Search Engine Optimization (SEO) begins with your domain name and continues through to your personal interactions with real-world customers. Search engines are becoming smarter and they are taking priority cues from social media, location specific data, and business directories. Sure, tags and titles are important, but they’re easy to fix or implement as needed. Many of the most important and long-lasting elements of SEO have to do with the relationships and connections a small business develops over time. Here are five of the most essential steps that any small business must take to improve their search rankings.
First: Get A Keyword Domain Name
Only your current customers know the name of your business, and many of them will forget it as soon as they leave your parking lot. In addition to registering the domain for your business name, be sure to get an optimized domain too. For example, anyone that types ‘Bob’s Appliance Repair’ into their search box probably knows Bob already. Instead, more people are simply searching for an appliance repair shop that is close to them. If Bob is in Miami, he should try to get a domain like MiamiApplianceRepair.com or ApplianceRepairMiami.com. This will drive more customers to his site because the name matches with the search terms that are being used. Vanity sites are great for big brands like McDonalds and Pepsi which are well known already, but small businesses need to focus on high traffic search terms and local customers.
Second: Create A Website
Far too many businesses try to get by with nothing more than a free social media account. They drive all their traffic to the company Facebook, Twitter, or Google + page. The problem is that you don’t own these sites and have no control over the user experience once someone arrives there. What happens to your business if your social media account is closed for some reason, or if the company behind it goes out of business? What if a future update to this social network breaks the features that made your company profitable? There is nothing you can do about it and no way to recover the investment you made building that page.
Instead, you should have your own website. Even if it’s a very basic site, you can build it out later if you need to. The absolute minimum you should do is create a free website with one of the many website creators like WordPress.com or Weebly.com. For a small fee, you can then direct traffic from you new domain to one of these sites. In the future, if you want to switch services or upgrade your site you just need to point that domain to your new site. It’s a low-cost and low-tech way to get started with your own website.
Third: Connect With Social Media
Now that you have an optimized domain name and a website to receive visitors, it’s time to start connecting with your customers using social media. When you’re starting out it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the social media networks available. It’s a good idea to setup accounts with the big four: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Depending on your customer base, you may want to setup accounts on a few niche social networks as well. Sites like, LinkedIn, Flickr, Bebo, and Academia are just a few of the thousands of niche social networks available. However, you don’t need to be active on all these social networks. The idea is to be available wherever your customers socialize.
Begin by creating your account and setting up a profile on several social networks. Be sure that all your contact information is correct and identical for every account. Then, you can try posting linkes to content and being active on one or more of the social networks. Make some friends, post some links, share some photos. Spread your time between the various networks you’re involved in, but feel free to reduce your involvement in a less active network in favor of a more active one. If you find that most of your customers are interacting with you on Pinterest and not Twitter, it’s alright to spend less time on Twitter. Having your profile up to date with your most accurate contact information means that customers can always find you on your website or by calling your phone if they don’t get a prompt reply using social media.
Fourth: Update Your Listings
You business contact information is not only stored on your website and social media accounts, it’s also in a wide array of business directories. Some of these include Angie’s List, Yelp, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and many others. Anywhere your business can be listed, it should be. Your job is to spend some time every week creating and updating these listings. Every one of those listings needs to have your correct business contact information. This includes your name, address, phone number, and website address. By doing this regularly, over time you will see an improvement in your site’s search rankings. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of business directories that exist on the internet, but this is not a job that should be done in one day. Rather, you should plan to spend 30 minutes every week creating and updating your business directory listings.
Fifth: Promote Your Website
Another common mistake that businesses make is to section off their online marketing from their offline marketing. These two areas should be united to promote your business everywhere. Your business cards should have your website address and maybe a QR code that links to a page with all your contact information. This page could include the usual, name, address, and phone number, but it can also have links to all your social media profiles, popular blog posts, and photos of your employees. Online, you need to make your business feel more personal by including photos and stories about your company, it’s products, and the employees that keep it running. Offline, you need to let people know that your company is there to help in any way you can through your social media accounts, email, online chat, using your website, or even by phone if they want to talk with a real person.