Guest Author: Dustin Heap
Defined as less than 500 employees, small businesses today literally make up an astounding 99% of U.S. businesses. Further, according to the State Department, almost 20 million people work for companies employing less than 20 people. In light of these statistics, it’s easy to see the need for savvy small business marketing by owners across the United States. As the marketplace and consumers become increasingly more digital, marketing is even more important in regards to online visibility. Small business owners can follow the tips below to establish a foundation of strong online marketing and increase their visibility in the very competitive online space.
Make Your Site Seen
After avoiding the aforementioned elements there are many things you need to have to build a strong website. One of the major must haves is a website that uses HTML 5 and CSS best practices to ensure that search engine robots can access and “crawl” the website by jumping from HTML link to HTML link. While this may sound foreign and complex to non-digital business owners, most content management platforms today, such as WordPress, come with websites that are designed with SEO best practices in mind. If moving to or creating a new site isn’t an option, then owners should work with their web developer to ensure that SEO best practices are followed as much as possible to ensure maximum visibility from the search engines.
Other quick fixes for website owners can include ensuring that the robots.txt file is not preventing the website from being indexed, optimizing on page tags such as the title and meta tags, and setting up a Webmaster account with the search engines and submitting a sitemap.
With a strong foundation in place, business owners can turn their focus to both onsite and offsite efforts to attract visitors and increase visibility.
Regular Expert Content
One of the best things small business owners can do to increase online visibility is to create unique and expert content on a company blog. Again, this option will be most effective if you’ve made your website search friendly, so be sure to start there. As alluded to previously a 3rd party web developer should be able to include some kind of blogging platform that allows owners to produce content. Even if an entire site redesign isn’t possible with a little bit of custom work this can be put in place as needed.
Creating content by blogging regularly provides many advantages to small business owners. First, it establishes the business as an authority on any given topic. This authority helps communicate to the search engines that your website should appear in search results because it is evident that you would be useful to searchers.
Another by-product of creating such content is that it attracts links. Search engines use links much like votes in an election. The more you have, the more likely you are to appear when users in your area search for your type of business.
Finally, creating this content provides an easy way to answer frequently asked questions, engage with current and potential customers, and communicate company news and promotions.
Regular content creation brings a myriad of benefits and really only requires that someone internally make time to get it written and posted on a company blog.
Business Profile Pages
Another easy and inexpensive way to increase visibility is to list your small business in online business directory sites. These sites include such examples as Yelp, Superpages and many others. While I’ve explained in detail how to build these local listings elsewhere, there are several benefits of doing so that are worth mentioning here.
The first benefit is that these “local citations,” as they are called in online parlance, are vital to ranking for geographic related searches. This simply means that you are more likely to appear for searches done by people in your city or town by having these types of listings online.
Another benefit is that sometimes the listing on the external site ranks highly in the search results by itself. This is because a website like Yelp is viewed as very authoritative by Google. Thus, by listing your business there, your business profile may be the one to show up. When this happens, you instantly get more visibility and there is a good chance that users will then click over to your actual website.
Lastly, having many different business profiles set up gives your customers the ability to leave a positive review of your business on their preferred website. These reviews will then be seen by more potential customers and potentially lead to increased sales. In fact, 52% of consumers are more likely to buy from a local business with positive reviews and 72% trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends or family.
While online marketing may seem daunting to an owner or business first getting started, it doesn’t have to be. By implementing a solid foundation, creating regular unique content, and creating business listings online a small business owner can make a huge impact on the bottom line for a small cost.
Dustin Heap works at Signs.com as a digital marketer. Signs.com is leading custom sign shop offering custom signage to clients across the United States. Dustin has previously worked both on the organic and paid side of search and with small businesses in a wide variety of industries.