Search engine optimization for your small business website

How to Speak Google

Google®. Bing®. Yahoo®. How do they do what they do, and why do they do it that way? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, you are one of thousands of small business owners trying to crack the code of search engine optimization (SEO) and use it to benefit your business. You are probably seeking the no-fail formula for SEO perfection, consistently ranking at the top of search engine results. Unfortunately, no such equation exists, but if it did, whoever came up with it would probably be filthy rich. I know I wish I could have deciphered it. I’d be rich, and I’d buy you all dinner.

The good news is that I am here to help, and because I can’t buy you all dinner, I will instead help you toward a greater understanding of one critical SEO function: keywords. Every time we use a search engine, we enter in keywords to help uncover what it is we are seeking. “Oil change in Chicago,” or “24 hour pizza delivery” are each made entirely of keywords. Think of them as the distilled description of your business. If you had to sum up your business in three to five words, which would you choose?

Keys to SEO

Your selection of these keywords is extremely important, and as a small business owner, you will want to capture the interest of search engines by assigning keywords (or “optimizing” in tech lingo) to each page of your website. Here are a few tips for selecting the right keywords:

Simple and specific. The more you hone your keywords, the less competition you will have and the higher you will rank. Your keywords represent the essence of what you do, where you do it, and what you offer. For example, on their Services page, a local landscaper might use specific words like ”Scottsdale landscaper,” “landscape design” or “desert landscape.”

Stay relevant. Relevant general keywords help other users find your site on search engines, so you must use keywords that are related to what you do. The aforementioned landscaper would consider general keywords like “landscape,” “lawn care,” or “tree trimming.”

Practical application

Relevant, specific keywords can increase regular traffic to your site when used properly. When incorporating them into your pages, you should:

Be strategic. Put your keywords in page names, image names, page content, headers, and metadata. Without sounding like you’re trying, use each keyword (as well as some variations) at least two or three times per page. Use a few toward the top of the page so search engines pick up on them quicker.

Be au naturale. Don’t overuse or overstuff your keywords; it will make your content harder to read for people and search engines alike. Evaluate context in your content, because your search engine will be doing the same thing when it looks at your page. Use your keywords where they fit naturally; don’t over-think their placement. The last thing you want is to sound spammy, as that will push customers AND search engines away!

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Also published on Medium.

Erik Wong
Erik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com.