Search Engine Optimization - What Exactly is it?

Chances are you've heard the term search engine optimization. Unless you happen to be working in the technology sector, you may not know exactly what it is. No worries - I've written you this small business search engine optimization guide to help demystify SEO.

Small Business Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, often referred to as SEO, is the process of driving traffic to your website as a result of it ranking highly in search engine results for specific keywords or phrases. Rather than thinking of search engine optimization as "something you do once" though, you should really think of it as "processes you do continuously".

Ultimately, search engine optimization is all about giving search engines context about your website, and by extension, your business.

How Do Search Engines Determine Context, Then?

There are several ways search engines like Google and Bing better understand your website. Generally speaking, any way to give search engines more context about your business can fall into 1 of 2 categories. These categories are On Page SEO and Off Page SEO.

On Page SEO versus Off Page SEO

What Is On Page SEO?

Without getting into too much of the technicalities, you can think of On Page SEO as changes you can make to the pages on your website.

A few On Page SEO items worth noting are highlighted below.

Web Page Structure

Similar to those essays you had to write in school, web pages have a proper structure to which they should adhere. Pages on your website must use headings, paragraphs, and appealing visuals in descriptive and engaging manners.

I will spare you the technical details, but generally speaking, using WordPress or professionally designed HTML5 website templates are a great way to nip this problem in the bud.

Calls to Action

Each page on your website must have a single clearly defined purpose. There should be one primary action you want users to take when visiting each page on your website. Whatever action you would like visitors to take, make sure it is crystal clear to the person visiting your website.

These actions can range anywhere from calling your business on the phone, signing up for a newsletter, adding an item to a shopping cart, or simply learning more information about a product.Calls to action

Keyword Usage

When determining the exact words you'd like to use to describe your business and its products or services, you should think like a customer. Use terms and phrases that your customers use, and be sure to avoid any industry specific jargon.

Prospective customers won't understand it nor will they be able to find your website. Communicating in a way your customers will understand is very important!

Once you've decided on keywords, make sure they are present in:

  • Headings

  • Calls to Action

  • Website Copy

Engaging User Experience

One of the most important factors that can lead to an engaging user experience is a website that can be easily viewed on smartphones, tablets and computers.

This is referred to as being a mobile responsive website; it's appearance responds to any size device from smartphones on up to the largest of computer monitor sizes.

Having a mobile responsive website is only scratching the surface of engaging your visitors. Really, an engaging user experience is comprised of compelling website copy paired with a strong call to action.

Remember that the purpose of your website is to help your customers - whether they're customers yet or not. If you keep these things in mind, you're already on your way to creating a more engaging user experience:

  • Get to the point in your website copy

    Unless it adds significantly to the story of your business, try to limit information about the company, the owners, etc. Customers don't care about that, at least not at first. Their immediate concern is solving whatever problem they have.

  • Focus on your customers' needs

    Website copy should be written in such a way that it focuses on your customer's needs. It should also be written as if it were aimed at a single person, rather than a group.

  • Use appealing, relevant images

    We've all heard the saying that a picture is worth 1000 words, right? It rings true for me, and most others too. Make sure to use appealing visuals that are representative of the message you are trying to convey.

    The descriptive text for those images should also make use of the keywords you are targeting on your page.

  • Embed video to showcase you products, services, or key selling points

    Sometimes, one static picture just won't suffice. With the explosive growth of mobile phones on the internet, use of video to promote small business is on a similar path.

    The best part is, you don't necessarily need to hire a whole production team to shoot video that resonates with your audience. It literally can be as easy as using your smartphone! You can also ask customers to create video testimonials, or even have an employee record an overview of the products or services your business offers.

What Is Off Page SEO?

We know that On Page SEO is primarily concerned with your website's content. Think of Off Page SEO as actions you take elsewhere, with the end goal of being more prominently featured in search engine results.

Here are just a few examples of Off Page SEO.


One of the most influential factors in where your website will display in search results are the quality and quantity of websites that are linking to your website. In linking to your website from theirs, other websites are creating backlinks.

Just as keyword usage matters in your web page content, their use in backlinks are also extremely important indicators search engines use to determine context of your website.

Social Media

With the prevalence of social media in the day to day lives of many, there's no wonder social media is becoming such a huge part of business. Of course some businesses lend themselves to using social media much better than others.

Calls to actionUsing social media is a great way to interact with existing customers or even find new ones. You can easily create messages about your business, its products or services, and instantly share them with your followers. Of course, as part of this process you should use social media to refer people to your website or blog posts.

Social media is not only a great way to get information out to your customers. It's also a great tool to get feedback from them. Not only that, you can use it as a promotional tool for giveaways or special offers - just be sure not to inundate them with these kinds of messages.

Submit Your Website to Search Engine Indexes

Submitting your website, or specific pages of it, to search engines is one of the easiest ways to make them aware of your website.

Only submitting your pages to search engines will likely not get you the search results ranking you want, participating in forums or groups is a great next step.

Participate in Forums or Groups

How does participation in forums or groups on Facebook or LinkedIn help you rank better in search engine results? The answer to that question isn't quite as straightforward as you may think.

When participating in forums or groups directly related to your business, the idea is to become such a high value member of that community that people seek out your advice.

In giving advice to community members you should share the web addresses of your website, or blog in a tactful non-spamming manner when appropriate. Of course, your website is not the only resource you should be sharing.

With consistent and genuine effort to become a valuable and helpful member of the community, ultimately you will start to build a reputation as a trusted source of information. In the SEO world, this is know as building domain authority.

If you are persistent in your approach, soon you will have helped many people, and some of those people will share your website, blog posts, and social media content on your behalf.

Pay per click ads

Another way to drive traffic to your website is to set up an account with Google Adwords or Bing Ads and purchase pay per click ads, otherwise known as PPC ads. Pay per click ads are an easy yet costly way to get eyes over to your company website.

There's no question that you can get people visiting your website much more quickly with pay per click ads. However, creating campaigns, segmenting out different ad groups, performing keyword research, and creating the actual ads themselves are all very time consuming.

Not only that, but once people start clicking on your ads, you'll have to worry about optimizing for conversions, reviewing the performance of keywords, and measuring the cost per click against the return you're really getting for the money you spend.

Some Closing Thoughts

Although I've detailed some key factors, this small business search engine optimization guide should not be considered all-inclusive by any means.

In writing this blog post, my intention wasn't to give you an iron clad list of search engine optimization tasks. The number of ways you can optimize for search engines is literally as limited as your imagination!

Now that you are familiar with some fundamental small business search engine optimization concepts, stay tuned for the next blog post where we dive deep into localized search engine optimization.

Get Involved!