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Small Business Tips

Search engine marketing (SEM) strategies

Lisa Steinmann

SEM is your overall approach to marketing your business online. SEM allows consumers to find you for free by searching (organic search). You can also use pay-per-click advertising (PPC).

SEO refers only to your web pages and how you set them up. You must optimize each page so search engines can find them. SEO is the foundation of SEM. It’s basic housekeeping for anyone with a website.

Your website is found based on how people search for it in search engines. They search by keywords.  For instance: “engagement ring,” “accounting software,” “lawnmower replacement parts” or “coffee near me.” Selecting the correct keywords is a very complicated topic we’ll need to cover another time.

We’ll explain more about SEM and SEM later, but first, there’s something more important to talk about: content.


There are many blogs and articles explaining the various ways to drive traffic to your site via tricks. Some of these tricks used to work well even if your actual website was terrible. You could stuff a page full of keywords and keyword phrases for a popular topic and search engines would direct users to your site.

For instance, a very popular keyword search is “Keto diet.” In the past you could stuff your page about life insurance full of mentions of the Keto diet and people would be directed to your page.

It didn’t matter if people came to your page and didn’t stay there. Now it does. If I search for Keto diet I expect to go to a page about the topic.

If I immediately leave a page after clicking on it, search engines now know that page is of low value to consumers. It doesn’t give users what they want.

That misleading page will now fall out of favor with search engines. A page about the Keto diet, with solid information for users, will rise in the rankings for that keyword. People who stay to read that page and explore that website make it more popular in search results.

The most important thing to understand about SEM is not tricks, but relevancy. Make sure your page delivers what customers are looking for. Give them the content the search engine promises them.

It’s the same whether your page is about keto dieting or decorative nightlights. Give the consumer what they expect. The result will be increased search engine and consumer loyalty.

Make your content something special

Your purpose is to attract consumers. Get them to spend time on your page and then book your services or buy your products. Write content that educates, intrigues and, when possible, entertains the reader.

We’ve all visited web pages that are generic, appear to come from a template, and aren’t interesting. Make your website stand out by being original.

Some topics like life insurance may not be that exciting up front. If you are a life insurance agent, you can tell us a story about how you got into the business. Who was your most interesting client?

What have you learned from things going right and things going wrong for your clients?

Have you ever assigned life insurance benefits to your client’s pet peacocks or llamas? Educate us, and tell us a fun story.

Small business owners have a huge advantage over large businesses. Small business owners are relatable. Let people know you are human, that you care, and when possible that you have a sense of humor.

Always let them know how your small business is different from larger organizations. Usually, the difference is you.

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Automatic, accurate mileage reports.

Back to basics with SEO

Every web page has the following elements that affect search engine results:


  • The URL is the technical address of your webpage. The page will have your website name, but it should also contain a relevant keyword(s).
  • If you sell nightlights for kids and your business is called “Nothing Under the Bed,” your website URL would be For SEO you would want it to also include your top keyword(s):

Meta title

  • If I search for “nightlights for kids” the web pages in the search results have headers called Meta titles. The Meta title should include your primary keyword(s) and the name of your business. Use 50–60 characters.
  • Nightlights For Kids | Nothing Under the Bed

Meta description

  • The Meta description follows the Meta title in search results. The Meta description does not contribute to your SEO ranking, but it’s important for users. It tells them what your site is about and what to expect on your page.
  • Make sure you let them know they will find what they need on your page and include a call-to-action. Tell them to “click here to learn more,” or “find the perfect nightlight here.” Use up to 300 characters.

H1 and optional H2

  • H1 and H2 are headers for the text on your page. They count towards SEO ranking. Again, they should include your keyword(s).

    Header 1: Our nightlights for kids are all handmade
    Header 2: Nightlights for kids with eco-friendly LED lightbulbs

Alt tags:

  • Alt tags are labels for images on your page. They describe the image for the sight impaired. They contribute to SEO rankings.

    Supply an honest description of the image(s) on your page and use keywords whenever you can.

    Alt tag example: “A child sleeps peacefully next to our Peter Rabbit nightlight for kids.”

Metadata tool

If someone else set up your website you may need help to add these elements to your pages.

To see how your page is currently set up you can use this tool: MOZ toolbar.

This tool will also let you look at the SEO on any website, including your competition.

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