Lisa Barone recently wrote about what small businesses could do to increase sales.  Network Solutions CEO Roy Dunbar was joined by several people to offer suggestions. One of the key points coming from the group is that “SEO and search is one of the most powerful things a small business can invest in.”
Many small business owners are missing out on the potential traffic and sales they could get if their web sites were optimized for search engines. Location is everything — even online. An SEO company helps your web site rise to the top of search engines when someone types in words relating to your business.
In my last post I went over SEO practices that your SEO company should not use.  Now I’ll talk about the opposite – what a good SEO company should do.
A good SEO company should do the following things:
- Analyze your web site. The basis of SEO starts with your web site. Like a doctor who should ask questions and do some tests before making a diagnosis, your SEO company should start by examining your web site.They should look at factors such as: the URL structure, your title and Meta tags, page content, and how you link pages of your site to each other. The more complex your web site, the more thorough the analysis should be. This is where advanced SEO knowledge is crucial. Minor changes can have a big impact.
- Identify keywords. Keywords are words that people type into search engines to find web pages. For most, they already rank well for the name of their business. To attract new business, they also need to rank well for other terms. Where your web page shows up in the list is your ranking – and getting on the first page can mean a lot more business than being lower on the list.Keywords and content are the foundation of a well-optimized web site. Your SEO company should see where you currently rank for relevant keywords. They should give the approximate demand and competition for various words (usually phrases) that are important to your business.If your business is a local business, your SEO company should focus on local terms by adding state or city names to keyword phrases you’re targeting. They should be sure that you’re listed correctly on search engine maps like Google Maps  because map results show up above the rest of the results.
Once you determine these words, they will form the basis of your SEO efforts. When you target a particular phrase you usually get residual ranking benefits. In other words you can rank well for similar phrases.
- Build Links. Links are a form of currency online. A link to your site is like a vote for it. The more important the site the more valuable a link from them will be.The key is to build or attract links from other sites that are well established or credible, to a particular related page on your web site. One way to build links is to get stories written about you online. If you are lucky to get a story written about your business with a key phrase linked back to your web site, it can be more powerful than paying for an ad. Not only do you get the trust and endorsement from the mention, you’ll get search engine rankings for that phrase.
Aaron Wall of SEOBook.com said ,  “When people link at you in editorial channels, they not only link, but in many cases leave behind an endorsement. Assuming they are writing to a relevant targeted audience then you just gained a bunch of social proof of value and reached a wider audience in a means that is much cheaper and more effective than traditional advertising.”
Also look for credentials from the industry. I know of more of these from the paid search side rather than for SEO companies. One example is a Certified Google AdWords Reseller. This shows that they are interested in keeping community standards. Remember that reputable companies don’t try to hide from the Search Engines. They seek relationships with them. They want to ensure they work with them in the most transparent way possible.
My favorite SEO tactic? Blogging. Set up correctly (applying the same principles I outlined above), a company or even personal blog can be a great tool for SEO. If creating your own blog isn’t a good fit, participating on other people’s blog by leaving comments or writing a guest post using keywords is also effective.
SEO is a form of marketing. There are many approaches to getting links. The best approach for your business depends on many factors. However there are fundamentals that don’t change which every small business should be aware of –especially in this economy.
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About the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc.  and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com  (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.