Five make-or-break tactics to boost your Web traffic

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Choosing effective small business keywords can be an intimidating task. Everyone knows that going to search for anything on major search engines such as Google or Yahoo can often return thousands of results. But does that mean defeat for your local small business? The answer is, no of course not.

There are a lot of things that can be done to get your local Web site noticed by your local customer base. Five of those techniques are invaluable in guiding you to success.

Use phrases

Phrases can make a world of a difference in what can be found through search engines. Type in any single word and you're bound to find literally thousands of results. Type in specific phrases and the results not only drastically decrease, but they become much more relevant to your product or service.

For instance, a search on Google for "renovation" can bring back more than 32 million listings. However, a listing for "bathroom renovation" can return less than 200,000. A search for "software" can return more than a billion results. A search for "custom accounting software" gets barely 25,000. Another example is a vague term like "shoe" will return about 216 million hits. Specifying "children's dress shoes" reduces that number to 2.2 million.

Many times people know what it is they're looking for and can get fairly specific with their searches. However, if your local small business site isn't geared to take advantage of that, it will either be lost in millions of listings or excluded from your customer's more specific searches altogether.

Include location references

Because you're aiming to reach your local audience, including location references when choosing your small business keywords can also work well. This can mean including your specific city, metro area, well-known landmarks or even surrounding cities that you commonly provide services to.

By doing this, you accomplish two very different tasks. For one, you make your site known to the people who matter most to you. Customers may look for you in their own location.

But there's an additional advantage to this. When you include locations in your keywords, you eliminate a lot of unnecessary communication. With the abundance of people searching for products you may be offering, there's no limit to how many customers you can't help that may contact you for information. By including location, they know who you're working for and can move on to companies that are less focused.

Communicate with your customers

As with all business choices, communication is absolutely important. If you come up with keywords that make sense to your industry as a whole, but they aren't words your common customers would use, you have failed.

Customers aren't always in tune with the proper terminology of your industry. You would do well to interact often with your customers and find out how they refer to the products and services you offer in your own personal business.

This can be done when they're in your store. It can also be done through surveys. Contacting your customers, explaining that you're simply trying to better serve them by learning how they view your products and getting them to respond in their own terminology can give you a strong advantage in keyword advertising - with the added bonus of letting your customers know you really value their input.

While other companies may be reaching out to them just as vehemently as you are, you can sprint ahead of the competition by making your local small business easier to find according to your customer's standards.

Use honesty

A huge mistake many companies make when choosing their small business keywords is to draw people in dishonestly. Often, they'll find out keywords that are very popular and try to jump through hoops to tie those words to their own products. This is not good business.

Instead, offer what you have according to honest keywords. You don't just want to draw anyone and everyone that uses the Internet. You want to draw customers that really are looking for your services.

It is said by some that people who are dissatisfied with a company spread their feelings 10 times more than those who are content. If you begin to draw anyone and everyone you can pointlessly to your site, you will eventually have a large amount of people who have a simple distaste for you before they even know anything about your company.

Continually reevaluate

Finally, you must recognize that language is organic. It is continually changing for a multitude of reasons. Keywords, key focuses, key everything changes based on fads, slang, trends, needs, and market forces. You must continually check on how your keywords are performing.

Once you've found a set of keywords that work well for you, it would be good practice to reevaluate them about once a month. Check to see the popularity of those words and phrases. See if they're no longer being used or if they're typically being applied to something irrelevant to your company.

Your local small business is absolutely important to you. In today's information age, your Web site can be equally important to your customers. If they cannot find it, you're inevitably going to miss out on business you otherwise would have had.

There are other tips for choosing keywords, but they're negligible compared to those mentioned here. If you want to be seen, you must remember to use phrases and location references. If you want to be seen by the most relevant customers, you'll need to communicate with them and be honest. And finally, you must always remember that language changes - as do preferences - and you have to be able to change with it.

Caroline Melberg is president & CEO of Small Business Mavericks. She can be reached at caroline@melberg.com.

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