The majority of small businesses in Canada and the United States operate as locally run businesses that serve their local community. In the past it was absolutely vital that these businesses include themselves in the YellowPages or conduct some other kind of promotional activity in order to be found.
Today more and more users rely on the internet and in particular Google to find products and services locally. It simply isn’t enough to be listed in the phone book anymore. As a matter of fact, we would go as far to say that making sure you can be found through search engines is more important than being found in the phone book.
Local business owners now realize that having a web presence directly translates to internet traffic and sales. That said, it doesn’t mean they’re doing a great job of accomplishing this. Worse still, many business owners haven’t made the jump to establishing themselves on the internet.
So what steps should local businesses take to ensure that they have a viable web presence on the internet? We’ve outlined 10 key steps you should take to get you started on the right foot.
STEP 1: Identify and Understand Your Audience
The first step is often the most crucial step and yet many businesses forget to do this. Before you can engage your audience, you need to know who they are and what they do. You should have a clear picture of who your target audience is before moving forward.
Listed below are some keys to help you identify you target audience.
- Age, gender, location
- Needs, passions, frustrations
- What do they like? What don’t they like?
- What value do your products or services add to their business or personal lives?
- Hobbies, activities
- Internet and social media savvy?
In some cases you may want to conduct a survey to help you gather information about your audience. Keep surveys simple, short and sweet!
STEP 2: Identify Your Keywords
Think of what the majority of users will enter in search engines when looking for the products or services you and your competitors offer? These terms are called keywords or keyword phrases. Your goal is to target some of these keywords and to rank well for them locally. This in turn will net you traffic and hopefully sales. However, deciding which keywords to target is the real trick.
First, come up with a list of keyword phrases starting with the best and most profitable first. Then decide which keywords you’d like to target. You may require a professional to help you with this since some analysis may be required to help you determine which keywords are viable. Certain profitable keywords simply aren’t attainable in the short term so you need to be smart about your choices.
Once you have a list of 3-5 keywords phrases selected you’re ready to move on to the next phase.
STEP 3: Bet on WordPress!
This should go without saying. A website should be the cornerstone of your web presence and should be the foundation through which the majority of your internet activity begins. More on this later.
We often advise start-up companies to build their web presence as soon as possible and in many cases even before they have finalized their business. This guarantees that their website will be ready when they are.
Having a website developed can vary in cost depending on the size and functionality required and this should be considered as an immediate cost when starting up a business. Our advice to clients is to go with a WordPress website if possible. There are several reasons why this is a smart move!
- Very easy to use. It doesn’t take long for administrators to learn how to use WordPress.
- WordPress gives administrators the ability to manage their own content as needed, without having to rely on a web developer to do it for them. This can save time and money.
- WordPress is a stable, secure and reliable framework that developers can build additional functionality into.
- Published pages and post remain consistent in layout and appearance.
- WordPress can easily handle small and large websites. Pages and posts can be added to grow your website at any time.
- WordPress is updated frequently ensuring it’s safe and secure for you and your users.
- Built-in blogging platform increases interactions with users and increases perceived industry authority.
These are just a few reasons why you should consider going with WordPress. Assuming that we have you convinced, let’s continue.
STEP 4: Go Mobile
Did you know that there are more mobile device activations per day in the world than there are babies born? Actually there are about 1 million more activations per day!
The point is that mobile devices now make up a huge percentage of total devices used to access the internet. It’s now more important than ever to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and doubly important for local business owners.
A mobile-friendly or responsive website will ensure that your website can be viewed properly across all devices and screen resolutions. This will guarantee that customers have a good experience when visiting your website, regardless of what device they use.
In some cases, you can even highlight certain aspects better on a mobile device than you can on desktop computers. For example, a restaurant may choose to highlight today’s specials on mobile devices with the assumption that mobile users are on the go and looking for a place to eat.
STEP 5: Hire a Web Design Company
There are several things you should always check when evaluating web design companies . For example, you should check previous work, references, testimonials and so on. That said, there are a few additional things you should keep in mind as well.
- Pay attention to the questions being asked of you regarding your project. Good developers will ask the right questions to ensure you are both on the same page.
- Make sure that the company you hire to build your website is well-versed with WordPress. It’s best to go with companies who focus on WordPress development exclusively, especially if you need a website with a good deal of functionality.
- Don’t go for the cheapest quote you find unless you are absolutely certain that your developer has the experience to back it up.
- Go with a company who stays ahead of the pack in terms of technology and design. Typically companies who are constantly moving forward can provide you with a website that will stand the test of time so to speak.
- Go for a responsive, mobile friendly website. Make sure you’re development company can provide you with this.
- As a bonus, hire a developer who is also knowledgeable with SEO and internet marketing. It helps to build a website while keeping these factors in mind. This ensures the website is structurally sound and built using SEO best practices. It will save you money down the road should you decide to hire an SEO expert.
This by no means is a comprehensive list but rather details some aspects you might have not thought to look for. This should help you narrow your list of candidates. We’d of course be grateful if Painted Pixel Studio was part of this group but this isn’t a sales pitch so onward with the rest of the article.
STEP 6: On-site SEO
Unfortunately this again may be another area where you’ll need to rely on your web developer or internet marketer for assistance. You will want to optimize your website to target your chosen keyword phrases. This will ensure that you have the highest potential for ranking well for these terms as you continue through the remain steps.
On-site optimization requires careful analysis and implementation of keyword density, meta title tags and description, page headings, images, coding structure and so on. This can get rather involved but if you’re on a tight budget and lack the knowledge to do this properly, you can still help yourself by following these simple tips.
