Before we get into tips and tricks, here is some basic information on SEO for small business owners.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a strategy in web development or design that typically includes post-design promotional activities aimed at improving a site’s recognition by search engines. The goal is for your small business website to appear on or near page one in Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other major search engines. The result, especially being listed #1 on page one, can mean more targeted traffic to your website with the ultimate goal of converting visitors into buying customers.

SEO can also mean a person, or Search Engine Optimizer, who is a direct employee or outside contractor with the responsibility of adjusting your small business website’s programming code, site content, and promotional activities to achieve the first page with search engines. Like any profession, the level of performance can vary greatly from one to another.

Physical small business owners often launch a new website and hope that the site will become the first line of marketing for their product or service. This may be a bug. Others simply want to enhance their image by displaying sophistication with a www domain that features more content than can fit on a business card or brochure.

The first group wants targeted traffic to their site, however few small business owners really understand search engine optimization, or SEO, so some fall victim to people offering SEO services for a fee. For the second group, simply being online with a website that never changes meets their expectations, and they realize that success depends on direct customer contact and marketing. A third group is similar to this last group, except that they hope that simply having a website will magically bring instant fortunes.

If you haven’t already guessed, there are no tricks to search engine optimization. SEO success tips should be based on proven techniques with positive long-term results. Gimmicks that attempt to manipulate results by deceptive means may be successful in the short term, but will eventually fail.

Search engine algorithms to establish rankings like Google’s PageRank are secret. The best you can do is guess how and why they change by following each quarterly update. Most PageRank watchers, or PR for short, are trying to tease out what Google considers important and then manipulate their strategy to improve their ranking in search results. That could be a mistake. If adjusting strategy means manipulating what some believe is important, they too often resort to deceptive means for short-term gains.

I have written many times that deceptive practices will backfire. You will be punished. If you track PR or follow the advice of SEO gurus, you’ve heard the cliche “Content is King.” My position remains that the secret to search engine optimization is to design sites for visitors first and then add quality original content frequently to get the attention of people and search engines.

“Content is king” should be changed to “Original quality content is king”. Traffic is meaningless if visitors don’t stick around long enough to become paying customers. I think the algorithms change in 2007 and the overall PR downgrade for so many sites is more than a temporary adjustment. Also, I don’t think Google is punishing website owners who provide quality original content. Instead, I believe that millions of websites created and modified just to fool search engines are being caught and punished, and the PR ladder in 2007 has shifted down for quality site owners to fill that void. and redefine the PageRank range.

Small business website owners need to understand the best practices of SEO strategies. Here are some search engine optimization tips that I posted on my website in 2007. The first is the main dish on my menu to feed search engines using an analogy comparing search engines to restaurants. Following that list are practices to avoid from the same article on my site.

Positive search engine optimization practices to consider:

1. Keywords in the page title

2. Keywords in H tags

3. The age of your WWW domain

4. The size of your website

5. Backlinks (incoming links to your pages)

6. Keywords in text links

7. High-quality original content

Negative or misleading SEO practices to avoid:

1. Do not have advertising pages only for affiliates. You need original content.

2. Do not have overoptimized pages. It will not help SEO and may confuse your visitors.

3. Have no link schemes, inbound or outbound. Misleading practices will backfire.

4. Don’t have identical content hosted on two separate domains (mirror sites).

5. Not have plagiarized content. It’s illegal, and the search engines can tell.

6. Do not use obscene language such as swearing or content that is hateful or racist.

In conclusion, continue to evaluate the SEO strategy of your small business website. Take advantage of best practices and avoid negative or misleading methods, and you can be successful. Most small business entrepreneurs cater to a local market, so ranking their pages compared to the world could mean a very high PageRank is impossible. By following the advice given here, you may have enough to outrun your local competition, and that’s probably all that matters.

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