If you’re starting up a business of your own or are already running your own enterprise, it’s vital that you establish yourself online. Having a strong presence on the Internet (including not only the web but also social media sites and the search engines) is vitally important in modern commerce.
Based on statistics gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics a large number of businesses are currently lacking even the most basic web presence. The (ABS) annual Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business survey reveals that 91.9% of Australian businesses had internet access, but less than half (44.6%) had an online presence. Just based on these 2 bits of information, you should be able to see how important – and how advantageous – it can be to invest the necessary time and money into putting your business online.
SEO (search engine optimisation) is a way to make your business easier to find and more visible on the major search engines, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Virtually any successful online marketing strategy you adopt will include a generous helping of SEO work.
1. Get Started With Webmaster Tools From Google And Bing
Provided you’ve already established a website, you’ll need to gather data on exactly who is visiting your site and how. The way to do this is using the free webmaster tools available from Bing and Google.
Submitting your site’s sitemap to these services is the best way to make sure they fully index the content you’re already offering. It will also make it easier for them to find and share content you post in the future.
If you’re feeling like you’re already coming close to your limit of understanding, don’t worry. What follows is a step-by-step guide that will show you exactly what to do to get the most out webmaster tools. If you use these straightforward configurations, you’ll find that both Google and Bing can give you a wealth of information on your users.
Email notification: You should enable this so that search engines are allowed to contact you. Reasons they might notify you include serious problems (like site inaccessibility or hostile malware) that you’ll need to correct as soon as possible.
Preferred domain: The search engines process web addresses with great precision. www.samplesite.com and http://samplesite.com are two distinct and separate entities in the eyes of Google. Choosing a preferred format and sticking with it (both in webmaster tools and your blogging software) will ensure consistency and completeness of data. If you, like many website operators, use WordPress, setting your preferred URL is simple. Just access “WordPress address” under “general” in the “settings” menu.
Read your crawl errors report: Once your site is registered, one piece of information webmaster tools will give you is a report on crawl errors. These are portions of your site the search engines failed to index automatically. By reviewing the details presented here, you can determine whether or not the search engines are missing important information that would make your site easier to find.
2. Get Onto Google Analytics
Webmaster tools give you a decent impression of how your site is performing from the perspective of the search engines. Google Analytics, on the other hand, is a key tool for learning about how your actual visitors interact with your site. If you want to improve user experience, deliver better content, and get repeat visitors, information from Analytics is vitally important.
The wealth of information Analytics provides can be initially overwhelming, but it’s surprisingly easy to master. There are other guides available that can give you an in-depth rundown on using this tool, but for now here’s a basic list of what you can (and should!) learn from Google Analytics:
- Traffic sources – where your visitors come from
- Keywords – search terms visitors use to find your site
- Most Landed-on page – where the majority of your visitors start
- Most popular exit page – where most visitors leave
- Most popular pages overall – what excites the most interest from visitors
3. Sign Your Business Up For Google MyBusiness
Assuming you have a physical real-world presence, one primary goal of your online marketing efforts will be to encourage potential customers to come and visit you. A Google MyBusiness account is an excellent tool for furthering that goal. There are numerous benefits which include:
Easy start-up: MyBusiness doesn’t require any special knowledge to get started but can be optimised to present the best results for people searching for your products or services
Easy local SEO: Google will prioritise your business when people run regional searches. For instance, if you own a Gold Coast-based restaurant, people who search for “Gold Coast Restaurants” will see a link to your website grouped with other Places sites, separate from ordinary search results.
Doesn’t require a website: Even if you haven’t gotten your website online yet, Places will allow you to pass along vital information to potential customers, such as location, hours, and phone numbers.
Links with Google Maps: Registering with Places allows you to control the same information used for searches through Google Maps. Given how popular Maps searches have become, especially through smartphones, this is an extremely important step.
Customer Interaction: MyBusiness supports customer reviews. Once you’ve registered your business, you can respond to customer feedback directly.
4. Tweak Your Pages’ Titles And Descriptions
You need to make sure that the titles and descriptions for your main page and your subordinate pages are informative. If you’re targeting specific keywords as search terms, this is an excellent place to include them. By making descriptions and titles accurate, you can both improve your search rankings and also provide visitors with helpful information.
