Let’s start at the top: simply having a Web site places SMBs ahead of the curve. A recent study found that 46% of small businesses don’t have one. While many business owners insist word-of-mouth is their most valuable source of new customers, online research is equally important. The Digital Impact Report, a recent survey of 2,000 consumers, found that 36% of respondents find new businesses through online research, compared to 35% who find them through word-of-mouth.
The same survey found that 34% of respondents are unlikely to shop at a business if it does not have a Web site. With over 3.5 billion Google searches daily, the obvious first step in improving the ability to discover a business means creating a clean and simple Web site for search engine users to land on.
Perfecting the Simple Web site
Web sites are intended to provide consumers with details about a business, encourage trust, and help establish brands. While having a Web site is important, unprofessional sites may actually work against business owners. 45% of Digital Impact Report respondents state that they are unlikely to buy from a business with a poorly designed site. It’s tempting to load Web sites with as much information as possible -- however, a proper Web site is simple and focuses on key information most important for customers, such as location, hours and ways to get in touch. Useful, yet non-immediate information can be hosted on a company blog.
Becoming an Expert
Original content establishes SMBs as subject experts -- an essential way to differentiate the business for savvy consumers searching the web prior to purchase decisions. When creating content, owners should begin with a refined list of key terms and subjects important to their customers, then map content back to those topics. This is what builds SEO.
Be careful not to be overly keyword-centric. SMBs should be wary of keyword-stuffing when drafting content. Google is known to penalize sites using this practice. Rather than cram key term terms into every page, SMBs should genuinely discuss subjects to provide value to customers and prospects. Popular content often offers customers useful tips, “how-to’s” and perspectives on relatable industry news.
Mobile Friendliness is Key
For the past two years the number of mobile Web users has exceeded that of desktop. According to 2016 Pew Research, 72% of Americans own a smartphone — up 6% from 2015. The modern consumer is on the go and relies on their mobile device to research businesses. Not only will a non-mobile-optimized Web site deter visitors due to poor user experience, but Google’s algorithm prioritizes sites designed for mobile.
While it may differ on a case-to-case basis, professional quality SEO requires owners to be aware of how customers look for them — on mobile! Search rankings can be improved by building a Web site using one of several services offering mobile-optimized sites as a standard. Mobile-friendly sites welcome mobile users with easy navigation and text that is legible without zooming, and avoid using software not supported on mobile (i.e., Flash). Google recently rolled out an algorithmic update that boosts visibility for mobile-friendly sites. Take advantage of this update and make sure your site is optimized for mobile search.
Expand Your Online Presence
It’s important to remember that SEO is not based solely on a business’ Web site. In the Digital Impact Report, 25% of respondents say a social media presence is very important for small business. In addition, one in four Millennials surveyed now use social media as a first point of research for SMBs. Expanding an online presence to include social media helps businesses increase authority and awareness, which could ultimately lead to improved search positions. Links to a business’ site or content on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help search engines understand what sites are credible and popular. While it’s not necessary to be on all social platforms, conversations with customers can shed light on which networks are the most popular among them.
The notion that professional quality SEO should be reserved for big business is false! While Google’s algorithm is confusing, it underscores one central theme — prioritizing the customer. Once understood, small businesses can own SEO using personal customer relationships as guidance to determine what customers need to know, want to know and how the business can provide solutions.