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Using SEO to promote your website on a shoestring

SEOThere are many ways to market your website without spending a fortune, as Chris Barling, chairman of ecommerce software provider SellerDeck, explains

Online shopping is currently growing at a rate of 35% year-on-year, proving that the internet is a great place for businesses to beat the economic downturn. With the right idea and a little research, small firms can find and exploit a profitable niche at very little cost and compete successfully with bigger businesses.

  1. Analyse search behaviour. Spend time researching what phrases searchers use online to find the things that you sell. Use Wordtracker to identify those that are widely used, but that also produce fewer than average search results. These phrases will give the best return.
  2. Optimise for Google. Most consumers find a new website by using an online search engine. Google has 88 per cent of the market so make sure your site ranks well on Google.
  3. Optimise high-ranking pages. In Google's search box, type the phrase you want to optimise for, followed by a space, then site:www.yoururl. The first page listed from your site will be the easiest to optimise for that phrase.
  4. Leave meta keywords until later. Concentrate first on things that matter. Incorporate keywords in the meta description tag because it's the description of the page that search engines will show their users.
  5. Optimise the important elements. Each key phrase should be incorporated naturally into the text of the page you are optimising at least three or four times. Always include the key phrase in the <Title> tag. This tag should be no more than 8-9 words long - so it's hard to optimise one page for more than three or four phrases. Use each phrase at least once in a heading or subheading, in <H1>, <H2> or <H3> tags.
  6. Work on your links. The more links you have from good quality, high-ranking and relevant websites, the higher you will rank. If possible, get text links containing relevant keywords. Contribute to forums and discussion groups, including a text link in your signature. Approach complementary websites to set up reciprocal links.
  7. Watch your competitors. See what your competitors are doing. If they run a banner ad for a few weeks and then drop it, it probably didn't work - so don't waste your money copying. Anything they persist with is probably working and worth trying out. Find out where they get their links from by typing 'link:www.theirurl' into Yahoo!
  8. Use marketplaces wisely. Marketplaces like eBay and Amazon are popular, but margins are low. Don't make them the cornerstone of your business. Use them for offloading overstocked and end-of-line items, and to attract new customers and drive them to your main website.
  9. Use offers to boost profits. Run '3 for 2' offers, set up related product links and use 'also bought' functionality to increase the value of each sale. Email regular customers with exclusive offers to keep them coming back. Keep unsubscribes to a minimum by offering useful information and tips.
  10. Measure, analyse and react.Use a web analytics package such as Google Analytics (which is very powerful, and free) to measure results. Do more of what works and stop any activity that doesn't work.