Remember when businesses could survive without a website?

I’ve been online and had at least one website working for me for over 14 years now. Yet I also know that even though I’ve embraced technology, and couldn’t live without it, there are still people out there that have never created a site for their business. In fact, I currently have a half dozen business cards in front of me without an email address on them. spotlight

Let’s look at a few stats for a moment. In 2000, Google indexed about 1 billion pages. By the end of 2004, those numbers had risen to 8 billion. Currently, the latest estimate is that Google has indexed about 14 to 15 billion pages. All of this means people are adding a lot of content to the online arena – and its growing not just in America, United Kingdom and Australia. It’s growing in the far corners of the world.

Doing business online has truly made it to the mainstream. And for all of you that have a website and realize the importance, you’ve probably contemplated the next step. SEO, or search engine optimization is about getting your site ranked and in front of your prospects and your customers. But what most people don’t realize the strategy it takes to make that move.

When you think SEO, what does it bring up in your mind? Getting ranked high in the search engines? Magically appearing in ads? Getting more traffic than you can handle?

All of that may be a part of SEO, but unless you create a strategy, it will never happen.

I recently sat down with Jeff, a business consultant. He created a small website a couple of years ago, and left it up more as a brochure than anything else. It didn’t go into a lot of detail about his business; it just gave a brief explanation about Jeff and his business. He received no business from his site, and he was looking to change that.

After a five-minute analysis, I began to see some definite areas where we could make changes. Jeff had a friend who designed his site. This friend dabbled in web design on the side, and did it more for fun. But he now had a new full time position, two kids – and no time to help Jeff make changes. The first problem was Jeff’s friend had used an old "template" for the design, and all of his keywords were from an entirely different industry!

Next, because Jeff knew very little about SEO, he only had one goal with his online strategy: to be number one under the keyword "business consultant" in Google. He spent a few hundred dollars on Google’s Pay Per Click strategy, but recently gave up when he had little success.

Jeff had never sat down and created an online strategy that would truly help his business. He was guilty of the most common problem made by today’s small business owners – he listened to all the wonderful stories about the power of the Internet, yet he never captured any of it for his business because he never did anything to get his site noticed.

We went on to discuss SEO, and what it means for him, and for any small business owner. SEO means finding out what your clients are looking for online, and being there when they search. You don’t want to show up under "business consultant" if your clients are searching for "small business marketing coach". And you won’t magically appear under the term "small business marketing coach" unless you work with your content and your marketing to make it happen.

Like it or not, business is competition. And thanks to the Internet, that competition is fierce. In years past, the people in your local market were your competition; but now that field has spread across the globe. For you to get to your target audience, and to capture sales, you have to work at it.

But the good news is it’s actually the best time in history to get started in online marketing. For both service and product businesses, the tools available today are amazing. In just a few short months, with the right planning, we’re able to capture high rankings under the terms most often searched. And it’s not just a big business strategy – even small businesses can create a lot of magic online.

And it all starts with a strategy.