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SEO for Your Small Business

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at April 9th, 2018

Are you looking for SEO for your small business, AKA small business search engine optimization? It’s not a contradiction in terms. Here are some basics to help your business and they don’t cost a penny.

Once you have been in business and/or online for a while, you inevitably hear the term, ‘Search Engine Optimization’. SEO can feel daunting and it certainly can be expensive if you farm it out. However – here’s a secret – you might not have to.

What is SEO?

Have you ever searched for something on Google, Bing, Internet Explorer, or any other search engine, and gotten thousands if not millions of results? Have you ever wondered why some results are at the top of the listings? I don’t mean the paid advertisements. These are sites which are not paying Google, etc. anything to be listed. They do it with SEO.

SEO is the art and science of helping online searchers find your company’s website. Google and other search engines reward pages which deliver what they promise. If you say your webpage is about zebras, it could be the best webpage ever about dolphins but Google will still let it sink like a boulder in search results.

Basics and Theory

You have several legitimate opportunities to tout your website. Best practices in SEO are to use all of them. But let’s talk theory first.

Google’s search algorithms are a closely-guarded trade secret but developers know the following or conjecture as much:

  • You must write for both people and computers. Google bots (‘spiders’) constantly rummage through the web and decide automatically where your site will fall in search results. However, humans also use Google, so a webpage must be readable and not look spammy.
  • Keywords and keyword phrases are how people search. To find out about zebras, I will probably start by searching for zebra or zebras. But if I want zebra print barrettes to give as a gift, then I probably Google zebra print barrettes to cut to the chase.
  • The web offers many opportunities for you to put your keyword or keyword phrase in a webpage. These include: image captions, names, and alternative text; the webpage title; the webpage URL; headers and subheaders within the webpage; snippets shown by Google; and of course text. Not using all of these spots is a way to inadvertently handicap your site.
  • However, too many instances of a keyword or keyword phrase come across as keyword stuffing and Google will believe your site is spammy. Don’t do this.
  • Webpages need at least one image as that will propagate across social media channels.
  • Using a keyword or keyword phrase for more than one webpage means your webpages will compete with each other. It’s better to spread the love and select a second keyword or keyword phrase for the second webpage. You can always link the two webpages together, and it’s usually better when you do.
  • The more quality sites which link back to a webpage, the higher in authority Google will believe it to be. More authoritative websites always rank higher.

Keyword Research

To choose the best keyword or keyword phrase, conduct some searches. Too many results mean your keyword is too popular and it is harder to compete. Too few, and that means no one is searching for your phrase. Determine this with sample searches.

Let’s try zebra first. There are millions of results (way too many), plus the first hit is for a company. But the second is Wikipedia, which ranks well because a lot of people link to it.

Maybe we’ll do better to search on something more specific like feeding a pet zebra. Uh oh, now our top two hits are for feeding a pet zebra finch. Still, the search brings back some relevant results, but there are hundreds of thousands of them. It’s still a competitive keyword phrase, but it’s better than just zebra.  Our real problem is that we want to get rid of the finch results. Most users don’t realize they can eliminate words from a Google search with the minus sign. That is, they should instead search under feeding a pet zebra –finch. However, we can’t suddenly make millions of people search better on Google. We will have to change to accommodate them.

What if we change direction and instead try selling something? Let’s try a zebra print barrette. Now we still have hundreds of thousands results. Plus, did you notice the search automatically pulls up shopping? This one’s got promise.

Creating Content

Google needs to know that your keyword phrase is important. Therefore, it makes sense to put it in the page title, etc., and to mention it early in your content. You can even put it into your webpage’s permalink. Add it and separate the words using hyphens. Never use underscores or spaces! You should also put it in the Meta description, which consists of the two or three sentences you see with the webpage listing when you search. For a webpage about feeding a zebra, it might have a title of How to Feed a Zebra and then a Meta description of something like ‘Do you feed your zebra our patented zebra chow? They love it! Feed a zebra our chow and get brighter stripes and faster galloping today.’ Meta descriptions should be between 120 and 156 characters (including punctuation and spaces). Too much, and they’re cut off; too little, and you’re not taking advantage of all that prime real estate.

Adding an Image

Now let’s add a picture. The title of the image, the URL, the caption, the alt text, and the description all matter. Why? Because if your image comes up in an image search, you want people to get a hint that they should come to your site.

Readability Tips

  • Make your point early; don’t bury the lede.
  • Too much passive voice makes it seem as if you don’t really believe what you are writing. Consider these two sentences. (a) I love zebras. (b) Zebras are an animal that is loved by me. While both are technically grammatically correct, the second sentence is overly wordy and doesn’t seem to have the courage of its convictions. The verb ‘to be’ often (although not always) signals passive voice.
  • Too many sentences in a row starting with the same word will look too repetitive. Don’t repeat an initial word in more than one consecutive sentence.
  • Transition words help webpages to flow. These are words and phrases like: in addition, therefore, hence, first of all, finally, so, and as a result.


Have fun with it! Once you start doing this, it will become second nature. And you’ll get more readers, too.

1 Comment

  1. Craig says:

    Great article. Thank you for the valuable information

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