Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about making your website more easily found on search engines like Google, Bing and Yelp when people type in keywords related to your business. Small businesses with professionally designed, search-engine-friendly websites can compete in a real way with larger competitors because their site appears as or more favorably in search engine results pages (or SERP).
SEO encompasses many very technical elements, but just understanding some basic concepts will help you considerably when it comes time to develop your website.
Your domain name is the internet address that is attached to your site (http://www.yourbusiness.com) and it’s a very large part of deciding how high up on the Google results your business appears. For instance, if a person is searching for “Wichita Dry Cleaner” and somebody has a website with the domain “wichitadrycleaner.com” then they will likely appear at the top of the search engine results. So , if possible, be sure to register the most relevant keyword-rich domain name possible along with your company name.
The title tag is the group of words that appears at the top of the title bar of your website and in the blue link that appears on Google results. They are one of the most important factors in getting a high Google ranking for your business’ website. You should include your company name as well as relevant keywords and phrases to ensure higher results. In fact, if you fix your title tags you will likely see some instant improvements in your company search results ranking.
Meta tags are elements of your website’s design code that specifies certain information like your website description, keywords, author of the document and other info. These tags will not appear on the website itself but are identified by Google and other search engines looking for specific keywords. The meta tags are always placed in the <head> section of the website’s code and they play a very large part in your search engine results.
Keywords are words and phrases that search engines crawl the internet looking for when people type them in to the search box. While the art of implementing the right keyword strategy for your website can be a little complicated. The basic idea is that the more a word or phrase shows up on your website (in fair and relevant ways) the higher the website’s Google ranking when those keywords are searched for. You should do some research on what keywords and phrases your customers use when looking for your type of business and make sure your website is s filled with them.
The links on your website also play a big part in determining your Google ranking. The words of the link itself along with the alt text contribute to the relevancy of your website on Google results pages. As much as you can, create links with keywords and phrases related to your business and its functions.
Social networks have become a large part of a company’s SEO. By having profiles on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, a company is able to appear more frequently on search engine results pages through these profiles. Also, linking your profiles to each other as much as possible along with linking to your website on these pages helps increase the relevancy of your business site in Google.
For storefront businesses, the local listing (your company listing on sites like Google Places, Yelp, and Yahoo Local) has become one of the most important parts of their online existence. Not only do customer reviews on these sites greatly affect people’s decisions in choosing your business, the description and link to your website on these pages play a large part in your websites SEO. Be sure to claim or create your listings on these various services. For more information read my article on Why Local Listings Are Crucial For Your Small Business.
Understanding your company’s SEO is the first step for you in the development of your company’s online strategy. Armed with this information, you should be able to take more effective steps in building your online presence so that you appear higher on Google results, get more traffic to your site and, ultimately, get more more customers.
Please leave us comments if you have any other ideas about SEO basics for small businesses.
These days, most businesses have a website, but I’m always surprised at how many small business websites (usually designed by the company owner or a tech-savvy family member/friend) are missing some very basic elements that help businesses increase the reach of their message, add to company credibility, and improve their website SEO and overall online position.
So I compiled this list of elements I feel no small business website should be without. Do not launch your website without the following crucial elements:
1. A “Contact Us” Page – Yes, I see that your number is featured prominently on your homepage but online consumers are creatures of habit. And when we visit websites with the intention of contacting the company we almost always look for the obligatory contact us or simple contact page. Not only should this page have every piece of pertinent contact info for your company (phone, office, mobile, fax, email, address) it should also have a google map photo showing your location and a link to give the customer directions to the business (if applicable).
2. An Opt-In Form – Your building a mailing list, right? Riiiight? Okay well one of the best ways to get people to join that mailing list is by them “opting in” using a sign-up form on your website. How you encourage folks to fill out the form depends on your business type and your overall goals and objectives. For instance, a professional service (marketing, real estate) can offer a FREE consultation if the user just fills out the form, or an online service wanting only email addresses from its customers could encourage folks to give their email addresses in exchange to a desirable link or file (such as an e-book, coupon, or white-paper). The opt-in form is a must have for any business looking to generate leads with its website.
