11 Steps to Grow Your Business Online

I recently spent far too long with a friend, engaging in an in-depth conversation about SEO, and after several unsuccessful attempts to explain what it is we do, he finally shut me down and asked me to give him the basics, no fluff. How do I get more visitors to my website and get more leads online?

Make it easy, just give me a few steps… OK here are a few things you can do to start promoting your brand online. Thus the list is below. So after thinking about the conversation, and how hard it can be to explain what SEOs do, I decided it would be a good topic for a basic article on how you can get more visitors to your website. Easy for anyone to understand, I think Since everyone else writes Top 10 lists, I thought I would throw in one more for fun, and make it a Top 11. Enjoy!

Here are 11 steps that you can take to help improve your website’s ranking in search engines.

HTML Content – Make sure that your site has HTML content on all pages. Search engines read HTML text and scan it for specific keywords. Well-written articles that describe your product, service, and/or unique advantages will define your business in the eyes of the search engines and help them to index your site for their search results.

Sitemap – A Sitemap is one easy way to make sure that the search engines are looking at every page of your website. It is simply a page that lists all of the other pages of your website, and hyperlinks to every page. The search bots follow those links, ensuring that every page of your website gets reviewed on each visit. You can submit an XML Sitemap to Google, and this is probably the most effective method, but having an HTML Sitemap on your site is also a good idea.

Links – Build an internal link structure that includes one link on each page that directs to the next page or category. The goal is to have links that follow from one page to the next so that all pages are crawled. External links provide relevance, while inbound links improve your authority on a topic. Inbound links are by far the most important aspect of your search engine placement. Some will come naturally from your content and related sites, others have to be built. There are far more ways to build inbound links than I am going to discuss in this brief article, but if you want to learn more about link-building, check out Aaron Wall’s article 101 Link Building Tips to Market Your Website. This is a great article!

Meta Descriptions and Keywords – Make sure that your Title Tags accurately describe your products and services, and that Keywords are listed in the title. This is important because it shows up in the search results, and it is one of the areas in which search bots look when searching for keywords. Meta Descriptions tell the search engines what your site is about, and describe your products and services.

They should be written for your audience, and not stuffed with keywords. If your keywords fit naturally within your description, include one or two, but don’t stuff keywords in your description. Meta Keywords are used as a secondary method of describing your products. Feel free to include all of your keywords in the Meta Keywords, they are not read by humans. One recommended strategy is to use different variations of the keywords used in your title

Submit Your Site to Directories– Submitting to directories is like entering your site in the phone book. It categorizes your product and lists you for others to find. One quality, free directory is DMOZ This is the open directory project, which lists sites that are submitted by the public, business owners, and others. Because it is an open directory, all content submitted is reviewed by editors, and if it fits the category and is a quality site, it gets listed. It is free to list your site here and counts as a quality inbound link. Link count matters, but so does the quality of the link.

Create a Blog – Not just to have one, but to have one that really works. A Blog is a great way to keep your customers/visitors coming back to your site, in an unobtrusive way. Readers can subscribe to your RSS feeds, and receive your new blog posts when they happen. Blogs are also great for SEO. Their ever-changing content gives the search engines more and more info to index, and establish your authority on a subject, as well as giving you an opportunity to build links to your site.

Announce Yourself – Marketing on the Internet is not just an isolated channel. It should be a part of your overall marketing strategy and should build upon your other marketing efforts. Announcing important events through traditional Public Relations channels is a good way to get additional traffic to your website, and as more people visit, the possibility of them linking to your site increases. PR companies such as PRWeb are great for distributing your content and making it known.

Join your local Chamber of Commerce – this is a great way to leverage your networks and find additional business. The SEO benefits are also appreciable. When you join the Chamber of Commerce, they will usually link to your website. This is a valuable link as the C.O.C. is an authority on business, and your anchor text can be whatever you choose. Another great benefit is that the other Chamber members will usually be willing to exchange or give you free links from their websites.

Start a newsletter – Newsletters offer you the opportunity to engage your customers in an unobtrusive way and keep them up to date on the important events and news that is going on at your company. They also allow you to collect email addresses, and track subscriptions, and viewership. If you run your newsletters through one of the main electronic newsletter marketing companies, you can also use the newsletters to build content and links that are directed to your site.

Leverage existing relationships – If you are an established business, you will surely have contacts within your industry – suppliers, partners, and vendors. Contact them and ask for a link to your website. Most will be happy to give you a link, and if you have already linked to them, they may go an extra step and write some additional info about your business, or discuss your partnership. Reciprocal links are not as valuable as one-way, incoming links, but they don’t hurt if they are from a relevant authority.

Use Social Media – Social media sources are a good way to inform people about your site and your business, and allow you one more opportunity to leverage existing relationships, or build new ones. Joining groups of like-minded individuals with similar businesses will keep you in the loop and may even bring new business your way. The only negative is that once your information is released, it is subject to the scrutiny and redistribution of the public. In my opinion, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Some popular social sites include LinkedIn, Facebook, Digg, Twitter, MySpace, and many other smaller sites that cater to specific niches. If you don’t already have a profile somewhere, take some time to build one and see who you know. You’ll be surprised at the connections you can make. Those are 11 steps that you can take to improve your website rankings. They take time, as do most things with SEO, but the key is to be consistent and continue to work on building your brand, networking, and growing awareness of your products. If you have the patience to work on an SEO project and stay at it, you will see results over time.

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