Starting out as a small business means that you have a limited budget, and want to make the best of it. Well the good news is that investment in online marketing has the number 1 ROI. An issues we see with a lot of companies however, is that even though they want to make that investment, there are hurdles as well as some misunderstandings to how online marketing and SEO works. If you are a complete beginner, try visiting this online marketing source as well as read this SEO blog to start getting yourself familiarized with different terms and some industry standards and practices.
Let’s start with our checklist:
-Get a website
Getting a good website might seem tricky to some. Do you hire an expensive web design company? Do you want to hire a cheap local designer or outsource to foreign developers?
These really depend on your industry, the competitiveness of your market, and how big is your target market in terms of online search demand. To determine those we will move on to our next item
The Google Analytics account will give you an insight into your current traffic, visitor behavior, source, and much more detailed information such as what pages visitors hit the most and what pages they exited from the most. You can install the Analytics code in the <head> section of you home page HTML file.
Next use the Keyword Tool in the Adwords account to find some keywords that you would expect online users to find your products or services with. For example “plumber orange county,” or “plumbers in Newport Beach.” This will give you an idea of how competitive that keyword is if you plan on advertising on a PPC basis with Google, but it will also give you a rough idea into how many monthly searches for that keyword you have. So if the search term for your city returned a “-“ that means that there is almost no online search demand for that keyword, and that you probably shouldn’t target it in your SEO efforts or PPC campaign.
-Create your web pages and website architecture based on the keywords you have found.
If you are a plumber, use best practices when creating your pages: instead of having a “Services” page, make it a “Plumbing Services” page. Try to use your keywords within the titles of your pages and make sure the navigation makes sense. When someone comes to your website, they should immediately know who you are, your services, and how to contact you.
- Put Contact Forms throughout your website where appropriate, and always have a phone number easily obtainable (unless you don’t want phone calls).
This is very simple actually, internet users are quick with their mouse clicks and don’t like spending too much time and effort. Don’t overdo it with the forms, but if you are a local business offering your services, it’s not too farfetched to have your contact form on every page, and your number at the top and end of the page.
-Use proper descriptive meta tags such as your title tag, description tag, etc.
For SEO purposes, you will have to tell the search engines a little more about your website and what you do. Most search engines will be able to gather that from the content on your site, but to best optimize it make sure you have those in place, the most important of which is the <title> tag. Now a word of caution: don’t overdo it. Don’t stuff your tags with your keywords as search engines are smarter than that and will just devalue your web page because it will appear too spammy.
-Local businesses should have their address on every page
For local keyword searches, such as “plumber orange county,” you will fare much better if you actually have your address on EVERY page. If you have more than one location it is also ok to put a couple of locations in the footer section. This is completely different than stuffing every city you service, not located in, on one page thinking it will do you any good. The search engines will just see that as a spam signal and go with other information on the page and make their own assumption about your location. If you truly have multiple physical locations, then create a separate web page for every location, and put your address into the newly recognized <address> HTML tag.
-Consider optimizing your content or adding a blog
You might think, well “what kind of blog can I set up if I’m an electrician, not a writer.” Depending on how competitive your local market is you may NOT have a choice. Search engines favor websites that have more content and are refreshed on a regular basis-these are just facts. If you have hired an SEO Company, they may do all that work for you. But since this article is aimed more at a “I’m on a budget and need to do the SEO myself” type, you will have to accept the fact that you need to learn how to write and put relevant and new content on your website.
-Find online directories that are local, free, and relevant to your industry
The only listings that have a really big impact is your local listing with Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Aside from that the rest of the directories are a long shot, and I wrote about online directories here, in a previous article. But as a hustling small business, you must do whatever it takes. There is a list of top ten local directories you can visit. Write up your company profile and add them to those free listings. Just beware that you will start getting sales calls from these directories trying to get you to upgrade to their premium services or try to sell you on their in house products. Use your best judgment, from my personal experience working at one of these before, they are useless.
- Get links from trusted sources
If you have relationships with vendors that are not your direct competitors, ask for them to link to your site. If you are a member of the BBB, chamber of commerce, or any organization you take part of (especially industry relevant) get a link from them to your site. This is the true secret to SEO success-qualified inbound links
- Keep track of data, monitor and adjust
Online marketing has 1 major advantage over almost any other type of marketing: you can measure almost everything! Look over you analytics account and see which pages visitors are exiting from the most. Examine pages that have high bounce rates and try to adjust your content and test different approaches. Sign up with Google Webmaster Tools to see what Google thinks your website is about and adjust your content accordingly.
I know this seems like much, and it really is when you actually cover everything. That’s why a real SEO Company will not claim to get you the world for an absurdly cheap price. But if you are on a budget and have time to spare because you don’t have clients yet, this is a great list to get you off to a fantastic start.
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