"If you have more money than time, hire someone to do SEO for you,"
"But if you have more time than money, try to do it yourself...."
As a small business owner, you've already got way too many items on your to-do list. So how do you add yet one more thing-search engine optimization-to the list?
"If you have more money than time, hire someone to do SEO for you," said Matt McGee, a Search Engine Land editor, search marketing consultant, and author of the Small Business Search Marketing blog. "But if you have more time than money, try to do it yourself. Ninety percent of SEO isn't all that difficult, as long as you can take the time to learn it."
One do-it-yourself method that any small business owner can do is to use relevant keywords when writing blog posts or creating other Web content.
As defined by Search Engine Watch, a keyword "is a word or phrase entered into a search engine in an effort to get the search engine to return matching and relevant results." Ideally you should have three goals in mind when selecting keywords. You want to use keywords that accurately describe your content, words that people actually type into search engines when looking for something online and keywords that aren't found on millions of other Web pages.
For best results, your keywords should be part of a larger, on-going online marketing plan that takes into account your business's branding, goals, and challenges as well as your customers' needs, advised Martin Falle, CEO of SEO Research, a search engine marketing company. Also, pay attention to what your competitors are doing, in terms of optimizing their sites for the search engines.
You can use the following keyword-related techniques improve your page ranking in search result pages.
Research Your Keywords
Start your SEO efforts by creating a list of relevant keywords that best describe your product, service or the material you're creating.
To get ideas, ask your customers which words or phrases they most often use to search for businesses like yours, or for the products or services you sell. Include your customer service reps, employees, potential clients who contact your business, as well as people who walk into your store, said McGee.
You might be surprised by what you learn, McGee added. For example, you might describe an iPod on your product pages as a "portable media device," when in reality most people search for "MP3 player."
Once you have your list of keywords, do a little research with one of several keyword research tools to see which words might work best for your business.
Google's AdWords' free keyword tool offers useful but fairly basic keyword analysis. Though it's geared toward potential advertisers using Google's sponsored links program, the AdWords tool can show you how frequently a keyword was searched in the prior month or year, how competitive each keyword is, a list of related keywords you might not have considered, and more.
Be sure to read James Martin's article, Search Engine Optimization: SEO Tips for Small Business.
WordTracker and Keyword Discovery provide more advanced keyword analysis. For example, both tools rank words and phrases with KEI, which Wordtracker defines as Keyword Effectiveness Index and Keyword Discovery calls Keyword Effectiveness Indicator.
KEI is a number based on how frequently a keyword is used in searches and on how many Web pages the word appears. A high KEI ranking indicates that Web searchers use the phrase with some frequency, but there aren't alot of pages that contain the phrase. The upshot: The higher the KEI, the better your chances of being found in a search for a particular keyword or phrase.
Ideally, you should use more than one keyword research tool. "None of the tools are perfect, and they each have different ways of gathering data," McGee explained.
WordTracker costs $329 a year or $59 per month; there's a free seven-day trial. Pricing for Keyword Discovery ranges from $599.40 to $1,895 per year, or $69.95 to $ 199.95 per month. A free trial is available indefinitely, but it offers limited results and features.