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“Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant, and having your business mentioned first is the most important in quenching that thirst for expertise.” –Mitchell Kapor

Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have under performed or failed entirely because customers didn’t know about them.  The same is true in the online era of business.   Unless your business appears on the first page or two of Google, Bing, or Yahoo search result, connecting with prospective customers will be very difficult.

That’s not the fault of the search engines; they simply respond to whatever search terms the user enters.  It’s up to you to make sure your website content includes keywords that people in your target markets are most likely to use, thereby making your website pages more “visible” to search engines.

According to a recent survey, websites ranked in the top ten of a Google search result page obtain as much as 91.5% of the search traffic for a keyword or term. Then 4.8% for page 2, 1.1% for page 3. This is why almost all of companies that own their own website are keen about being first on Google.

So how do I become a recognizable small business on the web?  Start with these ideas…

A good first step in finding the right combination of keywords for your content is to brainstorm words that you think your potential customers might use.  This includes your product names, generic names for those products, locations, specialties, and words that searchers might use when they need your product (including words about the problem that it solves).

Author and digital media consultant Mike Moran cautions that because keywords represent your market segments, the best matches for your site may not necessarily be the ones that are the most popular.

“Rather than trying to think of ‘everything’—that is, words that almost no one uses, look for a middle ground of words that are at least somewhat popular and are very strong matches for your site,” Moran explains.

Here are some tips for finding good keywords for your small business website:

  • See what your competitors call the same products.  You may see words on their Web pages that you have not thought of yet.
  • Avoid terms that are too general.  Instead of picking “auto insurance,” for example, use a more qualified term like “auto insurance Cleveland Ohio.”  Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder, of marketing software company HubSpot, says that while such long-tail “keywords may generate fewer searches, they bring in more qualified visitors who are more likely to become customers.”
  • Use keyword tools from the search engines themselves.  For example, Google Adwords will suggest variations on your selected keywords.
  • Look at what words people already use to find your site.  This information is available in most web analytics packages. 
  • Incorporate links.  Connecting your site with leading ones in your community or industry is more likely to draw a search engine’s attention.

Search engines also tend to give low rankings to web pages that are rarely changed, so be sure to update your content regularly.  “Photos and video can be huge drivers of search results,” Halligan adds.  “Be careful with your title and tags, and include a link in the caption.”

Get Focused.  Get Busy. Get Launched.  Sprout & Grow.