SEO seems daunting and complicated to many small business owners. They get conflicting information from different sources and aren’t sure who to believe. I often run into prospects that have recently been told some secret technique or strategy that is either outdated or unethical. Or sometimes people just totally miss very important factors in the SEO puzzle.  Though there are a lot of bells and whistles to help perfect your SEO strategy, this post is intended to be a very simple overview of what you should do as a small business owner to keep yourself mostly on track, even if you don’t go the extra steps of bringing in an SEO expert.  Follow the basic steps below and you will be in good shape when you do decide to take it up a notch with an SEO consultant like myself.

Do a Good Job

Seems simple right? Your digital footprint is still a reflection of your core business. If you are great at what you do, it will shine through.  Of course, there are ways to amplify that with marketing, PR and SEO, but doing a good job will help make the rest of the puzzle a lot easier to come together. Doing a great job includes both being great at what you do and being great with your customers. If you are doing a great job at this, customers will want to spread the word by linking to you, reviewing you, and mentioning you in the community. This can snowball into online success. As much as we sometimes get frustrated with Google, their algorithm is meant to find the best solution to your problems.  If you are providing that best solution, it will start to leak over in online forms.

Best Choice Small Business

Listen to Your Customer Needs

Your website and Google Business Profile (GBP) page (formerly GMB) should provide a simple and easy explanation of what you do, how you do it, and how your customers can hire you to do it. We have all been searching on Google and found businesses that didn’t provide the key information we needed. You may want an explanation of the pricing, the process involved in getting the job done, or if this business has dealt with your specific issue.  You should provide all of this information in an easy-to-navigate way on your website.

Out and about, or while traveling, I often have come across restaurants with inaccurate or incomplete information. The hours are wrong or they don’t explain that they have curbside pickup or takeout. Often, the searcher will just move on to an option where they are sure.  This doesn’t only apply to restaurants though.

Think about how it applies to your business:

Make it easy for your potential customers to see that you have what they are looking for, and remember every page on your site may be the first time someone is interacting with you. You should include your strengths and the reasons you should be chosen for this particular issue on that page, not just hidden on your about page somewhere that nobody ever goes to. You only have a few seconds to show your customer you have what they need. Don’t make them do extra work to find it.

The benefit of SEO and even paid search is that users will go directly to the page that talks about what they are searching for (if your ads are set up properly). Remember this and provide content for all the ways you might be needed. Then explain how you understand their issue and how you can solve it. Just like if they walked up to you and asked about it.

Make it Easy to Hire You

Make sure your website (and GBP) has a clear and simple path to hiring you. Don’t make your prospects do work to figure it out. Your phone, form, purchase, or other option should be available and clear on every page of your site. You wouldn’t believe how often I still come across this. Your contact info shouldn’t just be on your “About” or “Contact” page, it should be everywhere.  Go through your website or have a friend do it and see how much work you require people to do to hire you.  Is your phone number click to call on a mobile phone? As in if someone touches it will it trigger a call? Simple formatting is often overlooked and can cost you a lot of business. Does your email link format to only work with Outlook and not have an easy form that works for everyone? I see that a lot as well.  Make sure these point-of-sale moments are friction-free.

Ask For Reviews

Please Review UsOnce you have done a great job for your customer (See First Point Above), make sure you ask for a review. Reviews are becoming more and more important for search presence.  Ask everyone for a review. Don’t be afraid. Studies show you are in much better shape just asking everyone over “Review gating” and only asking the people you think will leave a 5-star review. The consistency and volume of your reviews matter more than your overall score as long as you have s good score overall. Don’t be obsessed with making sure you only have 5-star reviews.

Handle Negatives

Having a few imperfect reviews shows that you are real, and the way you professionally deal with negative reviews can actually be a selling point. People generally understand that there are crazies out there that leave negative reviews or even that the process isn’t always perfect. The way you handle those situations can actually be a selling point for you. So keep asking and making it easy for people to leave a detailed review, which is also good feedback for how your business is doing.

Relationships as Links

In the course of doing business, you will develop many relationships. Maybe you are a member of your local Rotary or Chamber of Commerce. Maybe you sponsor a local charity or are involved in industry organizations. Any relationship you have can help your digital footprint as well. Keep that in mind and ask for reviews. In many cases, these organizations will provide links to your website in profile pages, etc. but if you have a news story or a mention somewhere, reach out and ask that they link to your website as well.

Google separated itself from other search engines by giving content value based on other websites linking to them. Every link to your website tells a story of relevance. Local links show that you are active or relevant in your community. Industry links show relevance in your industry. Blog links as examples of your products or services show their own types of relevance and strength from strong and authoritative sites. Please note that these should be links from real organizations or sites. Due to the value of links in SEO, people will often try to sell you volume links, but these are typically useless links. The links that matter are from legitimate sites for legitimate organizations.  Chances are if you sit down and think about your offline relationships, there are some real link opportunities out there that you haven’t taken advantage of yet.

Extra Small Business SEO Help

If you are doing a good job with all of the above, you should already be on a good path to SEO success. Once you have a feel for how helpful a good SEO program can be, you may be ready to take it to another level and bring in an expert that can maybe help do a better job of coming up with important content, relationships for links, or adjusting your bells and whistles to get the most out of the groundwork you have already put down.  When you are ready for that extra help to get your dial cranked up to optimal levels, please give us a call, but if you follow the basic secrets to success above, you will generally be in a good position, without having to know all of the more technical jargon and advanced tactics that a good SEO consultant can help you with. In some markets that is all you will need to shoot to the top.  Give us a call if you need a bit more help.