Ten Tips For Better Small Business Search Rankings
Small Changes Can Produce Big Benefits
Mac has a small 'craft' soap company he calls Soapy Sales. He makes high quality cleansing bars with luxurious scents his customers love. Many of his customers buy his soap for gift giving rather than personal use, however, because it is pricier than mass-produced soaps. Mac sells his soap at craft sales, farmer's markets and recently, has bought a website from a reputable web design company to market his products to a wider audience. At first, Mac was excited about the prospects of having a website. He realized with this window to the world, instead of reaching hundreds of people with his marketing efforts, he could reach millions, maybe even billions.
Striking a balance
Although Mac rightly insisted on keeping control of the reins on his website, he knew web design was something he knew nothing about. That was why he left many aspects up to the professionals. Mac, however, was wise enough to ensure the site was set up by experts who could teach him how to maintain his own pages once it went live on the Internet. He knew full well he didn't have time to learn how to build the site but felt he could spare the time to keep it up on his own.
That first Google search
To see how his website was doing, Mac 'googled' the word 'soap'. To his surprise, none of the first set of 'hits' of the 22,400,000 he encountered, had anything to do with soap as he understood it, other than paid advertisers. He knew he'll never beat out those Olay people but was shocked that most listings for soap had nothing to do with, well... soap. He found lots of stuff about "Simple Object Access Protocol" and even information on an old sit-com, but as far as personal hygiene products, not so much. He never did find his site listed, it was buried too deeply.
Unfortunately, Mac failed to grasp one of the essential truths about a website. It is only as effective as the promotional and marketing efforts that go into it. As well, Mac didn't grasp that ranking in search engines doesn't just happen. Effective search engine optimizing is an ongoing activity, not something you do once and walk away. What Mac also didn't know was what he could do to improve his positioning and increase the promotion of his products. Here are ten tips to help Mac maximize the potential reach of his website and sell more soap.
Ensure your professionally designed website can be updated often.
Just as the mantra of real estate sales is 'location, location, location', the SEO version is 'Update, update, update.' Google's web-crawling spider-bots, much like squeegee kids, love change. If they get bored, (the bots not the squeegee kids) they won't return to your site and your rankings will be hurt. Also, the chances are that if the bots find you boring, so will your human visitors. Embrace change!
Insist on your website having a blog page.
One thing Mac has that the masses do not, is expertise in soap manufacturing. A blog is a great way for Mac to share that expertise and establish himself as an authority. If the blogs are interesting and well promoted, they will get read and people will more likely believe in his expertise,,, as well as his contention that his soap is superior. Also of equal importance is that writing regular blogs is an easy way to have something new on your site on an ongoing basis. (Remember Rule Number 1!)
Engage with Social Media as much as time will allow.
Mac believes there are few enough hours in a day as it is and therefore none to spare for the time commitment social media sites demand. In this view, he is as incorrect as when he thought soap with the aroma of runny cheese might sell. Social media is his surest bet to promote his product and increase sales. How else can he tell people around the world what great soap he has and where to find his website? The reality is that a website may be Mac's best marketing vehicle, but social media is the engine that runs it.
Have a photo gallery on your site.
People love the visual impact that photographs and other graphics provide. On websites, pictures paint far more than just a thousand words. As well, much like having a blog system, a photo gallery is a fast, simple and effective way to make changes to your website to attract Google's algorithmic army. Pictures of healthy, attractive men and women would probably work quite nicely for Mac.
Include links to sites from which your customers will get good value.
Another SEO technique is to link your site to other sites with information of interest to soap-minded people, such as, 'The History of Soap', 'How to Make Your Own Soap' or 'The Latest Fad; Living Life Soap and Shampoo Free'. The goal is to get other sites to link to yours because of the quality content.
Prioritize your site's landing page and contact page.
All of Mac's webpages are important, of course, but two are paramount. Number one is the page visitors will see first; the landing page with the offers his marketing thrust use as 'bait' to attract customers. The second is the page that allows his customers to contact him. It is vital for Mac to realize that any links, content or pages that aren't directly supportive of the landing page offers or that doesn't directly urge visitors to go to the contact page are a distraction to the customer and counter-productive to capturing leads.
Avoid features that slow the response time of your site.
When Mac accidently found Soap, the TV show, on Google, he thought it might be funny to feature a video snippet of the program for his site. Unfortunately, features such as video tend to slow down how quickly a webpage can load. The slower the load time, the worse your SEO.
Use Tags to Influence your SEO.
For our friend, Mac, it is imperative his tags, titles and text are directly geared to shout 'GREAT SOAP FOR SALE!' It is equally important, however, not to overdo it as Google will penalize Mac if he tries to use the word 'soap' too often. Knowing how much is enough or more than enough is vital.
Employ the strength of others in areas you're weak.
Given the lack of spare time Mac has to spare for marketing, it is simply smart business to outsource the aspects of his website he lacks expertise in. Whether it is in the design of the site, writing the text and blogs or enhancing search optimization, there is no point in Mac wasting hours doing what a professional can accomplish in minutes. This is an area where a 'do-it-yourself' mindset may be the entirely wrong approach.
Give visitors a reason to bookmark your site and return often. In Mac's case, having ongoing promotions on certain aromas, printable coupons and feedback tools might increase revisit rates. One example of the latter could be a poll regarding what new scents to offer next. This would encourage customers to contact you with their email address which in cyberspace is worth real money as it allows you to identify individuals who are your best target market.
Thanks to Mac slowly, but regularly updating his site to reflect these ten tips, he has finally begun ranking on Google where he can actually see his site's link and monitor the effects of any other tweaks he makes. He may never make page one for just the word 'soap' but then again, neither did Dial, or Zest or Irish Spring. When, however, he googled 'hand made craft soap', he found himself ahead of those other guys because he narrowed his focus and helped his potential customers find him.