The joy of having a small to mid-size business is you can typically turn things around very rapidly. This is both a blessing and a curse. All too often lately we have seen many businesses that are hurting themselves as they rush into the search engine optimization (SEO) business. Whether they jump in blind, read an article, watch a YouTube video or promote someone from within that is their “techy” expert. Businesses are truly starting to realize the importance of SEO. The part they’re missing is the coming up with a solid plan of attack that works for their business.
We are finding that many of the executives that we are talking with believe there is a single magical formula that will garner the best SEO results for everyone. This truly is not the case as each business is unique and different. This goes for national chains as well as a single person retail shop. The community a business is in will determine many aspects of a business. Whether you are downtown, uptown, home run or off the beaten path your community will determine your overall success. SEO is the same way. There may not be a downtown location on the internet but there is the search engines as a point of entry for all websites on the internet to be found on.
You can no longer copy your competitor’s keywords and overall design and hope to achieve the same results. When a customer asks us to do this we get into some interesting conversations about why they merely want to copy their competition. We find out that they offer many advantages to their competition. This is your selling points that distinguish your business from them. We do ask every customer who their competition is as it gives us a baseline for every project to work from but that is where we stop. Once we know a companies’ competitors we start inquiring about all of their differences, what makes them unique, what makes them better, etc. If are 100% the same as your competitor, offer the exact same product and services as they do you can’t ever expect to be better than your competition.
Unfortunately many executives try to do just that. Be exactly like there competition without selling who they are. This can lead to a misguided SEO strategy with the chance of success very unlikely. SEO is a very highly personalized experience that takes not only time, but patience. You can’t expect instant results and thinking you can get instant results in a day, week or month you are only setting yourself up for failure.
Your SEO strategy needs to be customized for you. What works for one may (most likely may not) work for you. Your SEO strategy should be customized for specific business goals and objectives. The preparation, or lack of, can be the difference between first page results or search engine oblivion where you appear on page 2+ or fall completely off the search engine charts because you just started doing things in hopes they work. The shotgun approach rarely works and if it does it only works for a very short and limited time where you spend more time fixing your rush.
In an effort to help those that are doing this on their own and to help these mistakes from being made we have the following list. Our hopes are that you’ll become an SEO rock star and be able to do everything yourself without any issues. For those that don’t become SEO rock stars, or decide that their time is better spent running their business we want to make certain that you have a solid foundation started and that you don’t lose any traction when you decide to have someone help you with your SEO strategy.
As more people move to using mobile devices, as well as desktop and tablet browsers start to use your latitude and longitude to determine the location you are at local search becomes extremely important. When you are logged into Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others they know where your “home” is in many instances as you provided that to them when you created your login which helps tailor the search results for you. The time and energy spent on local search can greatly help your business be successful. To better serve your local search you should make certain the following changes are done to your website as well as local search providers.
- Listing your business in relevant industry and geographical directories/listings
- Creating keywords that combine your company with your physical location (such as “restaurant” and “Chesterton”)
- Optimizing your company’s website for mobile
This area is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is you are able to communicate clearly with your potential and current customers in an almost real-time basis. The curse to this is we now live in a world of instant gratification and our customers want us to be diligent and communicate with them on a basis that is appropriate for our business. This engagement can be very time consuming and take us away from effectively running our business. Businesses will start using social media, have a beautiful site setup and then ignore it which can leave a negative feeling to customers.
By using social media you can quickly inform of new products and services, have fresh content, and important links to your company website to help draw people to you rather than your competitors. Speaking of your competitors this is one area you want to make certain you know what your competitors are doing. Are they on social media? If so, can you figure out what their strategy is? Are you on the right social media network? Facebook is important but is not the only game in town. You have LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and many others.
You should be refreshing your content often, informing others and not just selling, and have quality links with your quality content. It is often advantageous to start with one social media outlet and then grow from there. Rather than hitting every social media platform use the research you’ve gathered and start at the one where most of your clients are and as you continue to grow socially online expand to other social media outlets.
Your content is the king to your success for search engines. If you are on two social media sites and all you do is post the exact same thing everywhere you are actually hurting yourself.
All businesses know that one of the keys to having a great SEO-optimized website is having a large amount of well written, informational content that balances keyword usage with language and user experience. Smaller businesses that have naturally less-robust or more diminutive websites might see their content quantity as a disadvantage. What you can do is keep your main website fully up-to-date with the latest happenings, etc. through a blog post or other mechanism. Doing this will allow you to keep your main site current which will help in your search engine results. The key is make certain this is quality content. Then from each social media outlet you are on write an introduction explaining what the blog article is with a link to the full version. This not only gets the potential customer on your website but also allows you to track the number of people reading your articles. If they like the article they just read there is a good chance they’ll either read more blog postings you have or search your site and move from being a potential customer to being a customer.
Fresh Quality Content
Having stale and outdated content may get someone to your site once but you will not get them to continually come back to your site. It can be easy forgetting about your website and then wondering why you are not getting visitors to your site. You may be wondering why your webmaster is not doing anything for you. We always tell our customers that you should not think of your website as just a website. Your website should be considered an asset and employee of your company as it should work for 24x7 and communicate the exact message of who you are, what you do and why they should choose you over anyone else.
Thinking SEO will just “work” and doing nothing
We see time, time and again where you do a single submission to the search engines and you’re done. A search engine strategy is something that is long-term. This is a continuous process that is a commitment to not only your employee (e.g. website) but to the success of your business. This is a time consuming process and you need to stay actively involved in the process. Even if you do outsource to people that will do the labor intensive tasks so that you can run your business effectively they will need your guidance and should be asking you questions so that they can help you achieve your business goals and objectives.
Many times people are strictly focused on increasing the number of visitors on their website. They think that if I have 10 users now if I increase to 100, 200, 500, etc. that the money will start flowing in. This is not always the case. We wish it were as it would make SEO a very simple and non-complex art. Expect to work for your customers. They work hard for their money and want you to prove to them that you are the best for their hard earned money. Be prepared to be engaged with your potential customers for weeks, months, even years before a purchase is made. You will find that when they do decide to come to you, and you keep up your relationship with them, that you have a very loyal customer for your business.
In conclusion, don’t jump into search engine optimization. Take your time and make a plan that works for your business. Stay diligent and do not give up. You should be in this for the long haul for your businesses success as your customers are worth it! And do not take shortcuts as they will cost you more time (e.g. money) and have the potential of ruining your online reputation.