Professional SEO services are expensive and out of the league for most small business websites. They make the most sense for large websites with lots of traffic where, say, a 1.5% increase in traffic could make a big difference. But there are some basics of SEO that every website owner should know.
I asked my Cowork Frederick colleague and SEO expert Jim Robinson of clickseed.com what an owner of a small business website should do to improve search engine optimization. Here are five steps he suggested:
- The first step to take, especially if your business relies on local customers, is to create a listing at Google Places. Go to www.google.com/local/business to set this up. One caveat. Be sure you use a consistent name and address format wherever your business is listed on the web (Facebook, LinkedIn, on your own site) so Google doesn’t get confused you are two different businesses.
- Next thing to do is to set up a Google Webmaster Tools account (Bing also offers this service). Go to www.google.com/webmasters/tools and clck Add Site. Set up your account to receive email notifications. To do this click on the Settings icon in upper right corner and select Webmaster Tools Preferences. This will alert you to any sudden changes in how you site is searched that could happen, for example, during a redesign or a move to a new server.
- Set up Google Analytics to track site traffic at www.google.com/analytics/. This will give information on what pages are most popular and where your traffic is coming from. Check traffic sources to see if visitors are coming directly by typing your URL, through a web search, or are being referred from another site. Check the keywords that people use to find you. Are they consistent with your site goals? Also check whether people are leaving immediately after visiting (the bounce rate). A high bounce rate could indicate that your site is confusing visitors into thinking it is something it is not.
- Once Analytics is set up, establish a measureable conversion (the link is at the bottom on the left hand menu). A conversion will track a specific action that you want people to make on the site. On your home page feature something that requires an action such as subscription for a newsletter, a request for information, or a file to download. You want to determine exactly what led to someone taking the desired action and setting a conversion goal will do that.
- Finally, review every page on the site and determine what its focus keyword is—that is, the term that will most likely be used to search for the material. (I have some ideas to help you with this here.) Make sure that this keyword is used in the page title, the main headline of the page, and mentioned a few times in the copy. Don’t overdo this. You want your content to first make sense to your visitor; keywords are only a way to help with that.
For the small website, there isn’t much more to know about SEO than this. Your focus primarily should be on creating content that is useful for your target audience. Do that and your audience is sure to come.