As a small business owner, I have always been conscious of the importance of marketing and advertising. What I didn't realize was how different marketing and advertising strategy can be in the online world. Over the past year, I have put more effort into building a true online presence. It's been challenging to find the time to apply the things I have learned, but my efforts have certainly paid off. I have increased sales by 250% over the past twelve months, with most of my leads coming through my website. To make things a little bit simpler for other small business owners, I would like to share some of the things I have learned along the way. By following these steps, you can gain the search engine visibility that your business deserves. Most small businesses service a relatively small geographical area. In order to capture search engine rankings for your business, you have to make an effort to associate your business with your location. While this can be a time-consuming process, it is well worth the effort. Remember, when it comes to local search, your location is your brand.
1. Build a decent website.
In order to convey trust and authority in your industry, your website must have a clean design with meaningful content. Be sure your site is not built in Flash, as search engine crawlers cannot understand and interpret Flash. A simple html site will do the trick. Use a normalized address format, and be sure to include it on your site in plain text. The format should be the same as a typical mailing address. Include your address on every page of your website, preferably in a position that is prominent on each page. Be sure to use unique content, as opposed to marketing materials provided to you by your suppliers. The search engines do not like duplicate content. Try to create a website that will provide a valuable, informative experience for your users. Have a clear and concise contact page with directions to your office. You can even embed Google Maps in your page.
2. Optimize your content.
With billions of websites on the internet today, you have to find a way to make your website stand apart from the others. This is especially important for small business owners with a focus on a particular geographic location. There are literally thousands of websites about mortgage insurance, but very few that focus on mortgage insurance in your-city-name. Be sure to include your location in your page titles, along with your other business-related keywords. For example, your homepage should be titled "City Name Mortgage Insurance" as opposed to "Company Name Insurance". Be sure to give each page of your site a unique title and meta description.
3. Get local links.
This is the cornerstone of search engine rankings. It's all about the links! To start, go out and purchase some quality directory links. Yahoo Directory, Best of the Web, and Business.com are good starting points. Then go out and ask all of your suppliers and partners to link to your site. Try to have them link to you with the terms you would like to rank for. The clickable part of a link is called anchor text, and anchor text is one way that the search engines associate a website with a particular search term. If you are a plumbing contractor in Dearborn, Michigan, ask your partners link to you with those words as opposed to your business name. Register your site with Google Local. This will ensure that a Google Maps listing shows up when somebody searches for your business. You can also create coupons with Google Local, so why not offer your customers a discount for discovering your business online? Don't forget about traditional Yellow Pages directory advertising!
4. Try Pay-Per-Click Advertising.
Organic search engine optimization requires real dedication. In order to achieve meaningful results, you have to invest time and effort into your website. If you are looking for immediate and quantifiable results, Pay Per Click advertising may be right for you. Google Adwords, Yahoo Sponsored Search, and MSN Adcenter are excellent places to advertise your products and services online. In order to avoid spending more than you have to, be sure to target your ad campaigns to your specific geographic area. Start with a small list of keywords, and set a small daily budget until you get the hang of PPC. Google also offers a Click-to-Call advertising solution that will connect users with your business via the telephone.
Jacob Davidson is happy to share his new found knowledge of search engine marketing with other small business owners. When he is not trying to stay abreast of the latest marketing and advertising techniques, he spends his time exploring the business yellow pages looking for new online advertising solutions. Nobody said being an entrepreneur is easy :)