SEO tips for small businesses

By: Peter Unitt

Date: 13 July 2011

Nearly everyone uses the Internet to search for information these days, so having a site that's optimised can help gain valuable search engine traffic.

Large companies can afford to hire a firm to help them optimise their sites, but small businesses often don't have the extra funds. Search engine optimisation (SEO) doesn't have to be done by a professional, however. With a few tips even a small business can have a high ranking website.

Know your keywords

People can't find your site if you don't have the keywords they are searching for. Think about what people are searching for and use a keyword tool to find similar keywords. A great tool to start with is the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. You should also ask employees and friends what keywords they would use to search for your website as well.

You will find that some keywords are more likely to be searched, but have a lot of competition. Keywords that are searched less often will have less competition. Using less popular keywords initially will mean you will get higher rankings sooner and therefore you will get traffic a lot sooner, I often see companies targeting highly competitive keywords to begin with but this is really bad practice and is very tricky to achieve high rankings from.

Optimise site structure

A fancy website looks good, but it doesn't matter if people can't find the website. Make your site easy to navigate for search engines by including relevant content and selective use of keywords (don’t overdo it though). Every picture should have a text description. If you use Flash, use text to describe it in the HTML so search engine bots can read it. While a splash page rich in graphics and animations looks great, having a text-based home page can help boost search engine rankings.

Avoid keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is when you cram as many keywords as you can into the text. The text will not read well and search engines don't like it. In fact, you can even be penalised for using too many keywords. Try to keep keyword usage at two to four per cent of your total article, or about two to four times per 300 words. It might require some creative writing, but try to keep the flow of keywords as natural as possible within the text of the page.

Use social media

Search engines use social indicators for rankings and by participating in social media you are giving yourself the opportunity to rank higher. One particular place you should be focusing on is Twitter, when a message in Twitter is retweeted it is seen as a authority signal by the search engines, so if you are including a link to your website or a blog post in the tweet it should help. Don’t overdo the website promotion with social media however as again this is a “spammy” signal to search engines, keep it user friendly.

Peter Unitt is a SEO & digital marketing freelancer, SEO Pete.