If you have a small business with a website, there’s no better place to begin your marketing than with search engine optimization.

Though you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have a professional SEO consultant work with you to help position your business in search engines, here are some things you can do yourself to help boost your search engine rankings.

Below are 20 of the top SEO tips for small business search engine marketing that we’ve culled from our Twitter page this year.

1. Optimize Across the Entire Buying Cycle

When choosing keywords be sure to think about the entire buying or thought cycle of your customer. For example, if you sell digital cameras, your customers will typically do several different searches across multiple user sessions. And their searches will typically evolve something like this: 1) digital cameras, 2) Sony digital cameras, 3) Sony Cyber-shot digital camera and even 4) Sony Cyber-shot digital camera reviews.

2. Longer Pages are Better

One of the most significant changes in SEO has been Google’s preference for longer pages. In the past, SEO copywriters could write pages 3-500 words long and they would do well in search engines. Today, however, longer is better. Shoot for 750-1000 word optimized pages.

3. Write for Users NOT Search Engines

While this has always been true, it’s all the more important today. Be sure to write your content for real users. The days of “keyword stuffing” and obnoxiously redundant pages are long gone.  The content that is going to rank well is going to be unique, user-focused content that has real value to your visitors.  So brainstorm ways to add content to your site. Think about a “Learn More About” section, separate FAQ pages for common questions, or use your blog to promote your products and services.

4. “Exact Match” is a Thing of the Past

It’s important when writing your SEO content to use a variety of keyword phrases with different word orders and an appropriate range of semantically-related words.  Some SEO copywriters will obnoxiously repeat the exact same phrase over and over again in their content.  It’s much better to have a variety of phrases, word orders and to write naturally. When you review your analytics you’ll be surprised at the different combinations of keywords people use to find your site.

5. Use Keywords in Headers and Sub-Headers

Using the header tags (H1, H2, etc.) on your pages is important. And if you’re able to include your keywords in these tags, it’s even better. A good rule of thumb is never have more than 2 or 3 paragraphs without using a sub-header. This makes it easy for your users to skim the page and know what your content is about.

6. Place Keywords in Page Titles

The Page Title is the most important tag on your entire page. This is what is displayed at the top of your browser, but more importantly it’s the content that gets displayed as clickable text in search results. Be sure to place your keywords as close to the front of your Page Title as possible. If it’s too long, it may be cut off and users won’t see it at all.

7. Brainstorm Page Titles After Keyword Research

As soon as you identify your keywords, spend some time with your staff and brainstorm page titles and content ideas for each keyword phrase. You may even want to group keywords together in buckets.  Use your keywords to drive content ideas, blog posts, customer FAQ’s, and even your website navigation.

8. Don’t Forget Your Description

The content in the Description Meta Tag is not seen by users when they visit your website, but it’s the tag that displays the sentence under your Page Title in search engine results.  Be sure to write an engaging one sentence marketing  blurb that will entice users to click your link.

9. Optimize Your Categories and Tags

When using WordPress, you have the ability to post articles, news or blog posts in various categories and “tag” your content with keywords. These keyword tags are used by WordPress when users do a search on your website, but additionally site visitors can click on a tag to view all of your posts that have the same tag. Writing an optimized Page Title, Description and even intro content is a great way to expand your search engine optimization and reuse content you already have on your website.

10. Social Sharing is a Must

Be sure users can share your content on social media sites. Having links to “Share on Facebook” or “Tweet This Content” is important.  These social signals as they are called are becoming more important for search engine ranking.

11. Integrate Rich Media

When writing your blog posts, be sure to embed videos or slideshows where you can. Even if you don’t have your own content, you can often embed an industry video from YouTube or Vimeo in your post.  Or you can take a presentation and convert it to an online version using SlideShare.net.

12. Create Links from Body Content

It’s important to have on-site links to your optimized pages, and it’s best that you link to pages from within the main body content of your website rather than having a list of links in the footer or in the sitemap. Google, for example, has downgraded the significance of links from the footer because they are often used to stuff SEO links at the bottom of the website only for optimization.

13. Integrate (and Use!) Google Analytics

There’s no point is doing search engine marketing if you’re not going to track the results. And Google Analytics (for free!) is great tool to help you measure the effectiveness of your SEO. Don’t get lost in the data. There are a few pages that will be very helpful: Content / Site Content / All Pages. This report will give you analytics on every page of your website. And if you click into any particular page you can drill down and get more granular details.  You’ll also want to spend some time on: Traffic Sources / Sources / Search / Organic. This report will show you what search terms users typed in to find your website.

14. Link to Important Pages from Homepage

Don’t bury your optimized pages in your website. Be sure to link to your most important pages using text links from your homepage.  Links from your homepage are seen to be more important and are given more weight than links from internal pages, the footer or the sitemap.

15. Optimize for Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keyword is a term used to describe less searched for keyword phrases (typically 3-6 words long) whose combined search volumes may outweigh those of the top ten keywords. Remember, many times the longer the keyword phrase the higher the percentage of conversion because users are being more exact in their searches. And it’s often easier to rank for longer keyword phrases because they are less competitive.

16. Review Competitor Websites for Ideas

Often you can review competitor websites for both keyword ideas as well as how to organize your optimized content.  When doing your keyword research, be sure to look at the top 10 websites that are ranked for any particular keyword.

17. Check Out the Google Search Console YouTube Channel

It’s hard to beat getting information straight from the horse’s mouth. If you haven’t done it yet, be sure to subscribe to the Google Webmasters YouTube channel.  There you can find over 500 useful videos on website design, SEO, etc. It’s a goldmine of information and help.

18. Clean URL Structure with Keywords

From an SEO standpoint, using keywords in your domain name or even your URLs is not as important as it used to be, but from an online marketing standpoint it’s still very important.  If you’re like most folks, you take a split second and look at the URL in search results before you click. Be sure your URLs clearly communicate what they are clicking.  In WordPress, Page Titles are automatically converted to “slugs” or SEO-friendly URLs.

19. Backlinks are Awesome, but Be Careful

The single most influential off-site factor in SEO is backlinks.  The importance of the number and quality of links that point to your website cannot be overstated.  But today you have to be careful. In the past unethical SEO consultants would link to your site from bogus profiles on spam sites or create hundreds of backlinks from dummy article websites.  Google has caught on, and their recent algorithm updates penalize websites that use such tactics. A professional website with unique, useful, customer-focused content will generate backlinks – over time. You can also look at professional organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, industry blogs, professional directories to name a few ideas from which to get reputable links to your website.

20. Optimize Images

Often website owners forget to optimize their images. You can do this by naming your images something relevant, using keywords. And be sure to add ALT text and Titles or Captions using keywords.  But don’t be spammy.  Many times users will find your site by doing a Google image search.

But what if you don’t have time to do all of this?  Well, give us a call at 678-267-3267 and talk to an Atlanta SEO consultant today.  We can review your website and the competitive landscape and give you an estimate to help boost your search engine rankings.  We’d love to hear from you.

And if you found this post useful, please share it, tweet it and comment! What tips do you have?