How do you push your small company’s Web site to the top of a Google search? Its position is based on search engine optimization (SEO). For many small-business owners, however, developing this skill is akin to learning a foreign language.

Here are seven steps that may help to improve your company’s standing:

1. Keyword research: Look for keywords or phrases someone would use to find a Web site in your industry or profession. Then decide which ones to target. Usually, keywords with the highest potential have a high search volume but low competition. Unfortunately, if competitors do similar research, these keywords are of limited value.

2. Technical matters: Search engines use “crawlers” to read your Web site’s text and code. If it is difficult for a crawler to decipher content, the ranking will suffer. For better results, keep URLs under 100 characters in length, use hyphens instead of underscores and avoid special characters.Every page should have a unique title tag that is 65 to 75 characters long. The meta description tag should be unique for every page, up to 160 characters long, and contain one to two sentences describing the page. It is also critical for your Web site to contain an XML sitemap that is regularly updated and submitted by using Google Webmaster Tools.

3. Usability: Search engines try to give users results by taking into account the engagement metrics of a Web site. Thus, it is important to focus on improving usability. For instance:

  • Clearly label different parts of the Web site so visitors can easily find their way around. Make key areas and contact information easy to spot.
  • Work on navigation. Search engines may rank a multitude of a Web site’s pages simultaneously so users can access a site from pages besides the home page. Without good navigation, someone might be restricted to a single page.
  • Develop the architecture. This is the part of your Web site from which other aspects are built, including form, function, navigation and interface, interaction, and visual design.
  • Try to limit each page to 800 words, with the possible exception of blog posts. Content should contain the relevant keywords for the page. The use of unique, keyword-rich text on a page can help improve rankings.

4. Content is still king: Concentrate on producing fresh, lively content that stands out. It may take the form of a company blog; guides and e-books; or infographics, charts or other visual content.This may attract new links to the Web site.

5. Social media: As a sign of changing times, social media should be part of an SEO campaign. Consider these suggestions:

  • Establish goals for social media.
  • Know and recognize your target audience.
  • Select your social media channels.
  • Connect with people who have many followers.
  • Develop a social media posting plan.

6. Linking: Links increase the credibility of a Web site. The total number of links is important, but you should also feature links from a range of diverse and popular domains. But remember that the main search engines have strict rules against unnatural or paid links. Encourage links from trustworthy sources.

7. Delegation: Designate responsibility for SEO to a qualified person in your organization. In some cases, it may be beneficial to use an outside consultant.

When appropriate, rely on your business advisers for referrals. Do what it takes to move your business to the top of the list and stay there.