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SEO for Small Businesses

Basic SEO / Feb 05 2009 / Mike Collins
With the growth of the internet, your small business is no longer restricted by the foot traffic on Main Street. If you want your small business to reach its full potential, you will need to have an effective web presence. A well-designed website helps your business and revenue grow by:
  • Attracting and retaining customers
  • Accessing new markets
  • Creating trust and loyalty
  • Growing your company’s reputation through social media marketing
  • Keeping customers notified of special promotions
In today’s economy, your website is one of your most effective marketing tools that you have. However, how do you make your website work for you? The key to maximizing your company’s online presence is through search engine optimization, or SEO. 
 
Simply designing a website and putting it out to hang on a server works about as well as hanging the proverbial shingle above your door. Your website will not work for you unless you get people to visit. There are several strategies you can implement to optimize your website for the search engines, helping your customers find you. 
 
Add Meta Data on Every Web Page
 
The coding for your website allows you to include meta data, which is important keyword information about your business. The keywords you include can help a potential customer find your website in a search engine query. Therefore, it’s important to include key information in your meta tags on every web page.
 
In your meta tags, you should include:
  • Your business name
  • A few (emphasis on few) main keywords that pertain to your business
  • Your state, county, city, zip
  • Other information you think people may use to search for your business type.
Though your business name, type, and location are important, it can be even more helpful to combine them in potential search terms. For example, you could list your Dallas CPA income tax business meta data as “Dr. Tax is a greater Dallas CPA specializing in personal income tax returns.” 
 
Remember, the more you can localize your keywords, the better the results will be. It is much harder to compete for the keyword “chiropractor” than the localized phrase, “chiropractor in San Diego, CA.” Think about all the different ways your customers may be searching for your local business, and incorporate these elements into your meta data. 
 
List Your Phone and Address on Every Page
 
Remember that your website is a marketing tool. Be sure to let potential customers know how they can contact you. On every web page on your site, include your address, phone number, and email address that can be used to contact you. 
 
Not only does listing your information make it easy for customers to get in contact with you, but seeing your company’s information helps create trust with your visitors. From a customer’s perspective, a business that has no qualms about providing a phone and address must be trustworthy. Building that trust can also encourage your visitors to link your website on chat boards and other social media.
 
Submit Your Site to Google Local
 
Google is synonymous with the most popular search engine for researching information, people, and businesses. Google Local is the business center directory created by Google to work in conjunction with Google Maps. Searchers utilize Google Maps to find services or products in their area, and they are presented with a directory list with pinpoints on the map. Will they find your business?
 
Make sure you submit your business information to Google Local. A Google Local listing is completely free and allows you to include important business information, such as your address, contact phone, and hours of operation. You can even create and submit coupons that customers can redeem when they find your business on Google Maps. In addition, you can update your listing at any time to ensure all information and specials are current. 
 
Submit Your Business to Local Directories
 
There are hundreds of business directories on the web, the modern version of the paper-bound Yellow Pages. Some directories are more prominent than others, and some charge fees. However, you can easily find quality local business directories that allow you to add your company’s listing for free or a small fee. 
 
When you list your company’s website with a directory, you not only enjoy reaching potential customers, but your website also receives a powerful backlink. Backlinks play an important role in your SEO efforts, and these backlinks can help your website appear near the top of search results for your targeted keywords. 
 
Some of the best known local directories are:
  • CitySearch – A CitySearch directory can be found in most cities and metropolitan areas. Basic listings are free, but you can pay to upgrade to a “featured” status that allows you to include more information. In addition, customers can find your company with greater ease with the “featured” listing. 
  • Yahoo! – Yahoo! has directory listings for most cities. This is a great way to access a powerful search engine’s users, as well as to build a helpful backlink to your website. 
  • Yellow Pages – Get listed in the Yellow Pages on the web and let your customers’ fingers do the walking directly to your website. YellowPages.com continues to be a trusted source for local residents to find business resources.
  • Other Niche Directories – The web is also filled with directories for specific services. Are you an attorney? A plumber? A CPA?  You can essentially find a business directory for your niche that allows you to add your listing.
  • Yelp – Yelp.com is a consumer-review site, where users share their opinions and experiences of local businesses. Its popularity has grown tremendously, and businesses ranging from restaurants to dentists can be found and reviewed through this website. 
Monitor Review Sites
 
The internet can amplify the powers of “word of mouth” marketing exponentially – both positively and negatively.  It is wise to regularly monitor what consumers are saying about your business on review sites. 
 
As mentioned above, almost every city has a business directory, and most of these directories also allow visitors to write and post a review of any listing. Other sites like Travelocity.com and Yelp.com encourage users to write and post comments about the businesses they encounter. 
 
Your small business could be getting great thumbs-up business reviews, but it could also be subject to negative or frivolous comments. As a savvy business owner, you should be quick to respond to negative comments. Don’t berate other users for shouting their negative opinions, but you can write professional responses that address the concerns and issues that were posted. Other users that see your business respond to negative reviews can feel more comfortable about their own opinions about your business.
 
Your website can play a tremendous role in growing your business. With the appropriate SEO and traffic strategies, you can capitalize upon the power of the internet to reach even more customers. 

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