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SEO for Small Businesses (Part 1 of 3)

If you own a small business that operates online, then you at least understand the need for search engine optimization, even if you don’t understand the mechanics.  You’ve probably started looking around online, trying to figure out just what this SEO stuff is all about.  In fact, that’s probably why you are reading this right now.

The truth is, speaking as an experienced professional consultant: there are no hard-and-fast rules in SEO.  What there are, are techniques and strategies that work well in most cases, some that work well for some businesses and not others, and some that just don’t work at all and can even hurt your business.  What I want to do in this series, is give you (the businessman just starting to put together an SEO strategy) some of the “basic rules” of SEO and some of the strategies that work well in almost all cases.  These are all thing that you can implement on your own, before calling in the professional “big guns”.

In this first installment, I want to talk about preparing yourself for your foray into SEO.  Here are 5 basic principles to get yourself prepared:

1.  SEO is a Process Not an Event:  SEO is not something that you do once and are done with.  It’s an ongoing process.  Search engines are evolving all the time, and so the tactics of SEO have to change with them.  The results of SEO are not instantaneous either.  It may be May by the time you see the full benefits of the strategy you implemented back in February.

2.  Be a Pro or Use a Pro:  If you want to form effective SEO strategies, you need to immerse yourself in the field and absorb every tidbit of information about SEO that you can.  In short, you’ll have to become something of a pro at it, yourself.  If you aren’t willing to invest that kind of time, then you’d be better off investing money instead and hiring a professional SEO consultant.  Even then, you should at least understand the basics so that you can actually consult with your consultant and understand the tactics they are suggesting.

3.  Learn Search Engines:  Research is a major part of SEO.  You need to understand how search engines work if you want to optimize your site for them.  There is no better way to learn how search engines tick than “straight from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak.  Site Explorer is a good way to learn about Yahoo! and Google offers insight into their search engine at Webmaster Central.

4.  Research Your Keywords:   Not all keywords will bring you the same volume of traffic.  You need to understand which ones will work best for your business so that you can focus more on them.  AdWords Keyword Tool, WordTracker and Keyword Discovery are all handy tools for helping you research your keywords.  If you feel like making the investment into your site, you can purchase even more detailed and powerful full versions of either WordTracker or Keyword Discovery (not a bad idea, but also not entirely mandatory).  Don’t get hung up on the actual numbers for each keyword you are researching.  What you really want to look at is how all of your keywords compare to one another, so you can decide which ones will be most effective for you.

5.  Decide if You Want to Go Pro:  If you decide you don’t want to invest the time and would rather hire someone to do your SEO for you, if it just looks like more than you can take on, or if you decide that making sure that it is done right is worth the monetary investment, then shop around for a GOOD SEO consultant.  Research any consultant or firm before hiring them to see what other clients have to say about them.  Ask them about their strategies.  Make sure that they are willing to work WITH you instead of FOR you on making your online business a success.