Small business SEO is a powerful tool service providers can use to market their websites cost effectively. Many people want to know how they can get their website ranked in the organic listings of Google so they receive lots of free targeted traffic to their site.
The exact process for how search engines rank websites is not public. Each of the major search engines (primarily, Google and Bing) has a proprietary algorithm for determining where a website should show up in its search results.
That said, there are specific ranking factors that matter more than others. For a complete list of important ranking factors, I highly recommend SEOMoz’s Search Engine Ranking Survey. For readers who just want a quick overview of the basics, here are a few ranking factors you should consider in your small business seo strategy.
On-Page Ranking Factors
On-page ranking factors are those factors that you have some control over. If you just get these right, you should be able to rank for a number of your less competitive keywords within a few weeks to a few months.
- Title Tag Keywords – Your website’s title tag is what shows up in the top left-hand corner of your internet browser above the “File” menu, so it is virtually invisible to your website visitors. However, the title tag shows up in search results as the headline of your listing so it is extremely important both as a search engine ranking factor and as a headline to attract your reader’s attention and get him to click onto your website. Your title tag should contain the keyword or key phrase the page is targeting, preferably within the first few words, and should be no more than 65 characters because that’s the maximum amount that search engines will display.
- Unique Content – Having plenty of unique and informative content on your website will boost your website’s credibility and trustworthiness with search engines. Focus on writing content around your major keywords.
- H1 Headline Tag Keywords – Your H1 tag should be the first headline on your website that tells readers what the page is about. Unlike the title tag, the headline tag is usually prominently displayed on your page – and is usually what visitors see as the page title. Use your main keyword or key phrase in your H1 tag.
- Keywords in Link Anchor Text – Link anchor text is the word or phrase that is clickable when you create a link to your website. Use keywords in your links to internal pages, rather than a generic “click here” or including the page URL. For instance, “small business marketing” instead of “www.morningstarmultimedia.com.” You don’t want to overdo this. In 2012, Google released a huge algorithm change called “Penguin” that cracked down on these keyword anchor text matches, so using the exact text every time may harm you. The rule of thumb is – if it looks spammy, don’t do it.
- Freshness of Page Content – Search engines view pages that are frequently updated as more relevant to searchers, so add new content to your website regularly.
- Proximity to Home Page – How many clicks does it take to get from your “Home” page to the page you are trying to rank? Search engines view the pages that your “Home” page links to as more relevant than those that sit a few clicks away.
- Keywords in first 50-100 words of site content – Write your website’s content to sell, inform, or persuade, but use variations of your keyword or key phrase wherever they make sense, and preferably in the first 50-100 words of your website’s content. You must write your content so it sounds natural to readers, but include keywords when you can.
- Domain Name Keywords – Using your keywords in your root domain name helps to boost its rank in listings. The root domain name is http://www.yourdomain.com. Subdomain names can also play a factor in ranking your website, so if you didn’t get your top keywords for your domain name, you can use them here. Your subdomain name is would look like http://keyword.yourdomain.com.
Off-Page Ranking Factors
While it would be nice if Google ranked websites based solely on the website characteristics we have control over, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Search engines also look at the quality and quantity of inbound links pointing to your website from other websites. Here are a few of the most important elements for your small business SEO strategy.
- Keywords in Anchor Text – Like with your on-site anchor text, having external sites link to your website with specific keywords plays a large role in how search engines rank your website. The anchor text is important because it tells visitors what they can expect when they click on that link, so search engines highly rate the importance of that content. Again, like with internal links, don’t overdo this if you start any type of link building campaign or you may get penalized by Penguin.
- Number of High-Quality Links – How many links you receive from high-quality and credible websites is extremely important. High-quality links are used in editorial content rather than the footer or sidebar of a website. Search engines also frown on paid links or links from known link brokers. Search engines use high-quality links as a measure of how important of a resource your website is on the Internet.
- Diversity of Link Sources – Not only are high-quality links important, but you also need links from a variety of sources. If you have a well-trusted website giving you plenty of links – that’s good – but it is even better if you can get links from numerous credible sources.
- Trust of Link Sources – The trustworthiness of your link source is important in ranking your website. If you receive a large number of your links from web spam sites or known link brokers, search engines may actually discount your links or lower your website’s ranking. Make sure the site linking to you doesn’t also have links to the 3 Ps of spam – pills, poker, and porn.
- Topic-Related Links – Finally, try to get links from websites that are topically related to your website’s subject.
Small business SEO isn’t rocket science but it does take work to get right. With so many factors influencing your website, it is important to have an SEO strategy in place for how you will target all of your main keywords and phrases on your website. By taking into consideration the above ranking factors, you can create content that search engines will consider high-value, thus giving you a much greater chance of ranking well.