Search engine optimization (SEO) is especially important for every business.

But for small busi­ness­es it can be a night­mare to keep up with the reg­u­lar changes to algo­rithms gov­ern­ing SEO best prac­tices. But no mat­ter how you feel about the ever-chang­ing rules and algo­rithms of search engines, one thing is cer­tain: If you’re seri­ous about your web­site, SEO should be at the top of your pri­or­i­ty list.

SEO remains a big mys­tery for many busi­ness­es,” said Eric Mason, own­er of Wig­Dawg Mar­ket­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “This is only exac­er­bat­ed by the per­cep­tion that SEO is a fast-mov­ing tar­get, chang­ing all the time and in unpre­dictable ways. How­ev­er, there are core SEO fun­da­men­tals that all busi­ness own­ers should con­sid­er and invest in that will, over time, yield results while pro­vid­ing a sol­id base from which to grow.”

Kevin Nichols, a co-author of “UX for Dum­mies” (Wiley, 2014), agreed that the errat­ic, unpre­dictable nature of SEO changes are part­ly a mis­con­cep­tion. The rules don’t change dras­ti­cal­ly as much as they evolve, he said, and opti­miz­ing your web­site to be eas­i­ly found and achieve high­er search rank­ings depends more on the qual­i­ty of your web­site than adher­ing to a set of spe­cif­ic guide­lines.

Com­pa­nies and web­sites that engaged in sneaky “black hat” SEO pri­or to Google’s 2012 Pen­guin update and the more recent Pan­da update learned this les­son the hard way when their search rank­ings plum­met­ed fol­low­ing the updates. Ronn Toross­ian, CEO and founder of 5WPR and author of “For Imme­di­ate Release” (Ben­Bel­la Books, 2011), not­ed that the “fast, cheap and great” tac­tics that once worked, such as key­word stuff­ing and link farm­ing, will hurt you in today’s world of SEO.

These adjec­tives were aligned with SEO pre-2012, but the game has com­plete­ly changed,” Toross­ian told Busi­ness News Dai­ly. “Search engines are in the busi­ness of ensur­ing that the most author­i­ta­tive, infor­ma­tive, engaged and opti­mized con­tent the Web has to offer is show­cased on the first page of the search engine results. Align­ing your busi­ness with SEO requires a more sophis­ti­cat­ed strat­e­gy that has to con­stant­ly evolve to meet the chang­ing nature of the search engine algo­rithm.”

Across the board, SEO experts agree that the num­ber one fac­tor that affects your web­site’s rank­ings is con­tent.

Hav­ing rel­e­vant and fresh con­tent on your web­site will always keep you ahead of the curve,” said Max Fried­man, founder of Hatch­ery, an online mar­ket­place and sub­scrip­tion ser­vice. “The best way to do this is by set­ting up a sim­ple blog that you can com­mit to post­ing to at least once every cou­ple of weeks. Doing this lets search engines know that not only is your site active, but that you’re shar­ing rel­e­vant and use­ful infor­ma­tion with your vis­i­tors.”

It’s impor­tant that you’re actu­al­ly set­ting aside time to reg­u­lar­ly update your blog, Fried­man said. The more fre­quent­ly you pub­lish high-qual­i­ty con­tent, the stronger your search engine rank­ing will become over time. David Brown, chair­man, CEO and pres­i­dent of web­site builder, also said that old or improp­er­ly tagged con­tent won’t do you any favors.

If your web­site’s con­tent is dat­ed, your pic­tures are not prop­er­ly labeled, or if you don’t link to rel­e­vant sites, there’s a good chance your site will be neglect­ed by the search engines,” Brown said. “It’s [also] impor­tant to include the key­words that your cus­tomers use to describe the busi­ness, rather than hav­ing a web­site that is full of indus­try jar­gon.”

Final­ly, a strong social media mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy will always help you dri­ve traf­fic back to your web­site, ensur­ing a fur­ther boost to your SEO per­for­mance.

Every [social media] engage­ment boosts your SEO,” Mason said. “Add your site’s link to your Face­book, Twit­ter, LinkedIn, Google+ and every­where else you have an online pres­ence. After you com­plete this, share [links from] your site on these net­works. Since search crawlers get to sites via links, you increase your chance to get dis­cov­ered faster [by users] while send­ing social sig­nals to search engines.”

Pro­duce high-lev­el con­tent, backed with facts that your audi­ence engages with and shares with their com­mu­ni­ty,” Toross­ian added. “An organ­ic white-hat link-build­ing strat­e­gy, cou­pled with a high-lev­el social media strat­e­gy that’s tied into push­ing traf­fic to your site, will ensure a con­sis­tent “up and to the right” view of your web­site’s traf­fic and rank­ings.”

Local search

Local search is exact­ly what it sounds like: peo­ple search­ing for busi­ness­es with­in their imme­di­ate loca­tion. Research from Review­Track­ers shows that more than one third of all search­es (35 per­cent) are local­ly geared.

For small busi­ness­es, this is espe­cial­ly impor­tant, because it means peo­ple near­by are inter­est­ed in poten­tial­ly mak­ing a pur­chase. And the odds are high that a local searcher will be fol­low­ing through. Accord­ing to the research, 14 per­cent of local searchers vis­it­ed a busi­ness imme­di­ate­ly. More­over, 53 per­cent vis­it a busi­ness relat­ed to their search with­in the next 48 hours.

Craft­ing a strong SEO strat­e­gy that takes local search into account has the poten­tial to make an imme­di­ate impact on a small busi­ness’s bot­tom line. Due to the urgency of these types of search­es, Google pri­or­i­tizes those busi­ness­es with accu­rate list­ings, hours and con­tact infor­ma­tion.

Local searchers aren’t look­ing for gen­er­al infor­ma­tion. They’re look­ing for two kids of action­able infor­ma­tion,” the researchers wrote. “List­ing infor­ma­tion [like] store hours, phone num­bers, busy times, menus, etc. and rep­u­ta­tion infor­ma­tion – star rat­ing, ser­vice, whether a place is one of the ‘best’ in the area.”

By ensur­ing that this infor­ma­tion is on point, busi­ness­es can cap­ture a larg­er share of local searchers, which yield imme­di­ate results and offer the oppor­tu­ni­ty for more con­vert­ed sales.