SEO.

Never have 3 little letters instilled so much fear and uneasiness in the hearts and minds of small business website owners! You want to maximize your effectiveness with Google so you can earn the best search engine rankings as possible, while also making sure you don’t do anything wrong to unintentionally anger Google. You either don’t want to pay for Google AdWords (and I don’t blame you), or you are tired of doing so and know that optimization of your site will be far cheaper and more effective in the long run. Plus, the rules for SEO seem to always be changing, so how are you supposed to keep up?

Search engine optimization of your website feels both elusive and expensive, though it really doesn’t need to be either. You can hire someone to (affordably) optimize your website pages for you, or you can get some SEO training to do so yourself.

You can even try to do it yourself based on SEO How To’s you’ve read online.

Here are the 4 critical things to know about small business website SEO:

Website SEO is Scary

  1. There are a few essential rules you do need to follow You do need to learn the SEO lingo and understand how to use each part of that core lingo. For example, title tags max out at about 60 characters, and meta descriptions at 150 or so. Title tags impact how your page ranks, but meta descriptions don’t; they only influence how likely a searcher is to click through. You do need to know about ALT tags, permalinks, interlinking, and the like. You don’t want to start making changes to existing (i.e. published) URLs without knowing about setting up redirects, and you don’t want to copy and paste the same title tag on every page (because Google doesn’t like that). But this is small business website SEO we’re talking about here, and utilization of these simple-but-essential SEO components goes a long way.
  2. You need to learn where on your site you implement your SEO You’ll need to know where to add the new title tags and meta descriptions that you are going to research and write, how to add ALT tags to images, and how to change permalinks before you publish a new post or page. We’ve optimized lots of WordPress sites, plus a whole bunch of sites that use a variety of CMS. If you aren’t sure if your current website can be optimized for search, check with your website designer.
  3. Your own curiosity and Google.com are all you need for solid keyword research Don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by all the available SEO tools out there. When I’m discussing SEO with clients, I always liken it to the TV game show, “Family Feud”, and what the survey says. That’s a simple but effective summation of what you are trying to achieve with your SEO work. You are trying to match the words or phrases a potential customer might type into Google to find a business like yours. But the trick here is knowing that not everyone will use the same exact phrase or question as you would. That’s why you perform keyword research (using Google.com) and type in all sorts of variations of the same query (even tiny tweaks like adding a “s” can dramatically impact the count of searches for that phrase), and see what phrases are the most and least popular. That’s how you’ll decide what to use for each website page or blog post.
  4. SEO is a learned skill, so you aren’t ever going to get better without practice Lots and lots of practice. This is also why you needed to start trying to SEO your website or blog posts, like, yesterday. SEO isn’t something that you are automatically going to master just because you did some reading or had some training. Rather, SEO is a skill that’s developed and improved with time. So unless and until you begin putting effort into optimizing your site for search, you aren’t ever going to be good at it. Plus, any SEO work that you do can easily be updated or changed over time. So when you do become really good at it, you can easily go back and update title tags and meta descriptions and ALT tags on posts or pages you previously worked on.

If you are reading this and you have advanced SEO skills or do SEO for larger enterprises, you might be thinking, “Geez, Liz. You’ve really over-simplified a very technical and involved industry.” And you’d be completely correct to think that. However, we see countless small businesses that have their own websites that have SEO functionality built-in, but don’t have the foggiest idea (or enough guts) to try to put those SEO features to use. We’ve worked on sites in several industries and have seen time and again how much some basic website and blog post SEO can and does pay off. Being able to add SEO like “Memphis BBQ, ribs and wings” to your BBQ restaurant’s site, “How to prune crepe myrtle trees” to your landscape company’s blog post, and “Home theater installation services Charlotte NC” to your Charlotte-area home theater installation company’s site will have a dramatic impact on how your website ranks in searches and the number of leads you receive.

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