On the internet, everything and everyone is “SEO” big and “SEO” complicated. It feels like you are always getting sand kicked in your face by the internet bullies. How do you, as a small business owner, Buff Up so you can compete against the Bullies in the Internet Beach? Even if you could, where do you find the time? You have a business to run.
First thing to realize is that the internet can level the playing field, a lot. In the internet world, if you act big, perform big and follow through like you are big, people will think you are big. It’s not easy. You still have to work hard at it and don’t let anyone tell you different. But its not rocket science either. With a little help you can do most of it yourself.
Next, all of your competitors, large or small, have been buffing up (have a web presence) for some time now, so you need to head on over to the “Internet Gym” and get some good workouts in. They know that their websites have worked for them in some pretty powerful ways. They may be getting half or more of their revenue through web conversions or leads. You need to know that if you work hard at it, it can significantly increase your bottom line. This is huge and if you aren’t in the game, you are missing out on serious opportunities.
In addition to the potential revenue rewards of a website, serious web entrepreneurs know that if they have buffed up, their websites can do part of the heavy lifting for them. Your website can be like an additional employee (or 2) for you – answering questions, giving detailed descriptions and taking orders – day and night. Create a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) that answer customer’s questions without phone call or emails and continue to add to them based on customer queries. Make sure it is in conspicuous locations on your website. Formulate unique, detailed product or service descriptions, with good pictures. Have a good shopping cart system that moves customers through the order or lead process efficiently and quickly. Use available free tools that track your visitors so you know how they are finding you and how the search engines view your site. Make site adjustments based on these statistics.
Remember, that unlike a brick and mortar store, few customers will come in the front door. Because search engines index (file in their databases) and rank pages, not sites, customers will enter at many different places in your website based upon their search engine query. So you need to be sure that all of your pages have been optimized to appear as highly as possible in the search engines. This makes your entire site available for a broader range of search terms. Be sure you have good “signage” (navigation and links to related products/services) so people can find their way around your website.
Search Engines rule the world. If they like you (your web pages meet their secret ranking formulas), they will lead you (show your site) to people they know (searchers). If you have written compelling copy, the searchers click. Bingo! We have a match!
Search Engine Ranking isn’t everything, but it is the First Thing. First you have to rank high so people can find you. If search engines can’t find you, then people can’t find you and you don’t exist! Competition is fierce, so be sure you follow good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices so you have the best chance to rank high against your competitors. This is where keyword discovery comes in. You need to find out how your potential customers are searching for you. The keywords and search terms you formulate may or may not be the ones that most of the customers use to find you. You could be losing out on a lot of traffic, or expending time and energy on non-converting keywords. Once you determine the most highly profitable keywords, you need to optimize your pages for those keywords by writing compelling, unique content that uses one or two of those keywords per page. Internet bullies are doing this and you should also, if you want people to find you.
Ranking high in the search engines can take time and that is only half the battle. Once people find you, how do you get them to click on your listing among all the other results? This goes back to the basics of writing compelling copy with a call to action and your unique value proposition. People will be much more likely to click on a listing if they see words relevant to their search in the title, the description and in the URL (web address). You can’t miss this chance to tell them why they should click on you rather than all the other listings.
Get Local. Maybe you can be the bully in your own gym. If your niche is local, make sure you claim your business in Google Maps and the new Google Local Business Center. Google has been making huge strides in showing local search results, even for broad search queries. Make sure your address and phone number is on every page. By the way, be sure your website URL is on all your emails, business cards, invoices and letterheads. Talk about your website with everyone you know.
Get links. Find out where other bullies get their links and try to get links from the same websites. Get links from industry associations and other highly trusted sties. Links make the internet world go around and good links back to your site shows that you have trust and relevance, so you will rank better.
Use the tools that God gave you. Well, errr, maybe Google, Yahoo and MSN, anyway. And these are free tools. All three have a “webmaster” area that shows how their search engine views your site and gives you information on errors and statistic that you can help you in the process. In addition you should submit a Sitemap (specifically designed for search engines) to each of these engines that helps them find all of your pages. And don’t forget an HTML sitemap on your site that helps both customers and search engines.
If you are still feeling small, get a trainer to help you. Sometimes it is hard to know the proper exercises to get yourself buffed up. There are SEO companies out there that can help. They can save you time and effort that you don’t have. Kinda like buffing up while sitting on your couch, watching TV. Now that’s my idea of Buff! Except that it really works. It’s important to remember that SEO companies do not control search results and therefore can’t guarantee anything. Instead they can take specific actions to create the best chances of ranking well amongst the hundreds or thousands of other sites. They can take a sagging or under-performing website and add new life to it.
So, get yourself to the gym and buff up your bottom line. You’ll even feel bigger, really!
The Web Doctor • Salem, Oregon
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