Marketing Small Business Through Search Engines

These days, if a business hopes to be found by prospective customers, it simply has to have a Web presence that shows up in the search engine results. More and more people looking for anything from local carpenters to tutoring services go online nowadays. The days of the phone book are over. Anywhere from 60% to over 90% of people find local businesses via search engines.

So a local business clearly needs a web presence, including one or more — preferably all — of the primary types of virtual real estate. The best type, and the one most under the business's control, is a website and up-to-date blog with a carefully-crafted purpose and message. This message needs to be projected through other channels, too. The essentials are Facebook and Twitter accounts which are also regularly updated, a LinkedIn account, and depending on the business, specialty and local directories, as well.

Having virtual real estate is not enough, however. That real estate also needs to be found. It needs to make itself known so that the search engines, especially Google, will notice and rank it. The main ways to accomplish that are through on-site and off-site SEO (search-engine optimization).

On-site SEO includes factors like a keyword-rich domain name, a meaningful description meta-tag, the right kind of site structure, and well-designed and formatted keyword-rich content.

Off-site SEO means maximizing the flow of visitors from the top traffic sources. Tactics focus on optimizing Google Places to attract traffic, as well as on non-Google sources like Yahoo Local, Best of the Web, MapQuest, Hotfrog, Bing Local, Yelp, and many more.

Finally, SEO must incorporate a social media strategy. The search engines are increasingly incorporating social media in their search results. Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus are increasingly powerful players when it comes to finding things online. Crucial for success, now and going forward, are citations mentioning the business site, along with reviews and genuine backlinks in the context of real discussions.