5. Create And Maintain Solid Internal Links
For a small business, the primary focus of your SEO efforts should be to achieve strong search engine rankings for a few well-chosen keywords that are accurate descriptions of the products and/or services you provide.
A good way to boost your site’s performance on these critical keywords is to make sure that they appear in the anchor text you use for internal links within your site. This is easy to set up. Say your business is still a restaurant in New Orleans. You decide that you want to be well-ranked when people search for “cajun cooking.” If you embed a link from your main page to another page on your site that contains the term “cajun cooking,” the search engines will note that your site has content relevant to that term. They’ll boost your ranking accordingly, making you easier to find.
6. Discover which social media platform works for you
Chief in importance for startups is social media marketing, a subset of digital marketing. A well run social media promotion can raise awareness of your products and services to the local market much faster than traditional methods.
If you decide not to bring in professional consultants to run your social media campaign, then you should choose one social media platform that fits your target market (Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) and focus your efforts there. The highest level of success is reserved for those who interact with their audience and produce quality niche content of interest that uniquely ties into your main business website.
7. Develop content with search engines in mind
The common advice that one should “write with their audience in mind” still holds firm, but don’t forget that the search engines that bring searchers to your website are an integral part of that audience. In the example of a startup or a small business owner, this means three key points to capitalize upon.
Content should be king of your website — Watch what keywords people are using to find your business and use those keywords (Hint: Google has a keyword tool for just this purpose) to create unique but relevant content. Don’t limit your content either, it can be in many forms (video, infographic, images, presentations, audio clips, podcasts, and so on) but you should always accompany such content with a text explanation.
Keep things simple, or timeless, rather than fancy and “robust” — It is common enough that small businesses or startups will often create these sprawling fancy websites filled with images and videos and such. The issue there, is that extra care must be taken to prevent such websites from being slow to render or to get their search engine mileage out of them. This combination of strikes makes such websites neither good for the customer, nor good for search engine optimization.
The Structural design of your site matters — Navigation should be fast and easy, this can be achieved by grouping your content into relevant categories. A good metric to test if your content is easily navigable is that it should take three clicks or less to find something on your website.
8. Invoke Google authorship and Google+ for business
Google authorship lets you connect your personal Google+ profile with content you publish (to protect it from being taken and used elsehwere) while also allowing you to do the same with your Google+ for business profile and your business website. There are a plethora of benefits to this setup, such as:
It is great for search engine optimisation — Google authorship implicitly increases your website trust factor, since all of the content has a verified author, which is very important for gaining SEO rank.
It increases your CTR (click-through-rate) — People looking for authoritative information on a subject are much more likely to click on, and trust, a link with a verified author.
It’s also good for your customer service — Your Google+ business page provides a platform for interacting with your customers and gives you a portal to offer the best customer service possible.
9. Define why your website exists
Consider the reason your website exists; it’s purpose. Aside from exposure, what are the actual objectives of the site? When someone lands upon your website, what is it they should do, ideally?
- Join your newsletter mailing list?
- Order something via an order form?
- Follow you on Facebook?
- Actually buy your product?
- Check out the services you have on offer?
If you answer the above questions honestly, you will have a reasonable understanding of how your website can convert traffic to achieve a goal. For example, if your goal is to increase your newsletter subscriber numbers, maybe your registration button should be prominently placed on each page of the site.
10. Invest in SEO
Do you think the above search engine tips are out of your reach, time, or knowledge? If such is the case, you can consider outsourcing SEO to professionals who make such concerns their full time job. Given the competitiveness of today’s marketplace, it is integral to a solid business strategy to have a web presence, and the only way to do that is to keep it in-house or pay someone else to do it.
If you don’t yet feel SEO is worth it, open Google and look up a competitor in your field. If you found them easily, you’re already losing, and if not, you have a golden chance to leave them in your dust.
How much investment is needed to see returns?
SEO in and of itself isn’t expensive, despite industry pundits claiming otherwise. IF you keep your SEO contractor small, like your business or startup, you can expect professional results with an investment of less than $1000 a month. That being said, if you buy into the big name branded companies in SEO, you will end up paying for that brand recognition; in our opinion there is only so much SEO one can do before redundancy sets in.
If you feel you don’t need a lot of work done but want to ensure good results, you can hire an SEO consultant. These consultants work by the hour and can be terminated at any point but stay clear from Fiverr gigs promising the world. Remember if it sounds to good to be true it usually is.