The 3 most important small business search engine optimization tips, 2012
Google search has undergone some radical changes in 2012 and small business SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies need to adapt with it.
Search engines are becoming far more astute about which content ranks highly in search results, and which content is dropped from the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
The following SEO tips for 2012 and beyond will highlight the most important changes you can make to your SEO strategy (regardless of whether you are a blogger, eCommerce store owner, startup, or Internet marketer) in order to stay on top of the rapidly evolving search rankings.
1. Make SEO local
Google has started favoring local search results above generic ones because the majority of people searching on the Internet (around 63% of consumers and small business owners) are looking for information in their locality.
Local SEO takes advantage of this fact by ensuring that local SEO keywords are included where appropriate.
For example, instead of writing an article entitled "Where to buy ice cream for a picnic in the park", you might change this to "Where to buy ice cream in central park, NYC".
Clearly the second option is going to be far more valuable to people in New York. So, all things being equal, content that is locally optimized will rank better than content that is not.
How to optimize for local search
To change your SEO to rank better in local search results, consider doing the following:
- Read Local SEO guide: How to refine local search terms to master Google search
- Claim your business (even if it's a home office) in Google Places
- Add a local address and or phone number to your site
- Encourage reviews of your site, products or services in local review guides or directories
2. Focus on creating high quality content; avoid black-hat SEO that might lead to penalties
Many small businesses were caught by surprise when Google Panda (and subsequently Google Penguin) arrived on the scene. The problem was that the SEO services they hired were using webspam or questionable back-linking techniques.
What Google wants is for everyone to create high quality content so that it has the best possible content to return to people using search. Every update to the Google search algorithms is designed to weed out content that is of poor quality, scraped, duplicated, or doesn't add value in some way.
Accept this and focus time, money and effort on creating great content. It doesn't take much to learn SEO and get some great in-house SEO skills going. The following articles will tell you everything you need to know:
- What is SEO? Here's the ultimate small business SEO guide
- Small business SEO & Internet marketing strategy guide, 2012
- How to research SEO keywords: Five SEO tips from top SEO experts
- Small business SEO tutorial: How to implement a financially viable SEO strategy
- 5 expert SEO tips to dominate Google search
Don't waste time with article marketing, buying dodgy backlinks, or investing in black-hat SEO techniques that exploit Google search loopholes. These will eventually be closed (sooner rather than later) and lead to a penalty.
The traffic losses (and therefore financial losses) arising from penalties are inevitably greater than the slight initial gains.
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3. Integrate Google authorship into SEO
While paid backlinks are actually damaging to your search rankings, backlinks themselves are still vital to great SEO for small business. Socializing content is the best way to gain exposure, visibility, find new fans and followers as well as potential customers for your business, and most importantly, enhance SEO and lead to higher search rankings.
Google itself is leading the way by integrating its own Google+ social platform into search. The most important thing you can do to socialize your SEO content using Google+, is set up "Authorship".
What is Google authorship?
Google authorship links your Google+ profile to any and all content you create, giving you authority as an author.
Not only that, but content with a verified author displays that author's credentials in Google search results and offers links to more content by that author. Clearly this is a huge SEO advantage.
Do a search for "WSM4B". You should see one of my articles linked to my Google+ profile, and all my other articles.
How to implement Google authorship
Here are the steps I followed to implement Google authorship on WSM4B. It gets a bit technical, so you might need some help if you have little to no HTML experience:
- Create a Google+ account
- Create a local profile page (on the site you post content to) like my one on WSM4B
- On content for which you claim authorship, include a link to your local profile page that includes the rel="author" tag - like this <a title="View user profile." href="http://wsm4b.com/users/david-mercer" rel="author">David Mercer</a>
- On that author page, include a link to your Google+ profile with the rel="me" attribute - like this <a rel="me" href="https://plus.google.com/105051429932581422795">David Mercer</a>
- Test whether your setup is working correctly using the Rich Snippets testing tool in Webmaster tools
Once Google has confirmed that your authorship setup is verified and working correctly, you can be assured of favorable search engine rankings, with personalized search results leading to higher engagement, more trust and authority, and ultimately, more business.
What SEO strategies are you using to grow your small business in 2012 and beyond? Have you had any success building a Google+ social following for your business? Has local SEO worked for your company or blog? Share your SEO tips and experiences in the comments, or join me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ to continue the conversation.
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