In today’s business environment, creating visibility for your business on the Internet is of utmost importance. As you know, people don’t use the Yellowbook anymore.
Nowadays, everyone use Google to find local businesses and services. As such, it is important for your business to appear on top of Google’s search result listings for the keywords related to your local small business.
And in order for your business’ website to get found on Google, you must do SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is not difficult to understand at all. You don’t need to have a PhD or a techie to do SEO. SEO is quite straight forward, but it does require some planning and hard works to get good results.
SEO has 5 components:
- Perform keyword research to find highly searched keywords related to your business.
- Creating great content on your site around those keywords.
- Writing optimized meta title and meta description.
- Promote your website using social media channels and PR.
- Build backlinks to your website.
I’ll discuss the above components in more details below. Read on…
How to do Keyword Search
The first step and it’s also a very important aspect of SEO is to find highly searched keywords related to your business. Here are the things to consider when selecting keywords for your website.
- Does the keyword have sufficient number of searches per month?
- How strong is the competition in your local market for those keywords?
You’d have to balance the two. Obviously, you’d want to have keywords that bring you the most traffic. But you also have to consider the strength of your competitors and how likely you have a chance to rank on the top 5 positions on Google.
You can use the free Google Keyword tool to do your keyword research.
Here are the steps you should follow to do your keyword research using the Google Keyword tool.
- Type in your target keyword phrase into the “find keywords” box. Since your business is local, your keyword phrase should contain your targeted keyword phrase + a geographic modifier (i.e. San Jose dentist”. For example, if you are a dentist in downtown San Jose, your keyword phrase could be something like, “Dentist in downtown San Jose”. You can use names of towns, states, counties, metro areas, communities as the geographic modifiers.Also, make sure you click on the “exact match” option and make sure the “location” says “United States.”
- Check out the keyword ideas returned by Google. You can look through this list of related keywords and pick a few that are most related to your business and have high number of searches per month (preferably more than 200). You only want to look at the “local monthly searches” column.
- Do some searches on Google for a few of these keywords. Check out the listing on the 1st page of Google. These are competiting websites. Check them out and assess their strengths.
- After doing your research and analysis, pick a few keywords that you want to focus your SEO efforts on.
Perfecting the Meta Tag content
The 2 most important meta tag for SEO is the meta title tag and the meta description tag.
- Meta title tag – The meta title tag has the most impact on SEO. You’re limited to only 65 characters for your meta title tag so make sure you choose your words carefully. The most important words should appear first. You can also combine multiple keywords in the title tag. An example of a effective title tag would be “san jose dentist | cosmetic dentistry in san jose”.
- Meta Description tag – The description meta tag doesn’t have direct impact on SEO anymore. But it still can indirectly affect SEO. Having a compelling description with strong call to actions can attract more clicks on Google search results page. If you consistently get higher clicks than your competitors, that’s a useful and positive signal to Google. An example of a description meta tag would be, “Phoenix dentistry has been serving the San Jose community since 2000. Clean office, no wait time. Call now to get $50 off teeth whitening for new customers.” You should limit the content of your meta description tag to 150 characters max.
Creating Great Content for Your Website
Now that you have an idea of what keyword phrases you should optimize your site for, it’s time to create the content for your website. You should have content for key pages such as the home page, the service pages, the “about us” page, and resource pages.
For the home page and service pages, be sure to clearly say what your business is about, what makes your business special or different, and what are your qualifications.
In addition, you should continuously add new content that has useful and educational information to your site. Having high quality and useful content on your website is what will help your site rise to the top of the search engine search results.
There are many different things you can write on. You can write about trends in your industry or business, issues and problems commonly faced by your target audience and how to solve those problems, laws/regulations related to your business, and upcoming events related to your business. You can further strengthen your content by adding some nice graphics, charts, or photos related to your content. If you use images or photos, be sure to incorporate your targeted keywords in the “alt” tag.
The best way to easily add content to your website is to use a blogging platform. WordPress is a popular, free, and powerful blogging platform that you should try.
Also, it’s important that you weave in your keywords in the texts portion of your content. Repeat it a few times, but don’t over do it. Your writing should appear natural and logical.
Your homepage should target the more general keyword (i.e. dentist in san jose) and your service page could go into depth about each service that you provide (i.e. cosmetic dentistry).
