According to a Verisign small business survey, 91 percent of U.S. consumers use the internet to look for local goods and services. As the internet continues to grow, it can become more difficult to be “found” when a potential customer is looking for your product or service, so it’s important to optimize your website for search engines. Below are some basic tips for search engine optimization (also known as SEO).
Make Sure Search Engines Can Find and Crawl Your Website
Search engines use tools called “spiders” that continuously crawl links around the internet to find web content and bring it back to their giant databases. The first step in optimizing your website is to make sure your website is welcoming these spiders and guiding them deep into your site. Some basic ways of doing this include:
- Avoid technologies that are not spider-friendly such as flash, infinite scroll, or content embedded in images. These are more difficult for search engines to index.
- Include a site map to show the search engines all the content you have, and keep it updated.
- Create links within the content of your site that lead to other relevant pages.
- Register your site with Google Webmaster tools.
Design Your Website Around Keywords
Before you write the content for your website, it’s important to do some research and planning around your keywords. Keywords are the terms searchers enter into a search engine. Search engines are looking for the best match to what the searcher is looking for, so make sure your content contains lots of the keywords people are using. It’s important to speak in the language of your customers, so put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they would search for. As a general rule:
- Stay away from jargon and acronyms.
- Use different variations of the same keyword, including verb tenses and plurals, as search engines consider these completely unconnected words (ie pet sitting, pet sitter, pet sitters, etc.).
- Use a keyword research tool to see how frequently keywords are searched (the more the better) and get ideas for keywords you hadn’t considered. There are free third-party tools online such as Google AdWords or WordTracker.
- Use your keywords for page names, H1 titles (code for page title that’s visible at the top of the page) and metadata (text on the page that’s not visible to the customer).
- Sprinkle your keywords throughout the content in a way that is natural to the reader, not forced.
Update Your Content on a Regular Basis
Search engines consider new content to be more relevant. The older your content gets, the less the search engines will favor it and the less it will help you get rankings. Create a schedule for updating content, or adding new content that will be of interest to your customers. The more you update, the more the search engines will visit your site, and the more positive effect it will have on your rankings.
Share and Promote Your Website Address
Search engines place a high value on links from other sites to your site, as if that site is “voting” for you. These links are valuable for direct traffic as well. Seek opportunities to get links from legitimate websites. Don’t ever purchase links or fall for someone promising to get you a large number of links in a short period of time, as search engines will consider low-quality links an attempt to trick them.
- If you use social media sites, make sure to link from those sites to your website. Frequently tweet, blog or promote your site in a way that won’t be offensive to your audience.
- Put your domain name on your business cards, advertisements, letterhead and invoices.
- List your business with credible resources such as small business agencies, local directories, or reputable directories in your line of business.
Lastly, remember that optimizing your website for search is a marathon, not a sprint. SEO should be an ongoing project. Search engines can be fickle and frequently change their algorithms, so don’t get too tied up in following the trends. Instead, focus on building a site that provides a good experience for your customers regardless of search engines. Follow these few simple guidelines, and the rankings should naturally follow.
Wordtracker and Adwords are trademarks of Wordtracker LLP and Google, Inc. respectively.