If you’re at all serious about your small business or startup, it’s essential you have a website to advertise your products and services. How do you ensure your website appears at the top of the search-engine results page (SERP) of Google, Bing, and Yahoo?
First you need to consider some important factors regarding how your website is constructed and structured. It’s not enough to just throw something together, unless you want to be drowned in the ocean of your competitors’ websites. A little thought and preparation beforehand will do wonders for your marketing strategy and translate into more sales for you. This is, after all, the reason you go into business. The encapsulation of all this website modification is known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
Here are ten profound optimization strategies for small businesses and startups. Profound because they involve a little thought but deliver great results, potentially catapulting you past your competitors, even past the bigger fish, even past those fearsome sharks with plenty of financial bite.
1. Clean Site Choose a web platform for your site that allows you to have a user-friendly, clean design. Your website should be designed with the latest version of HTML. It should have a clear navigation structure, accurate Title Tags with unique Meta Descriptions throughout, and should upload as quickly as your competitors, preferably faster. Keep your URLs short. Maintain an XML site map. This makes it easier for the Google bots to crawl your site, and feed the harvested data into its ever-changing algorithm that gives your website its ranking.
2. Keywords It’s crucial to target your market audience by using the right keywords within your website pages. Unearth those words used by your customers to search for similar products to yours. Often small businesses can get better clout for their buck by targeting long-tail keywords. For example, if you are a catering company but like to specialize in weddings you might choose to optimize your website for ‘wedding catering services’. You will beat a lot of your competition from the SERPs, especially the ones who just optimize for the keyword ‘catering’, while maximizing the business you get from weddings.
3. Content Nothing makes Google bots ‘happier’ than plenty of fresh, relevant content on your website. When you consider that every search engine’s aim is to furnish the most relevant online material from the user’s search, it logically follows that the more you can write about your business and what it provides, where, how and who by, the higher up the SERPs you will climb. Yes, product information including cost, benefits, and availability, is paramount, but this kind of text tends to be static.
You want to turn your website into a vibrant, breathing beast of business. Company news, blogs, press releases, and product launches, not only keep your website fresh to your regular customers, but when Google’s bots regularly uncover new content, its algorithm dictates that the website must be more relevant to the searcher and so upgrades your ranking, boosting you favorably up the SERPs. Just be sure to include more about how your product can solve the visitor’s problem or otherwise benefit them, than how you intend to build your brand.
4. Link Building While providing fresh, relevant content for your website is probably the most essential SEO strategy, linking from and to high-quality, relevant content on other websites, blogs, forums, otherwise known as off-site SEO, is close behind. Acquiring backlinks to your website requires some work and research, sending out press releases or new product information to bloggers and other webmasters, who in turn will provide high quality backlinks within their web properties, must carefully be coordinated.
You don’t have to worry about exhausting your marketing spend! Local businesses should reach out to their network of associations, small business groups and financial institutions. Most of these groups offer an online business directory as an included member’s benefit. The search engines love to see “authority” websites, such as your local bank, linking to your website. It’s a signal that you’re a real business sticking around for the long haul.
5. Local Presence The world is getting smaller as technology improves. Twenty years ago, a local search may have yielded few results, but nowadays the results are far more competitive. As Google has grown more powerful it can now drill down to specific neighborhoods, no longer dependent on isolating cities or states.
Big business will be targeting your locality, so you need to be including your town or suburb in your list of keywords. Going all local doesn’t stop there though. List your business on all the good local online directories, and don’t forget Yelp and Trip Advisor. Get involved in local events, festivals, anything related to the community which you can blog about or offer special promotions.
6. Social Media Google concludes that if your website is discussed on social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn, then it must be important enough for people to want to visit and receives a generous boost on the SERP. Some social media sites are better suited for your product and service than others, but this is a great and easy way to increase your web traffic.
7. Consumer Reviews Of all the strategies listed here, this is the one of which you have the least control, but which can be one of the most effective. Consumer reviews, feedback and comments on the products and services you provide not only boost your search engine rankings but history shows they influence 90% of potential customers to buy. People trust consumer reviews even though people they don’t know write them; and consumer reviews build your company’s reputation like nothing else.
8. Mobile Friendly / Responsive Website Design With mobile devices now overtaking the traditional desktop PC as a means to accessing the Internet, it’s important to make your website mobile-friendly. Failure to comply will result in a punitive drop in search-engine rankings. Tips here include using Responsive Web Design, high-quality-web-optimized images and making buttons and font-sizes appropriately sized.
9. Images Don’t fall for the myth that it’s just paragraphs of text that win you more business. A good selection of images not only makes your website more attractive to the user but increases your search engine rankings, providing you include your chosen keywords into the alt and title tags. Product images of course are most important, but even images of your staff or office will increase ranking, provided keywords are included in those all-important image tags. Google loves images; never forget that.
10. Be Creative Take advantage of the small size of your business and turn it against your larger competitors. Reveal your individualism, humor, and creativity by enthralling your customer base and showing a human side that big business cannot. Avoid all the usual clichés, the banal processes of big business, the bland promises, and the aloof corporate stance. Reach out to your customer with E-cards, games, jokes, poetry, anything you can think of to make your business unique and friendly, offering great value to your customers. Turn your website into a place people will want to return, and win yourself lots of repeat business.
The list above, while certainly not exhaustive, provides solutions that anyone with some basic writing knowhow can do themselves. No complicated coding is required. However, SEO results require patience. It can take months for your search-engine rankings to improve, but if you follow the 10 steps above, it will happen.
Jason Hall, CEO of My Local SEOs, is a leading authority on local marketing for small to medium-sized businesses representing many industries throughout the US and foreign countries. With a team of Internet Marketers throughout Chicago, IL, Newport Beach, CA and Destin, FL, no company is too big or too small to receive benefits from their services.