- When writing content, keep it simple, keep it natural. You don’t want your content to appear spammy in anyway.
- Each keyword phrase you want to target should have it’s own page. Treat these pages as landing pages (the first page the user will see when entering your site using a specific keyword).
- Think of the different products and services you offer. Help segment each user through your website with call-to-action buttons. This will leading them to the pages and sections on your website they’re most interested in.
- Sign up for a Google Account and set your website up with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. This will help you stay on top of your website usage and issues. There are WordPress plugins available that can help you integrate these into your website.
- Write blog articles related to your area of business. Focus articles on one keyword at a time but don’t limit yourself to just writing articles related to your keywords.
Keeping things natural and your website active is key. To some degree, the lack of a perfect on-site optimization strategy can be negated by some of the off-site optimizations techniques describe in the following steps. Of course it always helps to be thorough but not so thorough that you over-optimize your website!
STEP 7: Off-site SEO & Local SEO
Off-site SEO refers to techniques that are used outside of your website but that can have a significant impact on your website rankings. In it’s simplest terms this can be thought of as building back links to your website from other websites or internet properties.
Describing offsite SEO strategies fully would take days to do so for the purpose of this article we’ll keep it simple. Generating link backs can be done in several ways. Below I’ve listed a few methods that can be used to boost your local SEO.
- Get yourself listed on Google Places, Yahoo Local Listing, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, business directories and other local & related directories. Be thorough when filling out details regarding your business and be consistent.
- Analyse your local competitors to see where they’re getting their links from and do the same.
- Gather reviews and recommendations for your business. This is especially useful if you’re in the food and hospitality industry. Have reviews posted on Google+, Yelp or similar. Choosing which one will depend on your business.
- Create and post articles on your website and other websites. Good content generates back links.
- Get involved in conversations happening throughout the internet that are directly related to your area of business. Try searching forums, blogs and social networks. Using Google Search can help you find these conversations. Leave comments, suggestions and don’t forget to include a link back!
- Write and post a press release.
- Get a hold of a local newspaper and pitch them an article idea involving your business.
Again, there are many ways to generate back links to your website. Many of the methods above will allow you to add a link back to your website with a keyword anchor text. That said you should be careful not to over use the same anchor text and be sure to distribute your back links to different pages throughout your website. Again, keep it natural.
STEP 8: Social Media – Engage, Share and Build a Following
Social Media has grown to become a behemoth for generating traffic. It perhaps still isn’t on par with the traffic generated from top-ranked keywords through Google but it definitely shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least be sure to setup the following Social Media accounts for your company.
- Facebook Page
- Twitter account for your company
- LinkedIn company page
- Google+ company page
In addition, depending on your area of business, you may also want to setup accounts with other popular social media services such as Pinterest, Instagram or others.
Social Media is all about getting social so be sure to get involved and engage your audience through each account. Search hashtags or similar to find relevant conversations. Make sure to post a link on each of your social media accounts when you write a new blog post. Give your audience content they’ll appreciate. The key is to get involved!
Also, don’t ignore the power of Google+. Use it to it’s fullest capabilities. On the surface Google+ may still appear to be lagging behind Facebook and Twitter but think of it as your secret weapon. Google Search increasingly relies on Google’s Author Rank in determining search results so remember to sign up for a Google+ personal and business accounts and link your Google+ accounts to your website blog authoring account. We will post an article on how to properly do this soon!
STEP 9: Reach Out to the Community
It only makes sense that if you’re running a local business you should trying to connect with your community. Many cities have networking groups and events that you should participate in. This will help you get the word out. You would be surprised by how many customers can be gained through word-of-mouth referrals.
Try volunteering your services or discounting products to local non-profit organizations and events. Doing something good for others can help you get noticed. Besides, it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
You can also try reaching out to local websites and blogs to see if they’re willing to connect with you. Perhaps they’ll write a blog post about your business or you can offer to write a guest blog post on their website. Similarly, reach out to local businesses via Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. You just might be able to help each other out.
STEP 10: Monitor and Analyze Your Results
You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. This proverb seems to speak directly to this step. Every website owner should have a clear understanding of how there website is performing, how to build on success and improve on failures. We’ve already mentioned 2 free tools earlier in this article that can help you with this, Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. Both are must have tools.
Google Analytics can help you analyze your website traffic. It will show you how many users have visited your site for a given time frame, what pages they’ve viewed, how long they’ve visited each page, where they’re from and so on. Analyzing these details can help you discover deficiencies in your website that need improving. Likewise it can show you how well you’re Local SEO strategy is working.
Google Webmaster Tools is primarily used to analyze the health of your website and improve visibility of it through Google. With it you can discover indexing errors (when Google attempts to crawl your website), find broken links, set a preferred domain, view important notifications etc.
In addition to the tools above, you may also consider finding other tools that will better analyze your Google keyword rankings and other aspects of your website. There are several tools available freely or at a small cost on the internet. Do a quick search and you’re likely to discover a few.
No Time to Waste, Get Started Now!
We’ve outlined several steps above that you can take to help you get the most out of your local business and website presence. We’ll continue to post articles that will elaborate on each step further but you really don’t have to wait. You can get started now.
It may seem like a daunting task but really it’s not as difficult as it seems once you get started. Your time and investment required will pay for itself 10-fold.
The alternative is to hire a team of professionals to do this for you. Fortunately we handle all aspects of the steps outlined above under one roof and at a reasonable cost. We pride ourselves on being experts in each field. Going with us will save you time and money and you’ll rest comfortably knowing that the job is being done right!