[IMGCAP(1)]Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the art of dressing up your website so that Google looks favorably upon it. A high ranking by Google could be a source of free leads – potentially a lot of free leads. And who would argue with that?

Let’s walk through a simple search example, and along the way I’ll share a couple of tips with you that I believe will help you ingratiate your website with Google.

Say you are a CPA based out of Sacramento, Calif., focused on helping small businesses. Wouldn’t it be cool if, when somebody searched for “Sacramento small business CPA”, your website came up on the front page of Google?

There are basically two ways to do this:

1. You could bid on each click that Google sends you. This can a very effective way of acquiring clicks to your site – but it can also be quite expensive. Depending on the popularity of the search term you bid on, you could very easily end up paying several dollars, or even more per click.

2. You can get your site in Google’s good graces, so that they decide your site is very relevant to the search term. Your goal is to be on the first page – because most Google searchers never find their way to page two!

So what’s the magic formula for getting listed high up in the organic search results? Of course Google keeps this a “highly guarded secret” – and there’s no shortage of folks capitalizing on this secrecy, parading themselves around as “SEO experts,” charging you and arm and a leg for services.

But in reality, there are three key things that you, or your webmaster, can do this month to greatly improve your organic search chances. In fact, if you forward this article to your web person, and they follow through with these simple recommendations, I’d bet that in the coming months you’ll start to see a definite improvement in your traffic – at least in terms of the keyword that you decide to “optimize” your site for.

Here are three steps to get started:

1. Pick one search phrase that you want to be known for. Just one. You want to be specific, but not ultra specific. For example, the term “CPA” is too general. But don’t go as far as “Sacramento small business CPA who’s an all around good guy.” While it may be true, the volume of searches will likely be pretty low. Something like “Sacramento small business CPA” is probably about right.

2. Match up the “title tag” of your webpage to this term. What’s the title tag? That’s the text on the very top of the webpage, above the URL line. Today, your site’s title tag might be something like “Home,” or maybe the name of your firm. You should change this. Why? Because Google already knows the name of your firm – it’s smart. What it may not know – and hence what you want to drill into it – is that you are a “Sacramento Small Business CPA.” Is it OK to put your firm name after this term? Sure, if you think the branding is important. Just be aware that the more words you add, the more each one will be diluted – so choose wisely!

3. Ideally, match up your domain as well. If your title tag read “Sacramento Small Business CPA”, and your URL was http://www.sacramentosmallbusinesscpa.com, I would really like your odds with Google for this search phrase. At that point, you’d almost force its hand into listing you high for that phrase – no matter what else is on your site! But what if you don’t feel like moving your site to a new URL? Then maybe you could set up a blog on this new URL, and write to it a few times a month. Point the blog back to your regular website, and you’ll at least have a search presence for this phrase. And we know how much Google loves blogs!

We could write pages upon pages on the topic of search engine optimization – and you could also spend a lot of time on it. But I’m a fan of paying attention to the critical few factors that can drive most of your positive results, and I think these steps are a great start. If you do nothing else but these three things, you’ll be ahead of 95 percent of other firms out there!