By Andrew Masanto and Gael Breton, Directors of Search at Higher Click SEO Management.

Let's say you want to search for a product or service on the web. You'll go to a popular search engine, type in your search, and look at the first five results that come up.

These five companies or individuals have made sure they're at the top of the list by using SEO — Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a highly effective way of driving traffic to your site, which is why it's absolutely crucial to building a successful business.

For a new business, freelancer or budding startup, getting your product or service into the top 5 search results can be tricky. But the good news is, you can boost your own profile very easily by yourself.

All you need to understand is how SEO works. Think of it like this - how can you find out information about a person you don't know? It's simple - you meet the person, and you ask other people about the person. And that's exactly what search engines do. They:

-Meet your website by analyzing your content and coding (on page optimization)

-Ask other sites about your site by analyzing back links to your site (off page optimization)

So where should you start? Let us help you! Here are our top tips for successful SEO.

1. Target the right customers - do your keyword research!

Most business people will agree that launching a business without prior market research reduces the odds of success. Well, the same goes in the online world, especially when it comes to SEO.

The key question is "What will my ideal customers search for when they are looking for my service / product online?" And the best way to find out is the Google AdWords tool:

- Type in the keywords that best represent your business and select your target market (geo location and language). Google will then suggest the most popular keywords searches related to the keyword(s) or phrases you’ve just typed.

-You'll then see what your customers are searching for - and how many of them are searching for it. This allows you to choose the best keywords to target.

- After you have chosen your keywords, design a structure which allocates between 1 to 4 keywords for every "converting page" of your website. By "converting page", I mean sub-page url's which sell your product (i.e. you don’t want to rank pages like “Privacy Policy” or “Terms of Service” as customers don’t buy from those pages!). A good example is Altitude Shoes, who rank their main page for “elevator shoes”, “height shoes” and “height increasing shoes” but also use their other converting pages e.g. www.altitude-shoes.com/tall-mens-shoes.html AND www.altitude-shoes/taller-shoes.html to rank for other terms. But remember - more than 3 to 4 keywords per page may confuse search engines.

Golden Rule 2: Optimize Your Website

Once you have selected the relevant keywords, you need to tell search engines that your website is all about these words, and also make sure your website is easily accessible to search engines. How? By placing your keywords in the right spots.

Some of the methods below are a bit technical if you don't have a working knowledge of HTML, so if it gets confusing, ask a tech savvy friend or developer for help.

-Put your keywords in your page title.

-Use the keywords that you are trying to optimize on your page, but don’t overuse them (1-2% in the body content is plenty).

-Put the keywords that you are trying to rank for in your headings (H1 tags)

-Make sure you have a sitemap.xml (you can download a good free sitemap generator at A1 Sitemap) and you have submitted it to Google Webmasters Tools.

-Deny search engines access to your admin or draft web page areas through your robots.txt file.

-Optimize your page loading speed by combining all your css and javascript files.

-Reduce the number of outgoing links on your pages, including creating what's known as No Follow links.
As mentioned above, the above tricks can be quite technical and you may need an SEO Expert to advise you. There are lots of good services that can do this for you cost effectively.

Golden Rule 3: Tell The World About Your Website

Now that you know what keywords you want to rank for and have optimized your pages, it's time to tell the world (and the search engines) about your business. The objective here is to get the maximum number of links back to your website.
Here are three simple ways to get back links:

a) Guest Blogging

This is a very easy technique you can apply to pretty much any niche — simply find bloggers writing about topics related to your topic and offer to write a high quality blog post for them in exchange for a link back to your site. Simple.

The result? You reach out to an audience that's already interested in what you're doing and get a high quality link for search engines.

b) Niche Directory Submission

These days, directory submissions are generally considered as low quality link building. But if you do a quick Google search and submit your website to directories specialized in your niche, this can be a great asset — Google rates relevancy.

The result? If a link to your site is placed on a website with topical correlation to yours, it can carry a lot of weight.

c) Social Media Marketing

The internet has evolved to revolve more and more around the sociosphere, which means that while once, social media links were seen as low quality, they’re now rising in profile. As head of Google spam Matt Cutts suggests, the key is not to spam links on your Facebook wall, but rather to find authorities on social media and convince them to tweet about your site, and share your link on their Facebook.
The result? It will help SEO and attract quality traffic to your site.

Remember - SEO is not a race! It will take 2 or 3 months for a new website to achieve and maintain meaningful search engine rankings — so don’t be tempted to spam thousands of links at once to your site (known as Black Hat SEO) or you may get blacklisted — and disappear from search engines altogether! Instead, follow the rules above, and you could double or triple your profit within 3 months. Yay!

About the authors

Andrew Masanto and Gael Breton are Directors of Higher Click SEO Management, a 24/7 SEO and Online Advertising agency.