February 2016: Small Business Success

Maximize your SEO and boost business

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Getting your website onto the first page of a customer’s online search results through Google, Bing, or another search engine is an important part of any online marketing campaign. This is called “Search Engine Optimization”, and is the best way to reach customers who are searching for your product or service online. You can pay for ad space, above and to the right of the main (organic) search page, but there are also things that you or your Web developer can do to make your website rank well in the middle of the page. Whether you do your website yourself or you have someone do it for you, it can be helpful to know about these concepts to make sure your website is performing optimally.First, you will want to register your website with Google, other search engines, and useful Web directories for your type of business. This will give you a local listing on the search engine if someone specifically searches for your business. To reach more customers, there are other steps to take. First, create a list of keywords for your business. These are the words that people will type in a search query to find your business. Consider adding longer keyword phrases rather than short words, such as “shoe stores in Potsdam” rather than “shoes” since larger companies have often claimed all the first page Google real estate for the more general terms. There are other resources that can help you create an accurate list of keywords for your products or services. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Google auto-complete (start typing in a phrase and see what Google selects)
  • Use soovle.com to find other related words
  • Use Google trends: google.com/trends/explore to see keyword popularity trends
  • Use Google keyword planner to see what search terms are the most popular: adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner

Once you have developed a list, there are several ways to use the keywords in your website. First, and most importantly, create interesting content on your websites that use these keywords. Don’t stuff keywords in there, make sure the text is user friendly. If you have created your keywords correctly it should be easy and natural to include them in your text. Remember that it is most important to make your website sound good to your customers and convey your message.

There are other things you can do on the back end of your website that will help it be found easier. Make sure the page’s title, text-describing images, paragraph headers and sub-headers match up with your keywords for that page. Also make sure each of your website pages have a description that both matches up with keywords and clearly states to customers what they will find on that page. Finally, when you create internal links between your webpages, make sure the text you link is something descriptive, like “check out our winter coats” rather than simply “click here.”

After you have created your website, there are several things that can help increase the amount of traffic of customers to your site. Use your social media accounts to drive traffic to your website by posting your website link regularly (not in every post though). Getting links from other websites, especially well-trafficked or authoritative sites, to your website can really improve your search results. These links can be hard to get, but if you do things like write articles, write blogs, comment on others’ blogs, or have other people link to your website it can help. Continue to add new content (like in a blog) or at least change content from time to time.

It will take some time for your website to gain popularity and for google to rank it higher than your competitors, but if you stick with it people will begin to find your business. Paid ad space can help get faster results if you are in a hurry to get your page listed for certain keywords, but the more you can do for free the better. Your local SBDC is available to assist you in learning more about online marketing and helping you make connections in your community to local Web developers.

Jennifer McCluskey is a business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at SUNY Canton. Contact her at mccluskeyj@canton.edu. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.