Given the current state of the economy, the days of being able to afford professional Search Engine Optimization (SEO) help are gone. As website traffic struggles with the economic downturn, small companies need the services of market-leading firms like Bruce Clay, SEO Inc. and HighRankings.com now more than ever. Unfortunately, we have no hope of affording their five-figure start up fees, much less the $4,000 per month it costs to actually get these overpriced and often arrogant firms to do something productive.
But the good news is, there are plenty of things small companies can do to make a positive impact on both search engine rankings and organic search engine traffic. And the best part is, most of these things are easy to accomplish and absolutely free.
This posting is Part4 in a multi-part series called Inexpensive SEO Strategies for Small Company Websites. Each post covers 3 SEO tips small companies can implement on their own and with very few resources. Part 1 covered the concepts of using keyword themes to create web content, utilizing text-based navigation elements, and maximizing title tags. Part 2 of this series discussed minimizing the use of Flash and graphics, using Meta Description tags, and submitting a search engine sitemap. Part 3 reviewed adding a blog, actively looking for linkbacks, and starting a business-related social networking presence. Part 4 is presented below.
SEO Tip #10: Use Social Bookmarks on Educational Content
No matter what kind of website you operate, there are always a few pages that focus on educating customers without the obligatory sales pitch—industry articles, white papers, free tips, company histories, and so on. If these pages truly provide value, why not ask visitors to recommend your educational content to others with a small social networking block like the one below? Not only do social bookmarks drive millions (if not tens of millions) of visitors to websites every single day, but they also increase your number of backlinks AND in some cases provide additional search engine listings.
In terms of getting started with social bookmarking, the strategy is simple: figure out which social bookmarks your site visitors will use, and offer them. Checking out websites and blogs of companies in your industry can provide much of this information, but those of you who are short on time (or lazy) should know that most small companies will at LEAST include a Retweet button on educational content, as well as support for Diggs, Stumbles and Facebook mentions. Above and beyond that, your choices are literally unlimited—so choose wisely. For more information on Social Bookmarking, be sure to spend a few minutes reading one of our most popular articles of all-time, Social Bookmarking Dos and Don’ts.
SEO Tip #11: Sign Up for a (Free) Google Webmaster Tools Account
Because all entrepreneurs are good at finding free or low-cost tools to help grow their businesses, it surprises me whenever a small company owner tells me he or she doesn’t have a free Google Webmaster Tools Account. Sure, this tool (like many others) is capable of providing website owners with too much information. But on the flip side, you don’t actually have to look at it all—and the stuff you REALLY need is nicely presented on the same dashboard interface. On a single screen, the uber-geeks at Google will allow site owners to view most popular search terms, number of links back to their site (and where they come from), the top 5 most important key terms within their content, which pages are officially indexed by Google, and any dead links the site might have. Logging into Google Webmaster Tools for five minutes per day, three times per week is a great way for even the most inexperienced site owner to quickly and easily spot any changes—positive or negative—in SEO performance.
SEO Tip #12: Protect the SEO Results You’ve Already Earned
At some point around the age of 5, I noticed my dad had a bedtime routine. Every night he would turn off the TV, grab a quick snack, then walk to the back of the house and wiggle the doorknob. I remember asking him about this routine, and his reply was “Never go to sleep until you know the back door is locked.” Although these words were meaningless to me back then, their value was brought to light earlier this past year, when I literally lost every bit of SEO work I had ever done. Over the course of about a month I was banned from search engines, kicked out of multiple social networking programs, and lost my best performing links . . . all because I stopped checking the back door.
In my mad rush to build a high-traffic website, I got sloppy and let my computer become infected with a virus—a virus which eventually made its way onto the server where my website was hosted. For about six weeks, visitors to my website were redirected to any number of shady and semi-legal offshore websites (gambling, porn, pyramid schemes, whatever), which caused my site to be banned from enough places where it eventually ceased to exist. During the recovery process I became a member of a website security blog, and received a great 2-part recommendation from one of its primary contributors: 1) spend a few bucks on a two REALLY good virus checkers, and 2) run them BOTH in Safe Mode once per week on the computer you use to manage your website. Today, I use Malware Bytes and SuperAntiSpyware every Friday night, and thankfully have been able to recapture at least some of my former SEO glory.
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