When building a website for your small business, there are a few crucial items you should always take in to consideration; the design, the content, the optimization, and your website’s presence throughout the internet. As a website owner, these four things should be your primary concern, as removing any one of them from the equation will considerably reduce your ability to compete online.
It goes without saying that your website’s look and feel is extremely important. It is your businesses face on the internet, and you know what they say about first impressions. But when it comes to creating web layouts, the difference between a stunning design and a total disaster can be very minute differences. For instance, if your website is not built to be responsive, it may look great within your browser, however it may look completely different to other users who happen to be using smaller screens. So, if your plan is to grow your small business through online marketing and awareness, it’s highly advised that you hire a professional web design agency to design and build your website for you.
There are several things you should be looking for in the design including fully responsive behavior, a working mobile and tablet version of the website, use of modern UI elements like dynamic tabs and parallax sections, visible and easily accessible inclusion of social media links and social media icons, fast page load times and page speed scores, and inclusion of a content management system to control each aspect of your website just to name a few.
Once you’ve found a strong web design agency to work with and have your brand new, fully responsive website launched, now it’s time to start thinking about how you can grow your online presence. The first step in this process is typically on page optimization, or the act of engineering your website and it’s content for best results in search engine rankings. Most aspects of your website’s on page optimization will need to be implemented by your developer, but you can and should be involved in the strategy.
On Page Optimization
As we mentioned above, as a small business website owner you should ensure that your website is fully optimized online for best search engine performance, and you should be involved in the strategy for the optimization.
To start, your developer will need to code the website so that it follows very specific standards and practices, for instance, no page should have more than one usage of an h1 header tag. However, the true optimization comes from making sure that the content (or text) entered within the h1 header tag is the best possible content to target your potential customers.
For example, if you have a store in Fort Lauderdale, FL that sells surfboards, you would want to have something along the lines of “Fort Lauderdale Surfboard Shop” or “Fort Lauderdale Surfboards” in your h1 header tag. What you would not want to do would be to include useless text like “Contact Us Today!” or worse, embed an image in the tag which would really hurt your on page optimization.
Ideally, your web developer will have some background in SEO and on page optimization, so that the strategy is a joint effort, where he contributes the technical SEO know-how and you contribute the deeper understanding of your customers and your product, so that optimization can be implemented as close to perfect as possible.
Once your website is fully optimized on page, you are now in “fighting shape” and can begin to think about really expanding your online presence through the creation of unique content.
In the world of online marketing there is a saying that everyone has heard which could not be more true, “Content is king”. So what exactly does this mean and what is “content”?
To start, website content are simply the words that appear on any given web page whether it be 10 words or 1000 words. The page’s content is how Google is able to understand what the page is about, how it relates to the content of other websites and web pages, and ultimately how it will rank your website.
Now, when we talk about content being “king” however, we are not referring so much to the content that appears on your home page or your about page, but more about the content that you are creating in the form of high quality, highly focused blog posts and articles.
For example, if our Fort Lauderdale Surfboard website has 5 top level pages, it will look like a decent source of information on surfboards in Fort Lauderdale to Google. However, it’s likely that all of the other Fort Lauderdale Surfboard websites will have 5 very similar pages, with very similar content. But, by creating articles or blog posts with unique, high quality content focusing on surfboards, surf shops, or surfing in general, we are now adding additional pages that Google can crawl to learn more about our website.
So if our website has 20 articles on surfboards, for instance how to pick the right surfboard for your height, finding a local surfboard shaper, or when the best time of year to use your surfboard is, you now have 20 more pages than your competition which will make you look better to Google, 20 more pages of information you can make available to your users, and most importantly 20 more opportunities for your website to be found in Google’s search results.
Now that you are steadily and consistently creating high quality content on your website, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do to grow your online presence outside of your website.
The best method to quickly improve your website’s presence with spending little to no money on advertising is by having other websites talk about your website as well. When we say “talk” about your website, this is usually done through building citations to your website as well as building backlinks to your site through articles other people are publishing.
1. Building Citations
Building citations is one of the most effective and powerful tactics you can implement to help improve your local SEO results, and you don’t need to be any sort of expert to do it. To start, let’s talk about what a citation is.
A citation is the mention of your business, it’s website, physical address, phone number, and often some other information like hours of operation and images on a third party website. Some examples of these websites would be Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, and Best of the Web.
It’s not only important that you have as many high quality citations created as possible, but it’s equally important that your business information is perfectly identical across each of your citations. For instance, if one website was reporting your phone number as (123)456-7890 and another reported it as (231)456-8890, it would indicate to Google that the business may no longer be updating it’s online presence, may be out of business, or a number of other situations that would hurt your rankings.
Using a service like Yext or LocalVox will not only help with perfect citation creation quickly, but will also ensure that whenever you do update your business information, that each one of your citations is also updated simultaneously, removing the need for a lot of work on your end.
2. Building Quality Backlinks
Once you have a nice portfolio of local citations created, now your focus should be on acquiring some higher quality backlinks from within unique articles published on third party websites.
When researching websites that you are going to approach for potential backlinking, it’s important to understand what the value of that link may be. One strong indicator on to how valuable a link may be is the website’s “domain authority”. Without diving too deep in to the specifics, domain authority is simply a metric that rates websites from 0 to 100, the closer to 100 you are, the more “authority” your website has on a topic in the eyes of Google. It’s always best to receive backlinks from websites with as high a domain authority as possible, but you should always try to make sure that the website is at least a DA10.
Once you’ve identified a nice list of websites that you’re going to approach about backlinking, it’s important that you really nail down your pitch. You should be prepared with an article topic, some key points of information, customer reviews to reinforce your statements, and even a free sample of your product if you’re promoting one. By providing the blogger or website owner with as much information as you can on your products or services, potential story ideas, or even physical product for them to try for themselves, you will significantly increase your chances of getting a positive response from the site owners.
Turning your small business in to a medium or large size business through online marketing can be done! But just as any skyscraper is built on top of a strong foundation, your websites presence and growth is entirely dependent upon a strong foundation of design aesthetics, content and optimization.