Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the single most powerful online marketing tool for an internet business, promising an unlimited stream of free, qualified leads.
However, Flying Solo’s survey, Understanding Micro Business 2010-2011 suggests that of all aspects of their websites, micro-business owners are least satisfied with SEO (the task of raising your unpaid search ranking in major search engines like Google).
Why? Because they’re all doing it wrong.
I’ve run multiple online businesses that have relied on search engine optimisation as their primary source of marketing, and can confidently say that the secret to being number one is to put in the time and work it takes to be number one.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way.
Choose your goal
Think of target keywords and key-phrases someone would search for if they were looking for your product or service, and research which are the most popular (and therefore likely to bring you lots of traffic) using the Google keyword tool.
Ensure your website has the ability to rank well
Mention your chosen key-phrase in the <title> tag of the page you are optimising. The title element is the single most important on-page factor in SEO. Also include your main key-phrase on your home page several times by using it in <h1> tags, and naturally throughout your text.
Theme your website
Optimise your home page for the must-have, dream key-phrase for your business.
For a hotel in Sydney for example, this is “hotel Sydney”, which is by far the most popular search in that industry.
The other pages of your site should then be optimised for related key-phrases, such as “hotel deals Sydney”, or “family accommodation Sydney”. These pages should link to each other, using your key-phrase in the link, e.g. <a href=”/family-accommodation”>Family Accommodation</a>.
All of this creates a website theme, enabling you to rank well for multiple, relevant key-phrases, as well as re-enforcing your home page theme and boosting your primary key-phrase.
Every link to one of your pages counts as a “vote” for your website. More votes means a higher website ranking for your chosen key-phrases.
However, not all votes are equal: the best links are from websites that are relevant and related to your business. Links from “bad” websites may actually hurt your ranking. In the hotel example, beneficial links might come from accommodation directories and tourism websites.
List in free high-ranking directories
I list every website I create on certain directories. Not only are they immensely powerful SEO links, but they also provide traffic on their own – and they’re free. Two to check out are DMOZ (a high-ranking directory that will get your site listed on a variety of other search engines) and the Yahoo! Directory (find the free option).
Also list on any free, cheap and popular directories relevant to your industry. (Find them by searching for “your industry directory”).
Put your money where your mouth is
Given the emphasis on linking as a measure of ranking in Google, it’s natural that people have started to charge for links on their websites. Many websites will let you pay for a link coming from a high-ranking page.
Google warns not to do this, however it can be quite powerful if you pick a relevant website to buy a link on, and use your key-phrase in the link.
As a general rule, don’t buy a link just for the SEO potential. But if you believe the link will bring you traffic from that website AND it has great SEO potential, then spending money on this form of marketing can be very effective.
Lastly and most importantly, most Google searches now include a Google Map in the results, listing local businesses and pinpointing their location on the map.
If you run a business with a definite location, you MUST get your websites listed in those maps. To list, register with Google Places, and enter your business information including contact details, opening hours (if relevant), and website information. The traffic benefit to your website will be immense.
The tips above are enough to get your website ranking at the top of Google for your chosen key-phrases. Your persistence, patience and hard work in applying them will determine your page ranking. It will take a while to see the effects, but you’ll get back what you put in and what you’ll get back is a steady stream of relevant, qualified leads or sales for your business. (If you’d like a more detailed overview of search engine optimisation, try Google’s free starter guide).
How’s your DIY SEO going? If you’ve got any tips to share or questions to ask, please list them below.