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muse-screenshotLast week I was contacted by Robert Muse, owner and operator of Muse Hauling and Grading here in Denver, North Carolina. Robert contacted me because, like a lot of local small business owners, he is currently experiencing a downturn in business due to the economy. And, like many other business owners big and small, he needs to be careful with how he spends his money. He has tried newspaper advertising and the yellow pages, with very little effect.

A lot of my website design business is through word of mouth. That is how Robert found me. After a brief consultation we formed a plan to create a small website to target his primary business services: Clearing and Grading, Hauling, Demolition, Retaining Walls, and Concrete & Brick work. Richard pointed out a couple of sites he had seen for me to reference and I went to work.

The design process went relatively quickly and in a few short days I had a comp for Richard to see. Except for a couple of small item he was please with the design. A few days later I had the site cut up and the html pages and CSS files ready to go. All in all the site was up in less than a week.

Of course, getting the site posted to the web is just a small part in the battle against the search engines. I followed all of the guidlines posted by Google and the SEO “experts”, including descriptive page titles, metatag description and keywords and the robots.txt file. I also submitted a xml formatted sitemap to Google. Then I submitted the site to MSN and Yahoo as well as the directory. Now the wait begins to see how long it takes to get indexed into the search engines.

Since my last post I’ve learned a couple more things about SEO strategies. After watching a online webinar I realized that I had already been following a majority of the points presented. Such as graphically designing a site to focus on priority items. Using larger text for more important things. Using unordered lists (bulleted) for navigation and high level lists. It was no shock to me that perhaps the most important thing is a descriptive title for your page. It doesn’t make sense to title your page Welcome if your selling shoes or boats now, does it?

Some of the things I didn’t know, or may not have realized were important, included using broader words in keyword phrases. For instance, use a plural of a word and Google will automatically associate it with a non-plural word search. Don’t over repeat keywords in your text, using only 1-2 keywords per page. And when it comes to inbound links, quality over quantity will win out every time.

Search engine optimization is a big hurdle in getting your site on the first page. It is a ongoing process that is often confusing and sometimes aggravating. Following the guidelines helps ensure  that your site will have a fighting chance of being placed higher in the search engines.