Let’s get your online business performing so well it eclipses your offline business!
When you are running a small business it is vital to get your message out. You don’t have the budget of multinationals or large enterprises, so you have to be smart in what you do. In the 21st century, you absolutely must have a web presence, and this will ideally comprise the following –
A blog – this can be your website or part of your website
Social media pages/accounts (twitter, facebook, etc.)
If you provide a suitable service perhaps even a mobile App
But how are you going to get people to find you among the millions of competitors? You don’t have time, you have a business to run!
The good news is this is not as hard as it sounds. If you know what you need to do, and what you don’t need to do, you can chip away at it bit by bit and start seeing your business grow, then when it grows enough you can hire someone to do your SEO for you full time. Trust me – if you get the right person to do it, this will pay for itself tenfold. Just be sure you don’t get caught out by the many pretenders out there who claim to be SEO wizards but really don’t know their trade! Getting down and dirty with SEO yourself will not only get your online (and thereby offline) business growing, it will also educate you in how web marketing works and how SEO works so when you go to hire someone you will be able to tell the wheat from the chaff.
So, you have set up your website or got someone else to, and you have seen your first visitors (your mother, friends, staff), and then nothing. Nada. Nobody. Where are you all? Don’t you know I have a wonderful website? Didn’t you see I wrote this great blog post about using my product?
No, they didn’t.
Why? Because when they searched for <your product> there were thousands of search results above you! Few people go to the second page of search results and very, very few go to page ten.
So what can you do about it? You can make your website/blog get higher ranking in the search engine. You can publicize it online and offline. And that is what this article is about – how you can do ten steps that will help you get a higher ranking. And here they are –
1 – Update your content regularly. This is so important. How many sites have you visited and wondered if the information is up to date? If the products are current? If the business even exists anymore? The easiest way is to have a blog, but if you even have new content added regularly, with dates shown, on any site it tells users it is up to date. However, a news or blog section to your website gives you so much more in terms of SEO, customer engagement, direct marketing, etc. etc. Think about it like this – someone comes into your business and you get to talk to them about what you do, your quality of service, the value for money and so on. Now think online – someone ends up on your site – virtually they are coming into your business, so why let them walk away without telling them what wonderful products or services you have?Keeping a blog can be done in an hour or two a week, more if you wish. Post at regular intervals – every Tuesday for example – and if you will not be around one week schedule the post. If you are good at it and provide useful information you will find that your customers will check back regularly so be sure your virtual store is open.
2 – Write good content that will interest your potential customers. Don’t write for the sake of it, think about your customers – what will interest them? What will help them see that you are an expert in your area and are sharing that wisdom with them? Find out what that is and write about it. Aim for 1,500 words or more. This is the golden area for Google: articles which are 1,500 works or more rank higher.
3 – Pay attention to what is written in your meta description – this is in the header of the page if you are writing as HTML. If you use WordPress for your blog, be sure to check the source of one of your pages for this tag – it is not part of the default installation. Don’t worry though – there are lots of free meta description plugins. You may be wondering if this is worth the effort – is this going down the tech road and something I can do without? Not at all, you need this! The meta description is what populates the text below your linked page title (yes, always include that tag too!) on the search listing. Keep that in mind when you write it.
What you want is to use some keywords here that your customers might search for, as well as a brief, clear description of what the page is about. For example, if I were writing a post for my veterinary website about care for cats and dogs I might write this meta description: “Fantastic dog care and cat care tips for family pets. Whether a kitten, puppy, rabbit or goldfish, we have the answer to your pet-care needs”. The words in bold are keywords I think my customers might search for, but they are used in a clear sentence describing what I will write about in the post.
4 – Learn from the competition. Almost definitely, if you have a small business there are other small businesses on the Internet who are delivering the same as you. Save yourself time and research what they are doing. I don’t mean steal content (your ranking will actually be penalized for that, as well as it is plain wrong to do), but if you see a post on a topic you feel your customers might be interested in then take the concept and write your own post about it. Do searches on Google for your area of business and see what is ranked highly. Have you read a book on your area that had an interesting idea? If it interested you it may also interest your potential customers, so write a post about it. Have your competitors a new angle to how they are selling? Is this something you can bring into your own website? An original way of categorizing products, having competitions or discounts perhaps. Gather all the ideas you can. One of the advantages of online business is you get to see what the competition is doing – use that to your advantage.
5 – Be mobile friendly. This is so important I should have it in flashing lights. Understand the power of mobile – every day millions of people around the world are commuting in buses and trains, boats and trams, all ignoring the scenery because their faces are glued to their smartphones. Research has shown 45% of online sales were made on mobile devices last year. This is just to big a chunk of the pie to ignore, so when you check how your blog or website appears to do it on your smartphone as well. Make sure you use a responsive design and think mobile when you decide on images and how far apart you make links (on a small screen links close together can be problematic). As you grow your online business you may decide to go the mobile App route, but don’t think of this as a get out of jail free card for be mobile compatible, users will still visit your website on mobile. Add to this a very important point about SEO – Google considers how mobile friendly your website is as part of the ranking, even for desktop searches.
6 – Use rich media. By rich media, I mean photos, illustrations, videos and whatever else you can find to enrich the user experience. If people only wanted text they would go to the library – this is the Internet in the 21st century, and people have shorter attention spans. Keep it exciting, interesting – hit their senses (just don’t overdo it!). When you add images you can improve your SEO by naming the images using keywords that describe it and always, always add alt text and descriptions. These are included in ranking and not having then can get you penalized in some search engines.
The key to successful SEO is to do it honestly, don’t be tempted to go the ‘blackhat’ route and try to cheat the system. All you need to do is write good content regularly, in well-formed HTML filling all the tags and descriptions and deliver it in a responsive design to your customers. Do this and you will be a long way on the track to a high ranking. In other articles we will cover more fine details on climbing right to the top – this article is just to get you into the playing field.
That’s it for this article, but I promise to post lots more tips in the future so do check back.