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Search Engine Optimization crucial for small businesses

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More and more small business CEOs are talking about how they can increase the traffic to their website. A few years ago we started to hear about the term "SEO" which stood for "Search Engine Optimization" and it became the thing to do to get your website to show up on or close to the top of any search engine results.

The past several months have seen a steady flow of thoughtful articles and blog posts dealing with topics like the changing world of SEO, the convergence of search and social, the growing importance of PR in website rankings, the critical role content marketing plays in online visibility, and the need to coordinate the efforts of various types on digital marketing experts.

In fact, Webbiquity, a company that helps businesses be omnipresent on the web when buyers are looking for what you sell, has coined a new phrase in this arena. They call it "web presence optimization" (WPO). Even if most of the authors don't actually use that term, it seems to be more descriptive of the idea.

WPO is the overarching term and concept to describe the significant and undeniable changes that have taken place in the search landscape over the past 12-18 months. This has become very complex.

For example, links still matter but the quality of those links matters more than the quantity (indeed, sites can even be penalized for having too many spammy, low-quality links pointing to them). PR, social media and the production of fresh, high-quality content are vital for maximizing search engine visibility. Online advertising doesn't directly affect organic search, but it is a vital component of online visibility and can support social and content marketing efforts.

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So, why should all of this matter to a small business?

• More than 80 percent of considered consumer purchases (e.g. for high-value, high-involvement products) now start with search, and more than 90 percent of B2B purchase cycles begin online.

• Search no longer is just Google and Bing; the second and third largest "search engines" by volume of searches are YouTube and Facebook. The internal search functions of social networks LinkedIn and Twitter also have higher volume than most second-tier search engines.

• A business's web presence no longer is limited to their website and blog (as important as those remain). Prospective customers may first find you on a social network, in a blog post written by a key influencer in your market space, on a content network like YouTube or SlideShare, in an online business directory, in an online news release, or in any number of other web venues.

Webbiquity states for many businesses, particularly on the B2B side, if your buyers can't find you online — you don't exist. The web presence optimization framework provides a structured approach for maximizing your "findability" online.

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