Search engines are one of the most important ways your audience will find your business. That means search engine optimization (SEO) can't be ignored: small business owners need to understand the rules and best practices for creating valuable online content.
If you take time to figure out what to know about SEO before you invest time and energy into creating online content, you'll save yourself time, money and headaches down the road. Here are six best practices to get started shaping your company's SEO.
Don't Go Overboard With External Links
There's no hard-and-fast rule for the number of external links to include in your content, but if you're adding links just to try and improve your rank, there's a chance you might sabotage your own efforts. Google's best advice regarding external links is to include them when a citation or other service to the reader is needed. These links should be anchored to relevant keyword text.
This is where good judgment comes into play: It's smart to have a handful of links in your content, and the longer the content, the more links you can include. But if you stuff your content full of links to try and game your SEO, it could come back to bite you.
Make Sure Your Business Listing Is Consistent
Variations in business names or phone numbers can negatively impact your ability to show in up local search results. Ensure your business listings contain consistent and accurate information across all major publishers to ensure search engines can surface your content in the moments that matter.
Keep Keyword Density Under Control
Too many keywords is a clear sign of SEO spam. Too few keywords makes it hard to connect your content to the topic it addresses. Research from Forbes suggested that the ideal keyword density for SEO is between 0.6 and 0.9 percent — six to nine times per 1,000 words.
Metadata and SEO Descriptions Are Important
You might dismiss these fields as unimportant, since they aren't prominently featured on the page. But these fields play a huge role in helping your audience find your content. According to Search Engine Watch, these fields should be written in natural language that uses keywords to explain, in simple terms, the content of the page.
Prioritize Inbound Links
Inbound linking, which are links pointing to your site from third-party sites, can take some time to cultivate, especially since it often reflects your brand's authority in your field. But business leaders should know that publishing content to social sites can count as inbound links where Google is concerned. And securing links from business partners and other outlets can be a big boost, particularly early on.
Be Wary of Sharing Your Content
A lot of websites are eager to snatch up original content from other sources to use in their syndicated network. They may promise additional reach for your brand, but be careful: When content is shared around the web, it can penalize publishers. If you're going to do this, make sure you have your content canonicalized: Require duplicate content to include a simple 301 redirect to the original content on your site. This lets Google know that your content is original and should be treated as such.
Now that you've been briefed on what to know about SEO, it's time to put these lessons into practice.