How SEO Can Help Small Businesses
If you run anything from a day care to a kennel to a home care agency, learn how SEO can help make your business successful.
Once upon a time, all you needed to run a small business was a little bit of capital and a dream. Today, business owners must create and maintain websites, as well as tend to the daily to-do list of managing their companies, in order to be successful.
Here's how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help.
What Is SEO?
SEO refers to the online practice of developing your website to ensure you are visible in the free listings found in search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The main purpose of getting more visibility is to drive more traffic to your website. Traffic acquired in this way is called organic or editorial -- as opposed to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) that you pay for.
The better your SEO, the sooner customers will find you when they do an online search for a local business. Search engines choose the most relevant content matching people's questions, so the way you create, manage and maintain your website's content is vital to both your website's traffic flow and your success.
How Relevant Is SEO for Small Businesses?
Very, says Michael Freeman, from cloud-communication company, ShoreTelSky. "SEO is beneficial for organizations of any size. When you think about it, search engine optimization ultimately boils down to things that are at the heart of good marketing."
How Do You Improve Your Site for SEO?
Here are Freeman’s tips for small businesses:
Understand what concerns and interests your (potential) customers and visitors have -- then create content that addresses those topics. For instance, write a blog post on five things to do before your housekeeper comes, if you have a cleaning business.
Communicate your story in clear language your customers use.
Provide value to customers and non-customers alike, and you will build up high-quality references via links and social mentions that can boost your reputation and ranking.
Generate original content based on subjects relevant to your business that add value -- even to people who aren't your customers. For example, if you have a doggie day care facility, write stories or blog posts about home pet care or trends in pet diets, as well as reviews of pet toys.
Create social media pages for your business. But being online alone is not enough. You need to be active and work to enrich or add value to your (potential) customer’s lives, even if it's in a small way. Post articles on your industry customers might find useful, comment on blogs and articles and respond to people who comment on your pages.
Should I Hire an SEO Company?
Business owners are too busy running their businesses to keep track of meaningful trends able to translate into customers. There are lots of "experts" out there who market their services as an SEO silver bullet. Should you hire a professional?
"Do your research before hiring an SEO company," cautions John Leo Weber, SEO specialist for Geek Powered Studios. "Bad SEO will do more damage than good and could even get your website banned. Always look for client testimonials and reviews before hiring an SEO."
Look for someone who uses ethical, Google-approved methods of ranking, as opposed to spam and link manipulation.
Can I Do It Myself?
Whether you opt to do-it-yourself or hire the pros, certain techniques will help to ensure your success.
"SEO is a priceless tool for getting more visibility and customers. However, the old techniques of trading links and submitting poorly written, thinly sourced articles no longer work," says Francis Santos, SEO director for Benchmark, an email marketing firm. "SEO is all about good content. Keyword targeting no longer works. For instance, if you run a day care center and you’re only focused on your Google rank, you're going to miss out on potential customers. Instead, go organic and focus on editorial content and community participation."
Santos suggests writing blog posts with valuable tips for new moms and answering questions posted on LinkedIn. "Join groups and add your knowledge," he adds. "If you deliver great content, people will share it, automatically elevating your Google rank and increasing visibility for your business."
We live in a very competitive world, and nowhere is this truer than in business. SEO supports your ability to communicate what makes your business unique and valuable to the public. And no business is too small to benefit from that.
Looking to find clients for your own caregiving business? Find a job on Care.com.
Corey Whelan is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, New York.