a good example. You pay a minimal charge each time someone clicks on your sponsored ad. This is a guaranteed way to get your business listed at the top of the search results, but keep in mind people sometimes place more trust in “natural” search engine listings than in sponsored links.

Search Engine Optimization in Richmond has sometimes been dubbed a black art, but it doesn’t have to be. Armed with the right information, small business owners can manage the optimization process and make sure their site is primed to give the greatest return on their investment.