Search Engine Optimization: SEO Tips for Small Business

A few years ago, John W. Tuggle made about $19,000 annually giving private guitar lessons. He had to work another job, too, in order to bring in more money.

Today, Tuggle makes $100,000 a year “and it just keeps going up,” he said. Plus, he no longer has to offer private lessons or work a second job, which gives him much more free time.

How did Tuggle do it? He hired a professional design firm to build a Web site, Learning Guitar Now, from which he sells prerecorded blues and slide guitar lessons on DVD. Tuggle also records podcasts for iTunes and creates videos for YouTube.

And to draw traffic to his site, Tuggle researched and continually refines the keywords he uses to optimize his Web pages for Google and other search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be a powerful tool to help potential customers find your site. “If you don’t do SEO, you probably won’t be found on Google,” Tuggle said. “And if you’re not found on Google, you’re losing about 65 percent of your potential customers from the Internet.” Currently, 65 percent of all search queries are performed on Google, according to comScore.

So what exactly is SEO? What’s involved in doing SEO? And how can you tell if your SEO efforts are working?

SEO Basics

SEO is an ongoing process in which you proactively use strategic keywords, links, HTML tags, and other techniques to increase the chances a page or site will organically land at or near the top of search result pages.

Organic, i.e., unpaid, search result rankings are not the same as Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. In a PPC campaign, you pay Google or other search engines to display a small text ad when someone performs a search using your chosen keyword or phrase. Many people who use search engines give more weight to organic results than they do to PPC ads.

SEO is important because there are billions of Web pages, and “the majority of people don’t click past the first two pages of search results,” said Matt McGee, a Search Engine Land editor, search marketing consultant and author of the Small Business Search Marketing blog. “In fact, most people only click on the top five or six search results on the first page.”

What’s more, search engine sites, in an effort to stay ahead of competitors, are constantly refining their algorithms and features. Small businesses and enterprises alike are increasingly learning and employing SEO tactics, too. Their goal is to push their pages as far up into search results as possible—at your expense.

Be sure to read James Martin’s article SEO Tips: How to Increase Traffic With Keywords.

SEO has its detractors. Some denounce it as a “black art” designed to manipulate search engines and, by extension, those who use them. And certainly there are many who employ dubious “black hat” SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing—the flagrant overuse of a keyword or phrase on a page in hopes of artificially enhancing the page’s position in search engine results.

That said, so-called “white hat” SEO, when incorporated into a larger Internet marketing campaign and employed both judiciously and continually, is essential to success on the Internet today, said Martin Falle, CEO of SEO Research, a search engine marketing company.

“The difference in being seen on page one and page two of search results can mean thousands, even millions, of dollars for a business in revenue,” Falle said. A high “findability” factor is especially important in an economic downturn, he added.

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