Small Business SEO! Yes? No?

Ever hear someone mention SEO aka search engine optimization? One recent blog likens it to snake oil and still many many people make a great deal of money selling it.

So how should an individual or small business proceed?

If you have a website, then it needs to be search engine friendly and someone should certainly pay attention to on-page SEO basics. If you work with a web professional, start by making sure that they code your site to standards. It will go a long way towards helping search engines pick up the site, and your content, properly.

You should also make sure that your keywords fit your page content, because search engines are not fooled by irrelevant keywords. Resist the urge to have more than 6 key words per page—too much of a good thing is still too much.

You can get some hints on how your site may be perceived by search engines from HubSpot’s free tool at www.websitegrader.com–of course no one but the engineers at search engine companies like Google and Yahoo really know what their ranking criteria is. Bear in mind that websitegrader is a program and that it does not have human interpretation skills–so take it with a grain of thought. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it isn’t–take what you can get and leave the rest.

A solid approach to increasing your page ranking in search engine results includes common sense and some of your time.

Start with the social networking sites already! The same things that are important for a person without a website or blog establish a web presence will improve page ranking . Get on LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter—join meetup groups, leave comments on other blogs. All of the sensible things that you can do to establish a web presence also work for increasing your legitimacy in the eyes of the search engines—and therefore your page ranking.

Whatever else you do, make sure you link and refer to your various social networking accounts whenever you can—add them to email signatures, use an aggregator service like FriendFeed to combine your social networking efforts in one fell swoop, or if you have a blog or website links to your social networking accounts go there too. [It may not be needed, but let me caution again about making sure your professional web presence shows that you are a professional. That doesn’t mean no pictures of you having fun or irreverent comments, it does mean that you need to keep your humanity (and unmentionables) from leaking out the edges.]

If you comment on a blog and don’t have a website, use your LinkedIn profile address or Google account page as your website (best case scenario is to make sure those public pages display your name as part of the webpage address).

If you blog, register it with Technorati, blogher, or any other relevant places that allow you to register.

So do a little research, strategize, and get moving! You need attention and persistence more than snake oil most days of the week.