We all know the expression "An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure." What this means to your standard small to medium business is that having your web designers and developers use SEO principles when designing your site in the first place can often get you the search engine rankings your business needs to survive without having to resort to the "pound of cure" of expensive SEO Companies.
Below find 16 SEO tips. One tip for every ounce in a pound.
1) Identify your niche. What makes you different from the other companies out there doing similar things to you? For instance, if you are a landscaping company, do you engage in design/build projects and really excel at water installations? If so, focus on this! It's the root of your future success. There will be something that differentiates you from the others. Find it, know it and embrace it. You can be the 40th copy center in town but if say you're the one closest to downtown then there's your competitive edge.
2) Analyze the competition. Chances are high that not only do you have competitors but also that those competitors are doing the web thing right. Even if they are *not* doing the web thing right, take a good long look at their sites. Figure out what their strategy is. Try to see what they are doing right. Analyze too what they are doing wrong. And then see if you or your design and marketing team can come up with any ideas on how to do it all better.
3) Make juicy content. Provide content that is engaging and worth reading. If the written content of your site - the copy - is interesting then the visitor will actually spend time reading them.
4) Make the site feel user friendly. People coming to your site will make up their minds like that (snapping fingers sound) about whether your site is worth the time to look at. If your site is cluttered, confusing, difficult to navigate or (ahem) ugly, then it is going to do a wonderful job of alienating potential site visitors.
Make your site nicely designed, usable and well organized. If you don't have your own designers, then find a local web design firm that can do the job for you. You will want to use a company that knows SEO. Try a search string like "web design location" with your town or city's name in the location string. Look through the results on the first page and see if there is a firm that looks: a) within budget b) professional c) savvy with SEO site building (they will already know many of the steps listed in this article).
A hint: don't take them at their word. Ask them for examples of sites they have worked on that will back up their claims of being good at designing sites with SEO in mind. If they say for instance that they are responsible for #1 results for search strings like "pool restoration Calgary" or "well diggers Adelaide" substantiate those claims. See if the #1 site has a "designed by ____" tag at the bottom. The proof will be in the pudding.
5) Identify your key search strings. How are people going to be using Bing or Google to find you? What are people going to write in that search bar? It will sometimes not be what you suspect it's going to be.
Tie this in with point #1, above: think of your niche specialization when identifying your key search phrases because that can be what gives you the competitive edge with your SEO strategy.
There's some valuable help for you provided by Google. Look at Google Insights. There is a lot of help here not only to understand how saturated your key search string may be but also what some alternatives there are out there that you can target. For instance if you are focusing on "cabin rental Ontario" the Insights result shows you not only similar terms but also "Rising Searches:" dramatically shifting trends in related search strings.
6) Alt tags. Use em. Alt tags help search engines know what the context of links are about. And check your temptation at the door to over spice your page with key phrases. If the linked-to page does not have any text that agrees with the alt tag contents then search engines may at best shrug off the alt tag's contents or at worst give you SEO demerit points.
7) Have your link text be descriptive (preferably with key phrases). "Click here" does not do anything to elevate the importance of what you're linking to. Make it mean something.
Add descriptive text that uses your key phrase if possible. Keep in mind the message of #6 above - if the linked to page does not have any text that appears to agree with the link text then the algorithms could decrease the value of that link.
8) Use text-based links when possible for your site navigation. And let's one up that. Use text-based links for navigation and as mentioned in #7 above, let those navigation items have your desired key phrase when possible. If you sell rocket ships, having a link that says "buy rocket ships" gets right to the point and the search engines eat that up like baseball fans eating hot dogs at a game.
9) Title tags - SEO paprika. Sometimes (like if you are using image based navigation) title tags can be invasive and annoying when the popup text obscures whatever you are trying to read. Other times they provide information that people like to read or know - the informative tidbit that appears when your mouse is hovering over an interesting image. In either case they can help build up your SEO cred. Title tags in site construction can still be underutilized. Use them well and they can be an effective SEO tool.
10) Google Analytics. Google has given us tools that can greatly impact our SEO success. Install the code available with Google Analytics and soon you'll have a greater insight into your site traffic and how to hone your future key phrases or Adwords campaign.
11) Page titles - Don't just have your company name as the title of each page! Why put Booya Rocket Ship Company when your page title can explicitly have a key phrase right there all juicy and waiting for the search engine indexing? Make the titles unique and make them count.
12) Meta - still valid. Meta's not as important as it used to be. Once upon a time in the historical wild west of the Internet a person could flood their metas with heaps of words that had nothing to do with thier site and it could trick the unrefined search engines of the day into giving up the goods. No more. But these meta tags and descriptions still have a place at the table. Like the page title above, use meta tags and meta descriptions and use them uniquely on your page. And like 6 & 7 above, if the meta tags agree with your content then you're going to get some SEO cred out of the deal.
13) Flash is pretty. And empty. Search engines masticate text and will only swallow and immediately throw up pretty, shiny, Flash stuff. There is simply nothing in Flash that search engines are (yet) technologically able to read let alone digest.
If your sales or management team is insisting Flash is the answer then it is your responsibility to do whatever you can do to get them fired. Okay, maybe not fired, but really - search engine optimization is difficult enough without having your team develop a quixotic obsession with pretty things that lead to SEO failure.
14) Updates. The static site will slowly sink in rankings. Does your business model support the idea of a blog? If so, put one in. If not, is there room for a News section? Maybe new additions to a Gallery? However you need to do it, get some updates in there! This works on a number of levels. The human visiting the site will see that it is not an ignored site and perhaps get further engaged with your site. As well, the search engine crawler with also see that your site isn't static and will visit more often and increase the chances of your site keeping up decent ranking. No matter how you paint it, you end up with a SEO success.
And remember #3 above: if you're giving content make the content good. Juicy content will get the user interested. And juicy content with light sprinklings of key phrases can only help substantiate the story you are trying to build.
SEO is not something you do once and then walk away from. SEO is a constant game of strategy and the rules change frequently. Just keep in mind that the time involved is an investment in your success so it is worth it.
15) Social Media. Many have shuddered at the Twitters or Facebooks and have wished that they would go away, but this is ignoring the sheer power of our social relationships and the impact they have on our success. Social media can have a huge impact on your site's SEO success. Read articles like Mike Dobb's informative Top Ten Twitter SEO Tips.
Look to see if your competitors have Facebook pages. If so, what are they doing with them? How can you improve upon it? How can you engage people? Remember the human element behind it all. Don't spam. Forge relationships whenever possible. People are at the root of your success or failure.
16) Don't forget the community. They are an essential part of your SEO strategy. If you have that blog in place consider allowing comments. If you sell items consider adding customer ratings. And if you have articles have links to the greater social media out there.
Word of mouth can not only help: it can also save the day.