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Small businesses can maximize Web site revenue, leads

Small businesses are struggling in this tough economy. They are in a pinch, needing to cut costs, but also increase revenue and customer base. How do you grow your business when you are cutting costs?

One avenue is shifting more of your marketing focus to the Internet. With a little training, you can learn enough Search Engine Optimization techniques to put your Web site at the top of search engine pages for your important keywords (search terms). SEO is free, which can bring free leads and customers for years to come.

SEO for most small businesses is not as much work as you think because you are not going for some of the most competitive keywords. For example, trying to rank high for a popular generic keyword like "real estate" is hard, but ranking high for "fort mill real estate" is easier.

The three most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo and MSN. There also are many smaller search engines, as well as industry specific directories you can rank high in to generate traffic. Even though the major search engines have their own algorithms, they all operate on the same basic principles.

To rank high for a keyword, two things have to happen. First, your Web page needs to be deemed relevant for that keyword, and secondly, you must have a high page ranking. Search engine rankings have nothing to do with how much traffic you receive. Search engines treat each page of a Web site separately and rank them separately.

Obtaining relevance for your Web pages for your keywords requires going through each page in your Web site one time and making some changes which include:

• Put the keywords in the text through the site.

• Put the keywords in the Page Title

• Put the keywords in the meta description and keywords

• Put alt tags with keywords on all images

An SEO book or Internet search will teach you even more. For the most part, this is a one-time task.

The second step to allow you to rise to the top of the list for your search terms and get on the first page of a search is ongoing, but the work is free and does not require much time each week. The key to page rank is incoming links -- links from other Web sites to your Web site. The major search engines rank your Web pages by who and how many other Web pages link to you. Ranking has nothing to do with traffic to your Web site. The general theory is if someone is willing to link to you and direct their visitors to you, then you must have some quality content.

To gain incoming links:

• Develop link partnerships with related Web sites. Link to their Web site on yours, and they do the same.

• Submit articles/press releases to online article sites with links to your site at the end. We use a list of more than 100 sites including EzineArticles.com and GoArticles.com, as well as business specific content sites.

• Post to forum boards related to your business. Always have a link to your site in the signature of every post.

• Create/reply to blogs. Always put links in your post's signature and blogs.

• Submit your site to the thousands of online directories and search engines.

These basics can get you started and a class or book can teach you more.

Rodney Ringler is the president of Advantage1 Web Services Inc. in Lake Wylie. Visit Advantage1Web.com for more info.

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