As a small business owner do I need to worry/think/do anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Whether your company has a website or not, most people have heard something about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).Often it’s from the sales and marketing manager who instructs a staff member to “do something about SEO” so that their site can appear on Google’s first page (good luck with that by the way…). Sometimes it’s from an “SEO” company who can absolutely guarantee that they’ll get your site on Google’s first page of results – maybe they should talk to that staff member? More often with small businesses its one of those topics that gets discussed once or twice and is then consigned to the “someday, maybe never” file.

To answer my own question – I’m here today to tell you that in this Google-dominated, internet-driven, 24/7 world SEO isn’t just something to worry or think about its EVERYTHING if you want to get found on the internet. Here are my top 5 SEO “do’s plus 5 “don’ts” that every small business owner needs to be aware of:

Do – think about SEO from square one. Designing a site with “baked-in” SEO is much, much easier than trying to insert it after the fact. If your web person doesn’t talk about SEO from the get-go ask them why or find yourself a new web person.

Don’t – concentrate just on keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that people use to search for something on the internet. You can do a lot of research on keywords and come up with a list that is relevant to your business, but if you just stuff a bunch of words onto your site without the correct structure and context you are not going to see any major improvements in your ranking. Google is really, REALLY smart and can tell the difference between “words” and “sentences”.

Do – include product info but Don’t – rely just on your standard sales blurb. Try and visualize what’s important and relevant to your customers and re-write your product info if necessary to suit them rather than you. This might mean application notes, examples of similar installations, how-to videos, etc.

Do – make sure that all the available places in your website where the Google spiders come to visit are SEO friendly. This includes the <TITLE> tag – if your web site home page has a generic title like “homepage” or “index” then change it (or have someone change it) to something more descriptive – the home page for my site has this title “dsm-llc | home | sales and marketing for small business” which gives a) the company name, b) the page name and c) a brief description of what the site is about. Other places are <ALT> tags, <META descriptions>, <H1> tags etc. If these don’t mean anything to you – find someone who does know!

Don’t – rely solely on technologies that can’t be read by the Google spiders. These include Flash movies and JavaScript menus. (Also included are pop-up windows, drop-down menus and images that don’t have <ALT> tags.) A web site can look fantastic, with all-singing, all-dancing Flash presentations but if there’s no text it will not be ranked high because the spiders can only read text.

Do – link internally. Every important page should be accessible from every other page. If you only have links to a secondary page from the home page then the spiders discount the importance of the linked-to page because they surmise that YOU didn’t think it was important! Damned clever these spiders!

Don’t – listen to anyone who can guarantee a first place ranking on a Google search engine result page (SERP). It just doesn’t work that way – if they were that clever and could beat the system don’t you think they’d be buying Google instead of trying to get $250 out of your pocket?

Do – something about it! If you are not technically minded or you don’t have the time to re-jigger your site to make it SEO-friendly then hire someone to do it. As I said in the last statement avoid anyone who guarantees SERP position but there are people out there who can help and who can point you in the right direction (people like me – see the main dsm-llc website for more details).

Don’t – stress over this!! You shouldn’t needlessly worry about page rankings and Google algorithms and keywords and all the other stuff that goes on. Because a) Google changes stuff all the time and you can’t do anything about that and b) if you build your site with your customer in mind chances are that you’ll do OK anyway.

If you’d like to read more on this topic I can heartily recommend Jill Whalen’s website High Rankings – her article on opting out of SEO is a great read!

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