Having a website for your local business is a given in this day and age. It should look visually appealing, be easy to read and should be able to explain your business's value proposition. But the questions is…..you have a great looking website, but can anyone find it?
Unfortunately, many business owners don't know the answer to that question because they lack the understanding of what's involved in getting their website found online. Whether you created a DIY website from a low cost or free website builder or paid ten thousand bucks for a great looking website, in both cases you're usually left in the same situation…..a nice looking website that nobody (except close friends and family if you're lucky) can find.
Maybe you don't have the budget to hire a professional to handle your internet marketing just yet, or want to test the waters yourself first, below is an outline of the steps you should be taking to get your website found online.
Be aware that optimizing your business website to get found in the search engines is not a quick fix…..it takes time and consistent effort to build authority for your website. Being consistent is key. If you need to get your website found ASAP, take a look at the end of this article under the pay per click (PPC) section….you can start getting visitors to your website in a few minutes, though you will be paying for them.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so that people can find you when they conduct a search using keywords and key terms relevant to your business. SEO consists of two parts, on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
Find the important keywords relevant to your business. Imagine that you are a potential customer of your business and you're sitting in front of the Google box getting ready to start typing in a search query. What do you type into that search box? The keywords and key terms that you're potential customers will use to find your business are the ones that you should be optimizing on your website. By optimizing, I mean incorporating those keywords and key terms naturally in the copy you use on your website.
If one of the key terms that people use to find your business is “plumbers in Parker Colorado”, somewhere on your website you should be incorporating that term, and other variances of it in your website. Just make sure that it's written naturally and doesn't sound weird as the copy on your website still needs to make sense to people reading it. Aim for one or two keywords or key terms for each page you are trying to optimize……adding any more than this and you won't be optimizing for anything.
An easy and free way to conduct simple keyword research is to use the Google Keyword Tool. There are lots of other tools, but for the beginner this will work just fine. To learn how to conduct simple keyword research, read Keyword Research for Dummies.
Include your business information on every page of your website. If you're a local business, either in the header section or the footer section of your website should be your business information. Your business name, address and phone number should be included in this information. Search engines take this contact information as a sign that your a business in a particular area and will give you a preference in the search results when people conduct searches from that area. Google is trying to make search results more local and relevant to users and including your business information on every page will make things much easier for them and will help you get rank higher.
Start a blog. You've probably heard all about the benefits of blogging, and yes, they are true. A blog gives your website frequent and fresh content and gives the search engines like Google lots of material to index for people searching online. A blog can also establish your business (and yourself) as a thought leader in your industry and the “go to” place when people need to find relevant information.
Most small business blogs are short lived as business owners realize quickly that they are business owners, not writers. Yes, it is difficult to maintain an active blog, but it's worth it. Every article you publish on a particular topic is another piece of content that will get a chance to get found by a potential customer online. I have articles that are almost two years old and they still get 2-4 visits a day…..that's between 730 and 1460 visits a year for a single blog post. If I ran a pay per click (PPC) campaign at .50 cents per click, (which is on the low end) to get that many clicks I would be paying between $365 and $730 every year! That's right, one well written article could be worth thousands of dollars a year to you……and you only have to create it once! If this isn't a clear ROI winner for your business, i'm not sure what is.
Check out this article from ProBlogger on creating a successful blog
Get other websites to link to yours. Getting other websites, preferably popular and authoritative ones to link to your website is the most important factor in getting your website found online. Most search engine marketers believe that up to 80% of search engine optimization is the number and quality of links you have pointing back to your website. Every time another website links back to yours, it's like getting a referral, a sign of trust that your website is of some kind of importance for whatever industry you're in. The search engines take these “signs of trust” from other websites to determine is your website should rank higher in the search results for a given keyword or search term.
So how do you other websites to link back to your website? Here are a few examples.
- Add your website to directory websites that are relevant to small business and your industry. Though they are not considered powerful links, they do help and it's relatively easy to do. To get some ideas on how and where to do this, read my previous post on local citations for small business
- Get local papers to do a write-up about your business. Often times they have an online version of the paper……see if you can get a link pointing back to your website when they publish the article. Alternately, see if you can be a guest writer for their paper or blog, and get a link back to your website that way
- Guest post on other relevant blogs. Find blogs and websites in your industry and offer to write a guest blog article for them. Bloggers are always looking for fresh content, and welcome well written articles and are usually happy to give you a link in exchange for your contribution
Use Social Media. Search engines like Google and Bing monitor the social activity on most of the major social networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If people are talking about your business on those networks and linking back to your website in their posts and tweets, the search engines take this as a sign that people are interested in what you have to offer and may bump you up in the search engine rankings. Social media can also be a great way to generate traffic back to your website as every retweet or like exposes your business and website link to an ever growing network of people.
Claim and optimize your Google Places page. Google offers small businesses a free webpage that you can customize with images, video and links back to your website. The great thing about Google Places is that often times, your free Google Places page will rank higher than your actual website and higher than other, bigger websites in your industry. I've written extensively on the importance of claiming your Google Places page in the past.
Paid Search and Display Advertising
Paid search marketing or Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing are those links you see at the top and right side of the Google search results whenever you type in a search query and Google returns it's results. People and businesses purchase those ads through an auction type marketplace, which Google calls Adwords. Bing and several other companies offer similar advertising, though Google is far and away the biggest platform for this type of marketing.
The down side of paid search marketing is that you have to pay for every click to your website (you only pay when someone actually clicks on your link and goes to your website), the great part of it is that you can start generating targeted traffic immediately upon activating your campaign. Also, with PPC marketing, you can select highly targeted keywords and terms and only have your ad show up if someone types in that keyword or term in the search box….talk about highly targeted advertising! Setting up a paid search campaign can be complicated, and expensive if not done correctly…..luckily, Google has created a quick and easy way to get started with Adwords with it's new service called Adwords Express.
Microsoft, through their search engine Bing, also offers similar Pay Per Click marketing, though I find the interface more difficult to work with. If you spend the time though, you can often get clicks cheaper on Bing than on Google as their is less competition for keywords.
Display Advertising. Display advertising is creating image based advertisements that appear on websites where people can click on the image and go to the website associated with that image. Think banner ads you see on many popular websites like Inc.com or Yahoo.com. While these are considered display advertisements, what i'm talking mostly for small business owners is Facebook advertising. When you're on your Facebook page, you'll notice on the left or right hand side, a few small square images with some text underneath…..those are Facebook ads. Occassionaly you'll see bigger ones, but the majority are little square ads. The nice thing with Facebook ads is that they blend in with the rest of the page, often people don't realize they're actual ads. Also, you only have to pay Facebook when someone actually clicks on the image, regardless of how many times your ad is displayed.
You also have the ability to target your ads based on city, gender, marital status, and a host of other criteria, which is great if you have a very niche audience. Though slightly less efficient than Pay Per Click marketing, Facebook ads are a great way to reach a targeted audience. To learn more about setting up a Facebook advertising campaign, check out this Facebook guide from Copyblogger.
Getting your website found online takes time
Though it does take time and effort, the above techniques can all help you get your business found online. For the longer term, focus on Search Engine Optimization (PPC) and for the shorter-medium term, consider using paid advertising methods so you can start getting targeted traffic to your website today. I personally use all of the above techniques myself and find having a balance between free and paid methods works great for me. Have questions? Contact me here, I answer every email.
photo credit: marciookabe