How to Improve Search Results

Appearing in search engine results is increasingly important for growing your small business—whether your business is online or offline. You can improve the way search engines display information about your business, either through search ads that you pay for, known as sponsored results, or in free listings, referred to as natural search results.

Your business will appear in natural search results when Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), or another search engine has determined that your business provides products and services that closely match the keywords someone has entered into the search box. The higher your business shows up in natural search results, the more likely you are to attract customers. This is because, if the search engine is working as intended, it is serving up the most relevant results possible to searchers—they are looking for you. In addition, being near the top of results is important because analysis of search behavior shows that people will only browse through a limited number of pages before moving on.

While Google and others guard how their search engines work, there are a couple of best practices that you can apply to improve your appearance in natural search results.

• First, find directory Web sites that allow you to control your business listing, and make sure all your locations are listed clearly so they appear on maps.

• Next, enrich the content and information available about your business by adding photos, customer testimonials, and other information to help describe clearly what you do and why prospective customers should choose you over other businesses they may see online.

• Lastly, have your customers and partners put links to your Web site on their own sites and blogs.

All of these simple and free activities will help boost your visibility in natural search results, which in turn will generate leads for your business. You should experience a valuable return on your minimal time investment.

Josh Walker CEO CityVoter Cambridge, Mass.

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