SEO or Search Engine Optimization is what makes your website URL appears in an online search. For large, complex websites it is a full-time job to maintain, update and monitor the website. However, small businesses rarely have the time to spend on website updates or content tweaks. In fact, many businesses (small and large) think of their website as a ‘set it and forget it’ element.

Big mistake. Huge.

More and more prospects are doing their own research online before a purchase. In fact, over 60% of the purchase decision is made before they contact you! They will visit your website, your competitors website and spend time on the sites that provide the information they’re looking for. And if your website doesn’t appear in the first few pages it’s unlikely to be clicked on. So how do you, as a small business, help your website appear earlier (higher) in online searches?

There are many tactics to improving your website SEO, but a few things you can do yourself are:

  1. Use strategic keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that contain the content or substance of the topic. For example, a local hair salon might use “hair salon” and the city name as a keyword. Putting these keywords into the content indicates to the search engines that your content is related to this topic and so it should be shown when someone types in those keywords into the search engine. Some keywords are easy to figure out, but you can use several keywords on your website so sometimes it’s helpful to do some research on what keywords your business should use. A few sites I use in my research are: Google Adwords Keyword tool or Webmaster tools. Both are free. You should place your keywords in the URL, the title, the meta tag, the description and a few times in the content where it makes sense. Be careful that the content sounds natural as too many keywords are called ‘Stuffing’ and you can be dinged for it by Google.
  2. Accurate/helpful page descriptions. A description is that blurb that comes up under your URL when it appears in the search results. Nothing bugs me more as a consumer as looking online for something and clicking a link based on the description only to arrive at a page that contains NOTHING of what I thought it would contain. It’s frustrating and will not serve you to attract people who are not interested. Make your page description honest and simple. It will pay off with a low bounce rate and help your ranking over time.
  3. Dynamic content. Dynamic in this sense means that your content is changed, updated, modified regularly. Every time you change your content the search engine crawls your website and indexes the content to add to the search results it feeds people. Blogging is a common way to update your website regularly. I love them as they allow you to add information on specific keywords so that more of your content has the potential to appear in search results.
  4. Inbound links. Links are when other websites put links on their site that lead to your website when clicked. Building inbound links can be tough, but they are a strong SEO ‘improver’. They act like social proof to search engines that your content is desirable and knowledgeable. The source of the link matters too. Social sites used to carry more weight, but now they don’t really count.
  5. Mobile access. It is imperative that your website can be seen and used on a mobile device now. Failure to do so will heavily impact your SEO.

One important thing to note is that SEO takes time. Do not expect massive change to your website ranking immediately. And new websites can take even longer to show improvement. SEO is a long game, but an important one to play.

This is the tip of the iceberg and I didn’t go into a lot a detail here as this is more of a brief intro to a few simple tactics. However, if you want to learn more about improving your SEO there are a number of free resources you can sift through like this one at I also really like The Beginners Guide to SEO. And if you feel like you don’t have the time to do this for your own website but would like to do a few improvements, I’m happy to chat about how I can help.

Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm based out of Toronto Canada. Carolyn helps her clients improve their SEO and increase website traffic. Visit www, for more information.