Before the advent of the modern era of digital marketing, the primary way people located new businesses was through the phone directory. These pages, usually yellow, were in every home, every business and every phone booth. When someone needed a plumber they went to the phone book. Likewise, if someone needed to find other types of service providers or products they often started with the phone book.
Not too many years before the phone directories existed the way of finding a service provider was by asking a trusted source. Folks "back in the day" simply asked a friend or neighbor where to find a product or where there was a service provider they knew of who could provide a particular service. The more things change the more they stay the same.
For those who grew up with the phone directory being the primary source for locating a vender they will know the directory often offered less than trustworthy information. Any advertiser could purchase a large ad spot, surround it with a heavy border and add colored text and instantly garner respect from the searchers. The ads did not, and indeed still do not believe the truth about the provider.
What's New Is Old
Fast forward a couple of decades to the late 1980's and soon appear America Online and Prodigy. These two online networks grew quickly with the advent of affordable home computers with connected modems. The number of days from the inception of these online communities until business directories appeared within them was negligible.
Searching for a company on one of these networks was more akin to searching for a company in the telephone directory albeit using a computer instead of a book. Keywords were new to the industry and started taking root on AOL before the end of the decade and into the next. By the early 1990's companies were buying keywords from AOL and all one had to do to get to these companies within the network was type a single word.
Just A Google Away
Late in 1993 the World Wide Web was already creeping into mainstream networking. There was, at that time, no Google. There was also no Yahoo, no Ask, no Bing. There were, however, search engines. As rudimentary as they were the author even had an opportunity, as early as late 1994, to work on webcrawler technology, a system of evaluating the content and heuristic learning capabilities for these webcrawlers.
By the time the late 1990's came around we had seen Alta-Vista come and go, Yahoo come and change and Google starts leading the charge in search engine technology. Building on the foundations of those companies laid before Google has certainly proven to be the leader in developing and perfecting search engine technology with the goal of making search results the best available to the human searcher.
Making Websites Easily Noticed By Search Robots
Search robots really are just massive scripts which follow links. Creating a simple robot takes literally minutes but making it think just like the human who typed in the search terms takes a lifetime. Finding, cataloging and valuing the results is what Google does all day, every day. It would be almost impossible for a startup company to catch up with them in less for some reason Google decided to take a break from forward momentum.
Nearly simultaneous to Google, and other search engines, going online content creators and web makers figure out ways to make search engines pick their site and bring it closest to the top of the search results. Phrases like "web hosting", "vacation packages" and "hot girls" were and still are hot commodities. In the early days, all one needed to do to make the search engines happy was to stuff their content full of the appropriate keywords. Today this technique will actually get your site removed from the Google index and possibly "black-listed" from participating in the future without a tremendous effort to get back in.
Small Business SEO Today
Today small businesses compete for an ever-widening range of customers. Additionally, there are many more niche or boutique small businesses who provide a narrow array of services or products and service a relatively local base of buyers. These people need "long tail search results" and that makes it easier to optimize their website to provide exactly the type of buyer they need. Conversely, the wider horizon vendors fighting an increasingly expensive battle for the same ears and eyes as those smaller companies in their niches.
Organic search results are the concern of this article and those are search results which happen naturally due simply to the existing content on the site being searched. Other methods include buying ad space on relevant content sites or paying for ad campaigns on the search engine sites called Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression. While those techniques will get your search results to the very top of the page they will not, necessarily, result in your visitors being the type who will buy when they visit.
Key Factors for Small Business SEO
Everything from the name of the website, the master URL (web address) to the content on the web pages plays a role in helping Google determine if the site is appropriate for the human performing the search. Delivering the best search results is, after all, the primary goal for Google and all search engines. This is exactly where small business SEO enters the picture.
Staring with the URL of the website content is very important. If you sell grill blad steries then do your best to get the domain name - or at least a reasonable derivative thereof. The domain name containing the keywords is a major first factor in getting organic search results but it does not stop there.
The first heading on the page, large font content, is also very important to search engines. Once the search bot has harvested that text and the algorithm and ranking system has examined this content it will be compared to everything else on the page and weighted accordingly. Having the first heading of Grill Blad Steries Available Now would be a thoughtful way to begin.
Meta tags, while not nearly as impacting as they once were the meta description tag does still play a role in Google results. In fact, when it exists, it is the choice to be returned to the searcher in the description of the website when the keywords also exist in the description tag. Stuffing the meta description, or any other part of the HTML, could cause undue attention from Google in a not-so-good way.
Content on the page should be what a reader would want to see. Perhaps it is descriptions of the available Grill Blad Steries, a list of available models with prices or some other textual content relative to the produce or service being offered on the small business website.
Small business operators should avoid allowing their web developers to use flash or other highly intense graphic presentations on the sites main pages. Regardless of what may have been written Google does not prefer Flash or graphics to real, readable textual content. Words, in this case, are worth a thousand pictures.
Much To Learn
If you, the reader, are just delving into small business SEO or any other type of search engine optimization one thing which must be understood is that the technology is changing faster than you can learn. It is a continual process which requires constant reading and study. Even the author, who has over 20 years of search engine technology experience, must continue learning to stay within reach of perfection when it comes to small business search engine optimization.