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  Search Engine Optimization for Small Businesses
By: Divan Da've, CEO
Integrated Systems Management Inc. (ISM)

Its no secret that web users conduct almost 325 million searches ever day- and the number is rising. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must have tool for small and medium business (SMBs). Search engine traffic moves people around the web more than any other form of navigation. According to a recent study, 77% of people surveyed use search engines to navigate the web and 3% of people use banner ads. 22% of respondents said that they used email ads to visit websites. Only 29% use TV, radio, and print ads as their guides for online navigation
(Source : Internetprodigies.com)


Irrespective of industry or services, the need for today's small businesses is to optimize the presence on web to gain a competitive advantage over competition. Search Engine Optimization enables a small business to capture quality leads available from search engines and online directories. SEO reduces overheads and subsequently converts the website traffic to potential customers for the organization.

Why is Search Engine Optimization essential for Small Businesses?

SEO is more of importance to a small business due to the simple fact that print and electronic promotions work out to be an expensive proposition. SEO, on the other hand, offers a low cost promotion solution to the SMB. The infrastructure required for SEO is minimal when compared to traditional marketing tools. The business information can be delivered worldwide to the prospective buyers through search engines, online directories. Visitors that come to your site through search engine are seeking for specific information and products. The organization is assured of targeted, focused and comprehensive web presence in this manner.

How to increase exposure on the Internet?

SEO has become the latest buzzword today with each company thinking of being at the topmost position. However, like any other promotional concept, it has to be carefully implemented across various stages. Many SEO experts offer quick fix expensive solutions to business that work out to be expensive and do not yield sustained results over a longer period of time. It is important, especially for a small business with limited funds to adopt a step-by-step approach to achieve the desired results.

  •  Product catalogue site - The first task is to have a functional website with your product and services displayed in catalog layout. In this type of website, business can give brief description of the products and services and contact information so that visitors can contact them through email, fax or phone. In this type of web presence, there are minimal online transactions happening on the site. Having such a site in place requires very low investment in terms of design, maintenance and hosting. SMB's can receive lots of leads by search engine optimization done on this basic form of website.

•  Dynamic database enabled site - Once results start showing in after 4-6 months, and money flow increases, the business can upgrade to a dynamic database enabled website. This is a typical B2B and B2C website wherein all click information is captured and customers can place orders online through a secure server. This dynamic website provides facility of online payment gateway where customer can put their credit number and details and make purchases online, keep track of the order and shipment status. This ensures instant conversion of a lead into a closed sales account.

•  Involve community and build industry vertical portal - Once the top 5 position at major search engines is achieved, it is necessary to include content and resources on the site which are non commercial in nature. This would include white papers, press releases, surveys, RSS feeds from news agencies related to the industry, user forums to name a few. This will increase the site hits and subsequently your business.

SEO TIPS and Tricks

  •  The keyword identifier - Identify a set of keywords that you need to promote. By using keyword research tools such as www.wordtracker.com , the business can spot those keywords that are being used frequently by buyers while searching the Internet. Such tools provide the backbone to the entire SEO process since the business is able to identify, choose and promote the right keyword for their business. Sometimes, organizations promote keywords that do not get hits; this results in wastage of resources and loss in business because nobody is using the keyword while searching the Internet. It is important to identify how often people actually search for specific words or phrases, and also how is the competition using these keywords. To exemplify, for an organization wanting to promote photo frames, optimizing this single keyword would not help. Popular keywords such as 'picture frame', 'teen picture frame', 'digital picture frame' need to be included too, because majority of customers use these phrases more frequently than 'photo frames' while searching.

•  Segment strategy - Choosing the popular keywords means that the company's website will figure is the search list, however, the real challenge is to have the top position in the search list. The company needs to specifically define the market segment where it needs to be ranked in the top 10 position. Geographic considerations need to be addressed - where you want to sell, where you want to promote your business and where you want to put your distribution channels in place. This will help in focused business approach through effective targeting of local and regional customers. Industry sector segmentation is worth considering wherein bulk sales and order bookings can occur. For example, a Chinese company wanting to sell its tires in US should know that it is not spelled as 'tyres' as in Asia and UK . Moreover, they also need to identify their primary target market- are they going to sell it to single customers or are they going to sell them car and automobile manufacturers. SEO technique will be different for each segment.

•  Optimizing site content for SEO - The website needs to be optimized on the basis of targeted keywords. The keywords should appear frequently in the body text on the WebPages of the site. Prominence and rate of recurrence of the keywords should be created according to search engine algorithm. Each Webpage should be targeted on single keywords where your keyword also appears in the body text, title and header at the top of the page. Google, for example, always prefers rich contents providing more information about the subject matter rather than simple repetition of keyword.

•  Promoting your website - Additional promotional activities provide a boost to SEO services. These include Press Releases, exchanging links with related websites and having user forums. However, companies need to take caution that link exchanges are done with care and spamming policies are taken into consideration.

SEO Glossary - Few terms you should know  

Title Meta Tag - This HTML tag is used to provide web browsers and search engines with an "official" title for the page currently being displayed. Using a couple of keywords in your title tag can help boost the page's search engine ranking for those keywords.

Keyword (Key Phrase) - A word or phrase typed into a search engine in order to find web pages that contain that word or phrase. A web page can (and should be) optimized for specific keywords/phrases that are relevant to the content on that page.

Description Meta Tag - A meta tag that describes the content of the web page in which it is found. Used by some search engines for keyword density purposes. Also, some SE's will use the description meta tag for the description provided to a user when the page is returned in a listing of search results. It is recommended that you use a couple of your targeted keywords in the description meta tag.

Content - The information located on a web page. This includes text, images, and any other types of information that a webmaster places on the page.

Robot - A program used by a search engine to crawl the web in order to find, rank, and index new web pages.

Backlinks - Links from another web page to your web page. Most search engines provide an easy way to get a list of all of the backlinks to a specific page. Also referred to as Incoming Links.

Directory - A categorized list of websites that is maintained by human editors instead of crawlers. Yahoo.com is the most widely recognized directory on the web, but there are literally thousands of others.

Reciprocal Links - Links to another website placed on your site in exchange for links back to your site from theirs. This is a proven way to build link popularity which is instrumental in getting high search engine rankings.

PageRank - A proprietary numerical score that is assigned by Google to every web page in their index. PR for each page is calculated by Google using a special mathematical algorithm, based on the number and quality (as determined by Google) of the inbound links to the page.

Counter - A script that counts the number of hits, unique visitors, and/or page views that a web page (or an entire site) receives. These "stats" provide very useful information for the webmaster.

USEFUL SEO LINKS AND TOOLS

http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/seo.html

http://www.submit-it.com/subopt.htm

http://searchenginewatch.com/

http://www.submitexpress.com/

http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/

http://www.seochat.com

http://www.alexa.com/site/site_stats/signup

http://www.bruceclay.com/web_rank.htm

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Divan Da've is the founder and CEO of Integrated Systems Management Inc. (ISM), founded in 1989 in New York. He can be reached at (914)-332-5590.

A veteran entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in the information technology industry, Mr. Da've, leads a Internet and E-business consulting firm, as a Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Dave's background comprises a unique combination of broad business knowledge and strong technical expertise.

Mr. Da've has a MS degree in Organic Chemistry and Computer Science from Gujarat University in India and a graduate degree in Computer Science and Information Systems from City University of New York.

 
 
 
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