Get Your Pages Indexed by the Search Engines
After you have done the above and have created your content, it’s important to let the search engines know of your web pages’ existence. You have to ensure that all the pages are indexed.
The best way to get your website and webpage indexed by the search engine is to get links to each of your main web pages. To get links to your web pages, you can bookmark each of your web page using bookmarking services such as digg.com, mixx.com, or furl.net. You can also create an ad on Craigslist.org and make a link to your web page or get a link to your web page from another website.
In addition, you should create a site map of your site using an XML site map tool on the website, XML-Sitemaps.com. The file should have the name sitemap.xml. After your sitemap.xml file has been created, just upload the site map file to the root directory of your web server(www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml) , and submit your site map in Google Webmaster (http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/), Yahoo (https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com) and MSN (http://webmaster.live.com).
Promoting Your Site Using Social Media Channels and PR
Google and Bing have indicated they are incorporating social signals into their ranking algorithms. It’s more important than ever to use social media channels and PR to promote your business name and your website. Follow these steps:
- Create a profile for your business in Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and linkedin. These are the top 4 most important ones. You might not have the time to manage all these accounts. So pick 1-2 to start first. Facebook and twitter is great if you sell to consumers. Google+ and linkedin are more appropriate for the business audience.
- Embed social media sharing features on your website and encourage visitors to “like”, “tweet” or share your content.
- Write press releases to promote your business and to announce any major news or events that involve your business. You can use PRweb.com to create your press releases. Note that this can be quite expensive so you only need to do this 1-2 times a year.
Building Backlinks to Your Site
Building backlinks used to be the main SEO weapon. It is still a very important component of your SEO strategy.
A link to your site is like a vote of confidence for your site. If Google believes your web page to be a high authority and high quality web page for the particular keywords that the searchers are typing in the Google search box, your web page will have a high chance of appearing on the 1st page of the Google search results.
The key is to get links from high authority websites and websites that are related to your business. High authority sites are sites that have high PR ranking.
When you get links back to your web page, you’d want to ensure the anchor text of the link is the same as the keywords you are trying to optimize your web page for.
Anchor text is simply the text with the blue underlined link. For example, instead of a link that just have your website URL, it would be better if the hyperlink is something like, “if you need acupuncture treatment, you should visit Grand Acupuncture in downtown Oakland.”
In this example, “Grand Acupuncture in downtown Oakland” would be the anchor text that links to the Grand Acupuncture website (i.e. www.grandacupuncture.com).
This is key because it indicates to the search engines what the topic of your web page is about and helps to optimize your ranking for the keyword “Grand Acupuncture in downtown Oakland.”
Here are some popular ways to get links to your site:
- Exchange link with partner sites – If there are businesses that offer complimentary services or products to your business, you can send an email to the owner or webmaster and ask for a link exchange. If email doesn’t work, you should use the phone. You should only exchange links with non-competing sites and businesses that are related to yours. It doesn’t make sense to get a link from a pizza site when your site is about Chiropractic.
- Submit your site to directories – The 2 directories which have high PR ranking and worth getting links from are www.DMOZ.org and Yahoo Directory. DMOZ is free, but the process to get your site listed usually takes longer. Yahoo charges an annual fee of $299. It is worth the money to try to get your site listed in these 2 main directories. You can also search on Google for vertical directories that are related to your business. The other 2 directories that are worth getting listed on are BOTW.org and Business.com.
- Get links from school, local business organizations (Chamber of Commerce), local directories, and local blogs – For school, you may sponsor an event or offer to buy uniforms for the baseball team in exchange for a link to your site. For local blogs, you should contact the owner of the blog and ask the owner to link to your site or you can propose to write a guest blog post for the site.
- Industry Associations – Does your business belong to any particular associations? If yes, then get your business listed in the members page.
- Local News – Getting press coverage from your local news sites is probably one of the most powerful method of link building for your local business. If you have some newsworthy news to share, be sure to engage the editors from your local news and get them to write a story about you and your business.
Building links to your website does take a lot of works, but it will significantly boost your search engine rankings performance if you make the efforts to work at it.
You don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, it is best to continuously work at it here and there. This makes it seem more natural to the Search Engines. You should build links to your home page as well as to the other important pages (products, services pages) in your website.
If you don’t have the time, you can hire an SEO expert to do some of the link building for you. These efforts will build a bunch of links to your website and can boost your organic search rankings.