How do your customers find you? It seems like that should be a simple question to answer but the reality is it can be tricky. Potential customers have more and more options to find the product or service they are looking for–and it’s your job to make sure your business can be easily found.
Seventy percent of consumers say online search is their preferred method for finding information about local businesses, so it’s critical for small businesses to manage their online presence.
As consumers become more Internet savvy, it’s imperative that businesses take ownership of their Internet presence and manage it. Your company can show up in various places on the Internet without your knowledge through public records, directory listings, personal blogs, etc. No matter who put your company information out there, you should take it as an opportunity to increase awareness of your company.
The following are five steps you can take to increase awareness of your company.
1. Do an online search for your company.
Your first step is to understand where your company information is on the Internet and to take ownership of it. Search for your company name in any search engine. Be sure to search for common misspellings and possible abbreviations. Check listings for accuracy and completeness. Many sites, including Manta, encourage business owners to “claim” or “own” their business listings. Take advantage of that. You should always be in control of how your company is represented online.
2. Remember to NAP.
The most important information you put online can be abbreviated as NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number.
If you want to be found, you must have this information listed, and it must be consistent in every occurrence. That includes spelling, abbreviations, formatting, and phone numbers. Search engines look for clusters of reference information that are consistent.
When displaying your address, make sure paste it into a map website to make the correct address is displayed. This is what your customers will do and if mapping websites cannot locate your address, you will lose customers.
Although these tips may seem very elementary, they can make a big difference in optimizing search engine results.
3. Know your business’ vocabulary.
Search engines look for common words when matching websites up to searches. So understanding what words or terms your customers use when they talk about you or your product or service is a critical component of SEO. That’s because these are likely the words customers will enter into the search engine to find products and services.
There are several free online tools that will provide you with statistics on what words or terms people most often use when searching certain topics. For example, an animal hospital might offer day care services for pets. In order to understand what customers are searching for, you can use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) to search “dance school”, for example, and find similar words and phrases and their frequency of use. In this case, you’d find that others may search for “dancing school” vs. “dance studio.”
Once you know what words and terms are common in your line of business, use them on your website, especially on your “About” page. Search engines will look for those terms and match them up to what people are searching for.
4. If you choose to invest in an SEO provider, shop around.
When selecting an SEO provider, you’ll find there are a lot of them, but not all offer the same services nor provide the same results. Look for an SEO expert who fits your business model (maybe with a focus on small businesses or consumer-focused businesses). Be sure you understand what services they will provide and what results you should expect. One key thing to understand is that you should not expect immediate results. SEO is a process that builds upon itself and can take time to show value. If someone promises you immediate results or guaranteed rankings, be concerned.
5. Look at your competition.
Look up your competition online. What are the results when you search their name? Their location? What words and terms are they using? Are they effective? Look them up on online directories. Are their profiles more comprehensive than yours? If you were a shopper and you came upon their profile and your profile, which looks more impressive? Why?
Take in all you learn from the competition and apply it NOW to your web strategy.