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Search Engine Optimization basics for small businesses

Search Engine Optimization is a popular topic, but it is often misunderstood by both developers and clients.  There are no instant roads to success, but understanding why and how pages are ranked in search engines can give you the edge in how you handle your search engine marketing.

Several of the current major search engines include Google.com, Yahoo.com, and Bing.com. There are many others that still exist today that provide their own results or outsource them.  If you plan to optimize, focus your energies on getting results in these top search engines.

Once you have built your website, the next step is to develop and optimize your content. The best thing you can do for your site is to create genuine and relevant content that human users, not just search engines, will find useful. Research the popularity of keywords and keyword phrases in your industry and be sure to include them in your content. There are a number of paid research tools and free keyword trackers available (like Google's Keyword Research Tool). You can even find programs that will help you identity the keywords your competitors are targeting.

This is it! You’ve created your website, you’ve optimized your content, and you even remembered to submit the new site to the major search engines. You’re not finished yet, however, as the hardest part is yet to come. Link popularity is a powerful factor in determining how your website is ranked, but for many small businesses this is the area where search engine efforts stall out. 

Developing inbound links (or back links) to your website is a time consuming, tedious, and often organic process, but it can generate an incredible boost to your rankings. Locate resource directories for your industry and request links to your site. Use link partnering and social networking sites to find people looking for link partners that have complimentary websites. Do be careful who you link to however, as providing a link to a free for all link farm could get your site black listed on the search engines.

Lastly, you MUST update your content on a regular basis to maintain the ranking you have achieved.  Tweak wording, correct spellings, add new pages, do anything you can to make your site appear fresh to the search engines. Archive your newsletters on your website, feature excerpts from your business’s blog, or even someone else’s blog (remember to follow guidelines in using content that is not your own). The ‘freshness’ of your web site’s content can send you higher or cause you to slip month after month.

Research, optimize, link, and maintain. These are four crucial steps that cover basic search engine marketing.  There are many techniques you can use to emphasize keywords in your content that we will not discuss in this article (like page titles and URL paths), but always remember that you are building a website for human use.  Search engines are constantly evolving and looking for new ways to see websites as humans do, so a people friendly website will more than likely be search engine friendly!

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