The world of search optimization can be overwhelming for those of us who haven’t made a full-time career of staying up-to-date on the latest Google search algorithm changes. Luckily, with a few strategic steps, anyone can effectively promote their small business online, without the need for advanced level programming or technical knowledge. Outlined are the five essential steps every small business should take to ensure that they are doing their part to receive attention from search engines.
Step 1: Select Keywords
What kinds of phrases do your customers use when they search for your product? Many times the words your customers use will be much different than words people in the industry use. For instance, would you know the difference between a hydraulic roller camshaft and a mechanical flat tappet camshaft for your car? Probably not. But you would probably know that you need a camshaft for a mid 90’s Mercury sedan, so in that case, “camshaft for Mercury” would be a better keyword for an automotive supply company to target, rather than “hydraulic roller camshaft”. When choosing keywords, you should not attempt to try and find one keyword that covers your entire operation, but rather a robust list of the most commonly requested items and services your business fulfills.
Step 2: Integrate Keywords onto Your Website
Now that you have selected keywords to target, you will need to create pages on your website that address the needs customers have when asking about those specific products or services. If one of your keywords is “birthday balloons” you should have a page on your site dedicated to explaining various decorating ideas using balloons; the key difference between your birthday balloons and a competitors’ balloons; or some other topic related to birthday balloons. The highest priority here would be to create pages for the specific sales that you want to make. So if balloons are your most popular item, you may want to start with creating a page that focuses on, and features, balloons. If you would rather sell party hats because they have a much higher margin than balloons, you should focus on creating a party hat page first.
Step 3: Focus on Local
Google has recently taken steps to level the playing field for small businesses competing against bigger companies online. Local business owners can register at google.com/business to appear in the “local results” category (which is displayed prominently at the top of results page after relevant search queries). The placement can be an extremely valuable tool for brick and mortar locations to reach a local audience. It is extremely easy to register your business with Google, and its well worth the effort. Be sure to keep your information accurate and up to date for your customers.
Step 4: Build Consistent Listings
The key to getting the best possible placement within the “local results” explained above, is to create and maintain accurate directory listings across the web. Online business directories provide free opportunities for local businesses to post their name, address, and phone number (these listings are commonly referred to as NAP’s – Name, Address, Phone). Postings must be accurate, consistent, and plentiful in order to let Google know you are a legitimate business that people will be able to reach. Free tools are available to check the consistency and completeness of your local listing, a great example is GetListed.org.
Not only do search engines monitor the number and quality of reviews you receive across the web, and use that data to influence search rankings, your actual customers love to hear about other peoples’ experiences with a local business they are thinking of visiting. Reviews provide the social proof necessary to help consumers choose one company over another. Do not attempt to fool the system by creating your own positive reviews. Google constantly improves their ability to detect fraudulent reviews, and if you’re suspected of tampering with the system, you could be penalized. Instead, ask your customers for reviews with a follow up email or personal message.
While these 5 simple steps are essential and can prove good results, in the world of SEO, nothing is ever done. We are always improving and maintaining whatever we achieve. You won’t just be able to sit back and relax after these five steps, but you will have built a solid foundation for your business, and maybe even gained an advantage over some of your competitors. Continue to learn and educate yourself, don’t engage in anything that feels dishonest, and you’ll find yourself succeeding online before you know it.