One of your ultimate goals when creating your small business website will be to ensure that the website can be found by clients and prospects using Internet search engines (for example, Google, Yahoo!, and so forth). But there's not a lot of understandable information available about what the average small business owner can do to improve the number of search engine "hits" their websites get. So, here are some tips that you can use to improve your site's ranking:

  • Site coding language: The content of your website should be coded in HTML so that the search engines can read it. If you create your site in Flash or include PDF documents on it, then the search engines won't be able to see the text—which means that they won't understand what your site is about.
  • Keywords: When planning your site, consider the words and phrases that your prospects are most likely to use when running a text search for your products or services. In many cases, it will be easiest for a small business to optimize for a keyword phrase instead of a single keyword. Most keywords are used to frequently by too many sites for you to easily rank well. And most serious prospects search using keyword phrases. Instead of optimizing for "psychotherapist", for example, you will have more success optimizing for "San Francisco psychotherapist".
  • Headlines: The headlines on a website are one of the most effective places to put your keyword phrases. Make sure that your headlines are coded using "H1" headline tags in HTML, not images. This will limit the fonts that are available to stylize the headlines, but the sacrifice is well worth it in exchange for the results that you'll get.
  • Title tags: Title tags control the text that is displayed at the very top of the web browser itself. A lot of websites just have the company name or the name of the page you're on up there—but I suggest placing your keywords and keyword phrases up there.
  • META keyword tags: These tags are no longer used for rankings by search engines. In fact, their current main use is for your competition to spy on you—they can view the source code of your site to discover the keywords that you're optimizing for! However, the META description tags are still used—and they are essential to your search engine strategy. The search engines display those in the search results.
  • Website copywriting: When you write the text for your website, make sure to repeat your keywords a few times in the body copy, and use them in the headlines. Don't use them so much that it the writing sounds unnatural to someone reading your site, but do try to use them a couple of times per page. You can include a keyword phrase on an average page about three times without looking silly.
  • Valuable content: If you make your site information-rich, then the search engines will have more content to index. And if you're writing articles, posting tips, or adding information to your site about your area of expertise, there's a good chance that it will be full of keywords, which will help your ranking.

If your website includes these basics, you'll have a head start on getting a good ranking from Internet search engines. As more people find your website, you'll have a greater pool of interested leads to work from. Since these people found you with their own search, then there's a good chance that they're on their way to becoming a qualified prospect. A good search engine strategy paired with a strong website can convert those prospects to sales for you!