You may think a great deal of your Web site; maybe you hired a Web designer who did a bang-up job sprucing up your company’s online image. But, in the end, if nobody comes to see that site, what was the point?

SMBs need to have a strategy in place to tackle search engine optimization (SEO)

so that a potential customer, looking for services or products that you offer, sees your company name high on the results list of a search done on Google, Yahoo, MSN, or another search engine.

This is not done overnight. Most SEO companies say that to make sure your company pops up to the first page of somebody’s Google search could take six months or more. But if you’re not striving for that, you’re not getting the business you could from SEO.

Carrie Haggerty, general manager at Abalone Designs Inc., in Vancouver, says there are three primary things an SMB must have on its site: a site map, good keywords in title tags and bolded headings, and meta tags.

Many sites lack a site map, but it’s one easy way to get all pages indexed, which increases your content and keywords throughout your site. Title tags help the search engines’ data gatherers (web crawlers) understand your business and they greatly influence the searches. Meta tags, which Google has dropped but the other engines haven’t, exist behind the scenes (users don’t see them, web crawlers do) and increase your keyword density.

The first step in any good SEO campaign is a keyword analysis. But while it’s good to have specific keywords stressed on your site, being too specific is a search killer. “”Honestly I could get you up [to number one in a Yahoo search] for a keyword that three people are searching for per year, says Haggerty. But while you’re number one, you’re not going to get any hits.””

It’s useful to note, says Haggerty, that there is only a four per cent difference in popularity between Google and Yahoo, with 39 per cent of people going to Google and 35 per cent to Yahoo.

A lot of SMBs providing local services forget that many clients are using the Internet they way they used the Yellow Pages. So a Calgary lawyer should make sure that “”Calgary”” is in the title of his/her home page, in the body somewhere or in the contact information so that it can be read by the search engine crawler. If someone goes to Google and types “”Calgary litigation lawyer,”” all three terms will pop up.

Of course having too many keywords is also bad. “”If you try to trick the crawler, they’re going to find out,”” says A.C. Riley ( an SEO specialist and former Internet editor for an international search engine, based in Montreal. She says if your keyword phrase “”great Kelowna plumber,”” is plastered all over your web site, “”there’s a little bell that goes off at Google and Yahoo and MSN and they shuffle you off until somebody can take a look at the page. It’s called spam. It’s bad.”” Spraying keywords might get you more search hits, but such repetitive content turns off prospective clients. Generally, if you make the end user happy, the search engines will be happy, she says.

Links to other sites are also a good way of pushing traffic to yours. But there are good links and bad links. For example, that Calgary lawyer should not be linking to a seafood company in Maine. If the two entities aren’t related, there’s just no value. But if the links to the lawyer’s site are coming from a respected source where other lawyers are listed, Google is going to place importance on that. These lead to targeted hits.

And most SEO experts prefer such organic optimization over paid listings and pay-per-click services. If your site is coming up naturally, it means you’re doing a good job on your keywords.

To do a better job, you might consider a few online resources. You can research keyword choices at Wordtracker, Nichebot, or Digital Point Webmaster Tools.

You might also learn more about SEO by checking out Search Engine Watch, SEOtimizational, or – Search Engine Optimization.

Getting prospective clients to your home page is the only way to make sure money spent on your site is money well spent. Half-hearted SEO efforts usually go unnoticed by web crawlers, don’t encourage traffic and do little to influence your bottom line.

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