Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @WayneHurlbert. Wayne is a well known SEO and internet marketing consultant. He is also a highly regarded speaker and business book reviewer. His advice on business blogs and social media is sought after by leading companies worldwide. Wayne blogs at http://www,blogbusinessworld.blogspot.com Blog Business World. Wayne also hosts the twice weekly internet radio program http://www.blogtalkradio.com/WayneHurlbert Blog Business Success
Smallbizlady: What is SEO and why is it important for small business?
Wayne Hurlbert: SEO or search engine optimization is all about your small business website becoming easier to find by the major search engines including Google, Yahoo, and MSN Bing. Small business websites can compete successfully with their much larger competitors by becoming more search engine friendly. For a search engine, the size of the company is not important. What matters is that the site be most relevant for a search for a specific keyword phrase. SEO is not about tricks, but about providing good relevant content for people searching for information.
Smallbizlady: Should a small business owner think in terms of target markets with SEO?
Wayne Hurlbert: Yes. Just as a small business marketing plan seeks out its ideal customer, SEO efforts should be targeted toward potential customers searching for solutions to their problems, as consumers or business people. This means a combination of SEO for raw rankings on the search engines; SEO for e-commerce; SEO for branding your company, products and services; SEO to generate leads for later sales: and SEO to maintain your company reputation. The good news is people will be searching for all of these types of information, and by providing relevant information on separate pages on your site, you can achieve high rankings for any or all of them.
Smallbizlady: How do I know what keywords and phrases to target on my site?
Wayne Hurlbert: You must do some keyword research. First of all, write down all of the phrases that you believe fit your site, in 1 to 4 word phrases. Try them in different combinations. Ask your trusted employees, customers, and vendors what phrases they would use to find your site. You can also use Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal or Google’s Search Based Keyword Tool http://www.google.com/sktool/ Both will give you additional ideas about heavily searched keyword phrases relevant to your site.
Smallbizlady: Are links into my site important and how can I get more links?
Wayne Hurlbert: The first step is to provide link worthy content. Your site should be much more than simply a brochure site. That type of site doesn’t rank well as it contains little real information to attract links, and links provide the power to boost your rankings. Be sure to provide informational pages that show expertise in your industry, provide tips to help customers solve real problems, and additional specialty pages of possibly product reviews, industry news. useful tools and downloads, and other ideas suitable to your site. All of these pages can attract links. A blog page on the site is very powerful. Bloggers are free and generous linkers who will readily link to information and posts of interest to their readers. Blogging platforms like WordPress provide ease of blogging, as another set of pages, within a website. The blog posts provide many more relevant keyword phrases, that also rank well in the search engines.
Smallbizlady: How do I start to optimize my site for the search engines?
Wayne Hurlbert: Start with your domain name. If it’s not already determined, attempt to create a site domain that is relevant to your product and service. This is, of course, not possible for the main domain name if it already exists, but keywords can be added to the URL of each interior page, giving them URL domain power. A critical area on any site is the title tag. That is the wording that appears in the blue bar at the top of your browser. This is the title of the page, like a book title. The interior page title tags are like the chapter names in a non-fiction book. They tell the search engine what is the topic of each page. The title tag should contain your most important keyword phrases for that page. The company name doesn’t have to appear in the title tag, and if it does, place it to the right of the page. Search engines consider the most left placed keywords the most important. Don’t use the same tag on every page. Every page is distinct and needs a separate title tag.
Smallbizlady: How many keyword phrases should each page contain?
Wayne Hurlbert: Don’t fall into the trap of writing for the search engines. Write for your customers. If a page is difficult to read, or looks artificial and badly written, no one will stay on your page anyway. Those are customers who are lost. When writing copy on a page, keep it relevant to the topic of your site, and write for real people. There is ample evidence, especially from blogs, that writing good informational copy will rank highly, as well as being easy to read. As you write, your important keyword phrases, in various orders and combinations, will appear naturally anyway. Never write for the search engines. Always write for people. Be certain to include your company contact information including street address, and any relevant and frequently used local or regional location terms, to build local search. A local focus in the title tags will also boost your rankings for customers seeking your products and services in your city, state, province, region, or country.