3. An “About Us” Page – So many small companies omit this critical relationship-building tool that is the “about us” page. Quite often the highest traffic-receiving site after the homepage, the “about us” section of your website provides customers information that allows them to both learn about the company and it’s message and mission as well as gain confidence and trust as they learn about the company’s history and functions. If you’re in a business with any competition at all, the about us page is where you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.
4. A Blog –The obvious reason is you need a blog to inform your users about your specific product or service. But there really is so much more. Blogs help tremendously with your SEO (Google SERP loves blogs), they instill trust in your client-base, they drive sales, increase leads, build brand awareness, and they make you look like an expert in your field. Do some research, don’t just dive in, but begin working on building a blog for your company ASAP.
6. Clear Call(s) To Action – Simply existing on the internet isn’t good enough. Know the purpose of your website and drive visitors to do what you want them to (buy a product, sign-up for a newsletter, call for a consultation) with clear and consistent calls to action. Avoid cluttering the screen with a lot of text copy and images, instead make sure that your “buy now” button is the main focal point of your site and is prominent on every page. The idea is to take away all the distractions so that they have nothing to do BUT click the buy now button.
7. Social Network Buttons – It’s the new era of the online consumer, and people are using social networks more than ever to learn about brands, products, and services of all types. When a person wants to praise (or complain about) a certain company, they quite often will do it on facebook, twitter, or another social network. It’s critical that you not only create a presence on these various networks, but that you encourage people to “follow”, “like”, “friend”, and otherwise subscribe to your brand using these social sites. Again, do some research as to how you’re going to effectively position yourself on these sites, but definitely use them, and definitely make buttons for them on your website.
8. Links to Review Sites – For local businesses of any type, online reviews on sites like yelp, yahoo local, and google places have become the new “word-of-mouth” arena for their customers and it is absolutely a must that you do your best to control the reviews your company receives on these sites. If you need to know more about this read my article Why Local Listings Are Crucial For Your Business. A good review can increase your sales considerably, and bad reviews can kill your whole business. Include links to these places on your website and encourage customers to go leave you reviews. The more positive reviews you get the more business you will likely get.
There are many elements that make up successful websites of all kinds, these are just the 8 things I feel get most-often overlooked in today’s marketplace. Please leave me comments with other elements you think are crucial to a successful small business website (or to just say hi.) And read my other articles on small business marketing.
In today’s marketplace, when a person wants to find a new place to get their hair done, or a pizza place, or an auto-repair shop, or any type of small business’ product or service they will more-than-likely look to the internet to find it.
Old-School Word-of-Mouth – In the “old days,” if you wanted to find the best local cheeseburger, you might ask a cab driver, or local store-owner, and this was and still is a form of “word-of-mouth” marketing.
New-School Word-of-Mouth – Today, the internet has replaced (and magnified) this marketing form with the use of several local listing websites and their respective review systems. Now, when one needs to find a new dry cleaner in a certain area, one will google it, or maybe visit yelp.com and check the reviews people have left about businesses offering a particular product or service.
So, how can a small business owner be sure their company’s marketing is taking full advantage of this new age of word-of-mouth marketing? The answer is to simply make sure you have placed or claimed your business on the following local listing websites:
All of these sites are FREE to list your company on
1. Google Places
2. Yahoo! Local
3. City Search
8. Insider Pages
The first step is to make sure your company is listed on these sites, the next step should be to drive positive reviews from your customers to these sites. Even though some of these sites don’t “encourage” you asking your customers for positive reviews, the opinion here is “Hey, we’re small business owners and we need all the help we can get to keep the lights on!”
So yes, ask, promote, and bribe your customers into leaving positive reviews for you on these and every other site they can find. Positive chatter about your company will improve your SEO but, more importantly, it will equal more business/clients/customers for your company. Be proactive, provide a quality product, encourage folks to talk about it online, and you will see a difference.