It can seem overwhelming
It’s a story we hear all the time – small business owners know that they need to be online to compete, so they hire someone to build a website, and then forget about it. A month or two later, they suddenly realize they’re not seeing any concrete results from their website and wonder what happened.
If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. There’s a common misconception among the general public that once you create a website, you’re all done – that it will just sit on the internet and collect customers for you. Unfortunately for small businesses everywhere, it’s not so simple.
There’s a whole industry based around helping businesses get their websites to rank well in search engines and attract customers. Of course you can pay marketing agencies to do all this stuff for you, but many small business owners want to do as much as they can themselves. If you dive into this world as an amateur marketer, all the talk about analytics and algorithms can seem totally overwhelming. It can be difficult to even know where to start.
But don’t despair! All those articles you read on SEO and marketing blogs are advanced concepts meant to gain tiny little advantages over the competition. If you’re just starting out, here are 3 concrete tasks you can work on right now that will help your website rank better for important keywords and help you earn more business.
1. Manage your citations
Citations are the stumbling block that trips up a huge number of small businesses taking their first steps online. They’re a critical part of SEO that most amateurs overlook, and getting your citations straight can be the difference between ranking in the local 3 pack and disappearing into Google obscurity. So what’s the deal?
Citations are references to your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) found anywhere on the web. Google and other search engines use these references to your NAP to establish that you are who you say you are. It’s a trust signal – if your company’s information is the same everywhere it appears on the internet, on independent websites that you don’t control, search engines will feel more comfortable recommending you.
The issue comes in when your NAP is not consistent everywhere that it appears. Small differences in the way that addresses are formatted can cause problems, and if your business has ever moved it’s likely that you have totally different addresses listed somewhere online.
The goal here is to track down every mention of your business that you can find online and make sure that your NAP is consistent. If you find any that are incorrect, you need to change them yourself (if possible) or contact the person running the site to ask them to change it for you. Once you have them consistent, check on them from time to time. You have a much better chance of being recommended as a local search result if your citations are all correct.
2. Create content
It’s a simple fact that content is one of the most important ranking factors for Google and other search engines. This means that if you want your website to rank well for keywords related to your business, your website needs to include content that is relevant to those keywords. But what does this mean, exactly?
Content is how search engines determine what your website is about – they use programs that analyze the text on your website and assign your website to a category based on what they find. The important thing to remember, though, is that Google and other search engines always want to deliver the most relevant and useful results to searchers, so if you want them to deliver your site, you need to make it the most relevant option.
The way you do this is by creating great, relevant content, and lots of it. The most common way that small business owners choose to do this is by writing a blog about their work, but landing pages are another valid option. Whatever you choose, you should regularly add new content to your website that will help to establish you as an expert in your industry.
If you’re stuck for what to write about, we’ve written several other posts suggesting types of content that might work well for you.
3. Build links
Other than website content, the most important factor in determining your ranking in Google is the number and quality of links from other websites pointing at your website. Google uses these links as a signal of quality – they reason that if all of these other people are recommending your website, it will be safe for them to recommend as well.
The most effective way for small businesses to build quality links to their websites is to hire a marketing company to handle this topic for them, but if you want to do it for yourself you need to be prepared to spend some time on it. Link building is primarily done by simply reaching out to people who run other websites and asking them to link to you.
We’ve written a guide to getting started with link building, but basically you want to scour the web for people who might have any reason to talk about you and your business or who might want to link to one of your blog posts, and then reaching out to them. This takes a lot of time, and you probably won’t have a very high success rate at first, but it’s important. Every link you earn makes your website’s ranking position that much stronger.
Don’t get overwhelmed
With so much to do, managing your own online presence can be daunting, but these three things I’ve outlined here are all things that you can work on when you have a little extra time – and they’ll all pay big dividends down the road.
If you’ve struggled with online marketing for your small business, what was the biggest stumbling block for you? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on Twitter.