Where Are You?

Search Engine Strategies That Bring Customers to Your Business

Can you draw thousands of interested prospects to your door, for less than $100 a month?

Using search engine optimization (SEO) to help people find your business on the web can bring you sales leads and revenues for a fraction of the cost of advertising, direct mail, and other outbound marketing efforts.

Unlike pay-per-click, where a business pays for a sponsored campaign that drives traffic to its site, SEO is organic—it draws traffic via free search engine listings.

Any business can use SEO. For example, a teenage entrepreneur used the SEO tools Google Suggest and Wordtracker to title her website and select its search categories. The result: as of this writing, her site ranks near the top of 6.5 million Neopets search results. It generates an average of 12,000 page views daily, says her father, Stephan Spencer, president of the SEO firm Netconcepts. He reports that her site also earns $20-$30 daily in Google AdSense revenue, money his daughter earns while she sleeps.

Getting to the Top

The top listings in search results draw the most people. Spencer cites an eye-tracking study by Enquiro Search Solutions that found 72 percent of users click on the first link, while only 25.5 percent read the entire page one list before clicking. Also, "There's a big difference between being at the middle of page one and the bottom of page one because in the middle of the page your listing can still be seen without scrolling," Spencer says.

Strategies You Can Use

Optimizing your website site for search does not require any big cash expense, though you may decide to engage a consultant service. Google's SEO tools are generally free; some other SEO tools are available for less than $100 per month.

SEO does require an investment in human resources: staff expertise or education, and time to create and implement your SEO strategies, then manage them on an ongoing basis. Here are some essential SEO strategies:

  • Track your page status
    Know which of the pages on your site Google indexes. Simply type SITE:yourwebsite.com in Google's search window.
  • Research and identify effective keywords
    Matching what your target markets are looking for in their searches to the content on your site is an art and a science. "The words your customers use are the words you should use when positioning your product on your website," says Kara Jariwala, search marketing strategist for Cisco. This can be tricky, as she illustrates with this example: searching on the keyword "router" generates a decidedly different set of results than does "network router".

    Your keywords may be fluid, because language is ever changing. SEO consultant Amanda Watlington gives this example: "mobile phone" and "cell phone" are becoming "smartphone," "iPhone," and other terms.

    You can find and update keywords for your business using tools such as Google Trends, Google Insights, Google AdWords, Keyword Discovery, and Wordtracker.
  • Place keywords on your pages
    Optimize your web pages—including their titles, tags, and copy—with the keywords and text formulations that will help the page rank high in searches by your target market, triggering a high quality and quantity of clicks. Test a variety of keywords and placements, using tools such as those mentioned above.
  • Write a compelling Meta description
    Maximize the number of keywords in the snippet of text that search engines post under your page listing, recommends Molly Scofield, a vice president of the SEO firm Global Strategies International.
  • Build links
    Links from reputable websites boost search positioning. See which sites link to yours by typing LINK:yourwebsite.com in Google's search window. One free local link is a map listing from the Google Local Business Center. For strategies on building links, Netconcepts offers free resources.
  • Monitor, update, and improve frequently
    Continuously use web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to learn which keywords, text formulations, and page designs draw the most visitors to your site and produce the best click through for your objectives.

Applying SEO to your web pages can magnetize your site, attracting new prospects and repeat customers at little cost to your business. The next time you wonder, "How can we increase sales?" ask yourself "Can customers find us?".

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