Small Business Search Engine Optimization—the name says it all. Ten years ago, a business would have allocated hundreds or even thousands to the promotion of their business in bold, attractive advertisements in every yellow pages book—but who uses yellow pages anymore? Today, one is hard-pressed to find an instance of a consumer pulling out his or her “handy dandy” yellow pages book when they need to find a plumber, electrician, or any other business. Instead, prospective customers either flock to their PCs or pull out their smartphones to perform a quick Google search—and why shouldn’t they? The internet has rendered the world of information accessible at any time and place. In the modern marketing milieu, businesses need to make their online presence “flashy and bold” on results yielded by search engines rather than in printed listings. Simply put, the new “flashy and bold” is search engine optimization.

Further still, rather than developing a gaudy listing, the businessman must realize that the consumer instinctively trusts the search results of search engines like Google; the closer to the top of the search results your business appears, the higher the likelihood that your business listing gets a hit, and higher the likelihood that the advertising effort will result in a sale. There are many methods and options for getting your business ranked higher on Google, Bing, and Yahoo search results. However, some of those options can quickly drain both your wallet and your time.

Generating back-links from other websites to your websites is one way to make your business show up higher on search results, but since that process is remarkably time consuming even for a professional, it can be even more time consuming for business owners who lack time to focus on the online component of their business. If they lack internet savvy skills that make optimization easier such as typing quickly, they can easily lose more money in the currency of time than they should be.

For the computer novice, outsourcing search engine optimization is usually the wiser choice. There are countless variables and a vast array of knowledge about the intricacies of navigating the internet, and one can often run into problems a novice computer user cannot solve, particularly a poorly designed website that one does not have the resources to optimize correctly. There is only so much one can do with off-page and on-page search engine optimization if the content on the website is simply not there. Therefore, the first step any business owner should take when working to build their online presence is making sure their website is full of robust and relevant content to their business.

If you are not so tech savvy, I would suggest simply writing out all the content you want and getting it up online regardless of whether it looks particularly clean or professional. I would then hire a professional search engine optimization team to do the proper keyword research and task them with cleaning up the site with on page search engine optimization and basic styling to make the content look as professional as possible given your budget. Once all the on page search engine optimization is done, then it’s time to start with off page search engine optimization.

With Google updating their algorithm with Panda and Penguin, I would highly discourage any type of spamming or over tagging your website with unnecessary keywords and metatags. Try to create your website as organically as possibly, the way you would want to find a business like yours online. Once you have created your desired content, you can start linking your website to all the major local search sites, superpages.com, yellowpages.com, yellowbot.com etc… When this is completed, there are thousands of other useful websites to get great back-links from that may not be as big as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, but nonetheless can really help you overall online presence.

Generating social bookmarking links and article submission links can take hours and hours of time, so if you don’t have spare time to spend on SEO outside of your day to day business operations, hire a professional search engine optimization team rather than struggling to keep up with search engine updates and local search sites that fluctuate in and out of relevancy—a nightmare for business owners who have no time for internet browsing and following SEO trends.

If you have become competent with social bookmarking, article submissions, and back linking, then it is time to focus on social media and blogging. Social media can dramatically enhance your off-page SEO if you make sure your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and all the other relevant social media platforms are efficiently integrated into your website. This is essential if you want to be competitive on tough keywords such as “restaurants New York” or “women’s clothes boston.”

Blogging is another component that most business owners do not take into consideration. Every business has its own niche, and if you can find an effective way to blog about this, the effort can greatly increase the relevant traffic to your website as well as helping you obtain more high quality back links from other popular websites. If you do not feel comfortable blogging, you may want to consider paying an SEO or blogging firm to assist you with building a blog for your business.

Video is also a great way to get more traffic to your website and to keep users on your website for a longer period of time. This improves what is called your “bounce rate,” or the percentage of visitors who arrive at your page and then “bounce” from the website without viewing its other pages. A video can dramatically decrease your bounce rate and improve your search engine optimization rankings if it helps you obtain more backlinks.

Last but certainly not least is refining your mobile accessibility. Converting your website to a mobile website for iPads, tablets, Androids, and all other smart phones is essential in today’s increasingly mobile world. Smartphone sales are exploding, and more and more people gain mobile internet access each year. Additionally, search engines are weighting mobile versions of a website more heavily on their search results, and they know whether a searcher is searching from mobile or not. So, make sure to your website has mobile capacities for both tablets and smart phones.

Finding the right professionals for search engine optimization is difficult. Often, a company will only focus on one major component of search engine optimization such as back-linking, social media, or blogging. If you can find an SEO firm that plays to your weaknesses, it may offer the best strategy for improving your company’s website rankings. For instance, if you lack strong back-links, an SEO firm that specializes in back-linking may be right for you. Take your time in finding the resource that best suits your goals, and don’t feel pressure to sign a long term contract when there are many options available. I would also suggest finding a local team, because an SEO firm in India is going to be building your off-page presence with poorly written English, and an IP address from India, and Google knows this. Go local—it’s the best way to get truly organic results.

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