Smallbizlady: How do I create links that work better for SEO?
Wayne Hurlbert: When you create a link within your site, to another page on the site, never use words like “here” or “click here” on the clickable link line. The wording on the clickable link line is called link anchor text and is very important to the search engines. It also tells the search engine what the page being linked is about, as the link anchor text is like a mini-title for the page. Use the keyword phrase, most relevant to the page being linked to, that you want to raise in the rankings. Don’t use the same link anchor text all of the time though, as that looks spammy to the search engine. At the same time, it misses the opportunity to use alternate but still relevant link anchor text to boost yet another keyword phrase.
Smallbizlady: How can I add links into my site from offsite sources?
Wayne Hurlbert: One of the best techniques for adding additional inbound links is articles. Submit your articles to the many article sites on the internet. Be sure they link with appropriate link anchor text to the most relevant page on the site. Some article sites permit a second link to the home page as well. Be sure to use both if available. Offer to write articles for other sites and blogs. Many webmasters and bloggers will be happy to add your article along with a link back to your site. Be sure to add your site to legitimate internet directories, but avoid at all costs link farms and other linking schemes. You can drive traffic, but not much link value though, from forum signature lines, Twitter profiles and post links, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles. Having a YouTube page can also help your rankings, and it too can be optimized.
Smallbizlady: Should I worry about being penalized and banned from Google?
Wayne Hurlbert: Google is not out to get you. They want to eliminate spam from their rankings. As long as you follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines http://www.google.com/webmasters/, and never use any dirty tricks or “black hat” SEO, your site will remain penalty and ban free. Don’t let yourself be fooled by anyone offering quick rankings through questionable means. Those rankings may never even materialize anyway, but Google could penalize or ban your site for using them. You can indeed rank well in the search engines with ethical “white hat” SEO techniques. There are no quick fixes. Good theme relevant content on your site will win out in the end.
Smallbizlady: Can I optimize the photos and graphics on my site?
Wayne Hurlbert: Yes. In fact, optimizing your site photos and graphics serves more than one purpose. To optimize a photo or graphic, you have really two optimization opportunities. One is the caption line below the photo or graphic. Use a descriptive version of a relevant keyword that is suitable to describing the picture. Use a mouse over alt attribute tag to describe the photo or graphic as well. Use a short relevant keyword phrase different from the caption to double your phrases. For people who surf with graphics off on their browser, the mouse over also tells the visitor what is in the photo or graphic.
Smallbizlady: How soon can I expect results from my SEO work?
Wayne Hurlbert: Google and the other search engines send their spiders, the little computer bots that crawl your site, out all of the time. Results can appear quickly if good relevant changes are made. Some results may take longer. Some keyword phrases are much more competitive than others, and are much more difficult to optimize for higher rankings. As a result, SEO is a process, not an end in itself. SEO is a continuous work in progress, as you add more pages, fine tune your title tags, rewrite your copy, and add more links. Before starting your SEO program, check the rankings of the existing site for your keyword phrases to create a base line. With that base in place, you can monitor your improvements, as they happen, on a regular basis. Don’t be alarmed by short term blips downward. They happen. Instead, optimize for the long term, using sound ethical SEO techniques for the long term. You can then ride out any ups and downs that can happen in the search engines.
Smallbizlady: Are number one and page one rankings in Google enough for success?
Wayne Hurlbert: SEO is only one marketing tool in your internet tool chest. Top rankings are of no value if no one who visits your site becomes a customer. Note the real value of writing for people, and not the search engines. The purpose or purposes of your site go far beyond the vanity of ranking on the first page in Google. Those rankings are only one part of your marketing plan. Be sure the copy on the page speaks to the customer, provides valuable information, and generates leads and sales. Note that well written copy ranks well, and builds your customer base, helping your business to grow. SEO is a tool, but it’s not a magic bullet. Use SEO wisely, however, and your small business will compete successfully on a global basis, against much larger competitors.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Melinda F. Emerson, also known as Twitter’s SmallBizLady is a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media. She hosts #SmallBizChat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs. She is the founder and CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, an award-winning strategic communications firm. She has created productions for such companies as Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Comcast. Her first book Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works!” was released in March 2010 by Adams Media.