Every small business owner needs a solid marketing plan. Traditionally, radio ads, billboards, magazine spreads and phone books were the places to be. However, those days are long gone. Digital marketing is now the No. 1 marketing strategy businesses should focus on in this age of mobile internet searches.
Think about it, what is the first thing you do when you are searching for a new doctor, hairstylist or restaurant? You search Google. So you should probably make sure that you are giving your business every opportunity to show up there too.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is not an easy process. It takes a lot of dedication and patience to get your business showing up in the top of the search results for relevant phrases. But when done right, the benefits can be huge.
While it takes a lot of effort and likely the help of your web developers, there are several things that you can do on your own to give your business a great foundation for getting found in the search results.
1. Claim your Google My Business listing.
Every business needs a Google My Business listing. This is how you show up on Google maps and in the little "map pack" of businesses with star ratings. This is the new Yellow Pages and it's the first place that consumers go to when searching for a new service.
If you're not sure how to get started on this, Google has a great support site that can point you in the right direction. Go there to get started on claiming or creating your Google My Business listing.
Google My Business allows you to input information about your business that helps customers find you and get to know more about you before making a purchase. Here's a list of things you absolutely want to make sure you have on your listing:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Hours (including any special holiday hours)
2. Get and respond to reviews on Google.
This goes hand in hand with your Google My Business listing. Reviews are so important for any small business, especially if you're new to an area or trying to gain new leads over your competitors. But how can you get customers to leave reviews?
The best way to get customers to leave you reviews, short of paying for a reputation management solution, is to simply invite them to do so. Happy customers don't often think to leave reviews, and mad customers are all too happy to give their input on a public platform. So, when you have a customer that is just raving about how wonderful their experience is with your business, ask them if they'd be willing to leave a review for you on Google. The worst that can happen is they say no, and now you've planted that seed so the next time they're online, they could very well leave you a positive review.
The next step with reviews after getting them is responding to them. When you set up a Google My Business listing, you have access to log in, which allows you to respond to all of the reviews you receive. It's important to respond to all reviews, both negative and positive. Give the positive reviews a brief thank you response while taking your time to respond to the negative reviews. For negative reviews, respond in a polite and professional manner even if you can't believe what you just read.
One thing to keep in mind too is that it's not bad to get some bad reviews. This helps you look human and not like you’ve spammed a five-star rating with gamed reviews.
3. Create more online directory listings.
You have a Google My Business listing, but there are other websites you can create listings on for free. These listings, commonly called citations in the SEO world, give your business more credibility, as Google sees your business information verified by multiple sources. The more of these listings you have, the better.
It is important to note that as you create these listings, make sure that at least the business name, address and phone number (also called NAP) are exactly the same on all of them. Any inconsistencies can hurt you more than they help you. That means if you have the LLC at the end of your business name on Google, you need to make sure it's on all of your online listings.
Here are some of the bigger online directory listings that you should definitely be listed on:
4. Set up on-page signals.
There are several on-page signals that Google looks for to help give users the right information in the search results. Depending on the content management system (CMS) your website is built on, you may or may not need your web developer's help with this one. If you do have a simplified CMS, you can usually log into your website and find a field on each page for these items.
- Page title
- Meta description
- Body content
- Image alt text
In each of these areas on any given page of your website, you can add relevant phrases to help Google see what the page is about.
For example, if you are a landscaper and you have a page about landscape design, you could include that phrase in each of these areas to help give your web page a good foundation for being found in the search results. Just make sure all of the placements of your searchable phrases look and feel very natural. Spammy keyword placements aren't good for Google or your customers' experience.
5. Write a blog.
Google loves to see fresh new content on your website. Find someone in your company who can commit to producing content on your website's blog once or twice a month. Beyond the good signals that writing new content sends to Google, some other advantages of writing a blog include providing valuable insight to customers, producing shareable content for your social media channels and providing more opportunities for other websites to link to your content.
Here are some great ideas that you can use to produce content on your blog:
- Helpful articles with DIY tips relevant to your business
- How-to videos
- Your company’s community involvement
- Upcoming events
Even if all you do are these five simple tips, you’ll be ahead of the majority of your competition. SEO doesn't stop there. A lot more goes into it, and a digital marketing specialist can help you get to where you want to be.