by Sean Patrick

With nearly one in every four people on planet Earth now using the Internet, its growth has been nothing short of explosive since the webs inception in 1999. Indeed, worldwide growth of Internet usage is estimated at over 340% since 2000, with the biggest gains coming from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

A fascinating 1.6 billion people all over the world use the Internet – in search for information and educational purpose. Since over $133 billion was spent online in America alone in 2008, it’s safe to say that many of these web surfers are looking for information in order to make a purchasing decision. In 2008 alone, more revenue was generated through online spending than larger international companies like IBM and Bank of America make!

Want your share of that $133 billion dollar pie? Then your small business needs to find ways to drive online traffic to your website on a daily basis. Think you can make that happen with traditional pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns? Think again. Many PPC advertisers find that sales dont keep up with PPC costs, so they wind up shutting down the campaigns in frustration, and often their websites right along with them.

Often times small business owners will turn to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to maximize their online exposure and brand recognition. They realize that in the long-run, it’s much more cost-effective than pay-per-click. What these business owners may not know is that SEO is far more complicated than the old ways of just tweaking a website and hoping the search engines improve the rankings. SEO in today’s day and age needs to remain focused on not only that, but also getting the best possible exposure and recognition through other Internet-based resources located “outside” the website itself.

Ideally, these resources will be selected carefully by a reputable SEO firm, and they will be aimed at increasing exposure for your website using a combination of the following:

Optimizing each page on your site. Many people don’t realize that websites don’t rank as a whole – each individual page actually ranks by itself in the search engines. Since you can leverage more than one page and not just the “home” page, incoming traffic can be increased significantly in the search engines.

Building back-links on other sites. When people come to your website through a link that is strategically placed on another site, this is called a bank-link. Back-links serve two purposes – they obviously bring in more traffic to your site directly from other websites, but they also allow your domain to rank higher in the search engine results. A good, ethical SEO firm will work diligently to provide bank-links, often through content, on other relevant websites.

Competition Analysis: A thorough understanding of keywords used by your competition is essential to uncovering hidden opportunities to drive traffic your way.

Social Media Marketing Services. Strategically harnessing the explosion in online social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) will work to further expand the exposure your site enjoys.

Detailed Reporting. No SEO program can be properly assessed without comprehensive and timely reporting of results.

These are just a few of the expanded tools that effective SEO companies have at their disposal to help you expand your business. Selecting an SEO firm is an important decision for your small business, because competition for sales is hard enough in good times, let alone when markets are shrinking.

Indeed, the first quarter of 2009 indicated a slower rate of ecommerce sales for this year, but the pace is off only about five percent compared to the double-digit declines seen in total retail sales over the last year.

In today’s turbulent economy, such a modest decline puts the ecommerce world ahead of most businesses. And with a properly managed SEO strategy, your small business could very well avoid participating in the current recession altogether.

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