The end of a decade is upon us and as we ring in and welcome the new year, we do so by building upon what we have accomplished and hopes of achieving our new goals we have set forth. Social media has broken down the communication barriers and helped to pave the way for small businesses to emerge and thrive. While we continue to see growth amongst users within social media, we cannot overlook the power of search engine optimization and getting found.

Getting found online for small businesses is essential to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. The way consumers search has changed, the way they receive and consume the information has changed through sharing on the various social media platforms and also through the way that the search engines present the results for the search queries. In early 2010 the buzz was optimizing for local search, then, were re-introduced to Bing as they went full speed ahead to attract users and making optimizing for Bing worthwhile though creating more of a niche search. Google was hard at work creating instant search and Google Places and most recently confirming that yes, indeed, they are starting to pay attention to our online activity through the social signals. 2011 promises to be as action packed so enacting the essential SEO tips only keeps you ahead of your competitiors.

9 Essential SEO Tips for Small Business in 2011
1. Keyword Phrases. One word phrases are a thing of the past. Yes, it is important to have specific keywords targeted as they relate to your brand and overall industry however we have to keep an eye on what phrases people are querying to find us. Delving into your analytics and analyzing how people are finding you and comparing that to what you wish to be found for will help to secure your ranking.

2. Content. The content that you are creating is not only built around keywords, it is built from what people are going to find useful, has a high propensity to be shared and also to be created from what people would want to link to. The content when we think in the different ways it will be viewed enhances how it is created.

3. Mobile Friendly. A site that is not mobile friendly is losing visitors. We have become a mobile dependent society and adapting your site to mobile devices is not only increasing your chances of searchers having the ability to view your site, it is also securing the trust with them as ultimately when we are searching, we want results. The results via a mobile device need to be more immediate and valuable.

4. Local Search. Local search is still a hot topic. Google Places becoming the default for many industry specific searches has changed the way that people are accepting the search results. This is where the biggest change has taken place. Users have had to embrace this search result change. They want results that they feel that they trust. Appearing in the results, starts the trust.

5. Link Building. A link building strategy that encompasses internal and external linking through directories, reciprocal links as well as engaging in social media through commenting on blogs, creating content that is linked to as well as web pages that are a resource to be linked to is going to point to your site through the search engines as a point of reference and increase your rankings.

6. Canonical Pathway. Creating a clear and precise canonical pathway domain sets to avoid multiple page variations (ie http://www.yourwebsitepage vs http://yourwebsitepage and duplications. The search engine spiders crawl and are unable to determine which is the preferred pathway for your site. Establish one pathway.

7. Crawl Frequency. How often are your pages being crawled? Blogs are crawled and ranked very quickly. Internal web pages that are not linked to or updated and have high visit volume are not crawled as frequently. Monitor through your cache how often your pages are being crawled to determine which pages need to be crawled more frequently and this also can give some insight as to when a new page or blog (for those that are not blogging every day) should be posted to ensure that the page is being crawled and indexed when the crawlers are crawling.

8. Photo Alt Tags. Alt tagging photos seems sometimes to be forgotten. The spiders cannot see the photo, but they can see the text that is associated with the photo. Creating alt tags that contain keywords are not only preventing the stop gap for the spiders, it is allowing an extra source for keyword density.

9. Site Speed. The speed in which your site downloads matters. Visitors will click off a site is taking too long to load.The faster the site loads the more time is spent on the site. This not only is attractive to the user, but the speed of a site matters to the search engines. Of course, the content will outweigh the speed but if you have great content that is slow and people will not wait for it, the search engines will not rank it.