How to Improve Web Presence for Small Business – Free (part 1)
It’s a given that your business can’t make money if customers can’t find you. When learning how to improve web presence for small business it begins with the right foundation. This is part 1 of our series to help you. The internet is the #1 means of reaching out to potential customers. It stands to reason that having a powerful online web presence for your business is crucial to your success.
This is even more true for small businesses, who compete against corporate giants with far more resources. So how does a small business improve web presence?
Fight on Your Own Terms
Having a web site alone won’t be enough. There are hundreds or thousands of companies that are in the same line of work as you. Everyone wants to be the #1 listing on the first page but that’s impossible. The big dogs of your industry can hire entire teams of marketers and SEO (search engine optimization) strategists to make things happen for them. Paid ads and marketing campaigns are a far easier investment. But they do invest in them because they understand how important it is to be found online.
If a small business tries to compete in the same arena they will likely be fed to the proverbial lions. So how does a smaller opponent beat the goliath? Strategy and technique. These two things are largely free to anyone taking the time to develop them. It only requires the right training and perspective.
While the corporate giants are ignoring this article because they already have highly-paid experts, let’s examine how to develop a strategy for your small business based on perspective. Then we will describe specific techniques you can use to implement that strategy.
Rule #1: You can succeed!
The stresses of running a small business are different than those of a corporation. Yes, they both exist to make money and someone is worrying about the bottom line. But while an industry giant can afford to win and lose clients on a large scale, every single client matters to the small business owner. The stresses of losing an existing client or failing to gain a new sale is magnified because each client represents a much larger portion of the entire pie. Sometimes you have to really dig in to make something happen. But courage only matters when you’re afraid. If times are harder than you’d like or simply not as solid as you want them to be, this is the time to dig in and fight your fight. You can find success with your small business!
Strategy: Lay a solid foundation before you start building on it.
When it comes to SEO it is often tempting to immediately jump into things like keyword research, meta tags, and all the technical things from bounce rate to web speed optimization. All of these are important, no doubt. But you can’t know how to build something until you know what you want to build. So your first step is to determine (or perhaps discover) how you want your business to connect to your clients. The good news is, this doesn’t even need a computer! So get yourself a nice refreshing beverage of choice and relax while we work this through.
Strategy: Know your strengths
If you look over our Services page, you’ll see that the first step in designing your site is a business interview. It isn’t site performance or technical coding. It’s a basic understanding of who you are and what you want to achieve. What does your business do? That will seem like an easy question but it may be harder than you think. If you are a physician or treatment center, you do more than “treat sick people” or “help recovering addicts”. The more specific answer might be something like “I treat patients who struggle with high premium costs and deductible by making easy, affordable payment plans”. Or it might be “we help recovering addicts through our connection to community partners who offer additional resources of finance management, healthy lifestyles, and education skills.”
Let’s look at an example, a medical billing service. You know you work hard and care about your clients. But every client anywhere will expect hard work and some degree of loyalty. What is it about your company that sets you apart from the competition? Larger services often have a set business model they are forced to follow to avoid any appearance of favoritism. But your company is yours. Of course you will be fair; solid ethics are always paramount. But maybe you offer multiple ways of determining the provider’s bill. Many large companies (and maybe yours) charge the provider a percentage of what you collect. Sounds fair. That works well for a general practitioner. However, a surgeon who got paid $2000 per day for his surgery isn’t going to want to pay his billing service five-percent of that over the course of a month. If your medical billing service offers both per claim and percentage based invoicing, let that be known. Emphasize your flexibility and how you will help the doctor make an informed decision based on a cost comparison.
The more specific you can get the more you will identify powerful individual strengths that sets yourself apart from others in your field. Using this understanding of your business, you now have a more focused idea of who you want your clients to be.
Strategy: Know Your Target Audience
Who are the people you’re reaching out to with your business? Answer this question as specifically as possible. Fortunately, if you took the last Strategy step, above, you have a clear idea of where your business is focused. This dovetails right into knowing your target audience. After all, you want clients who want what you do.
Let’s say you own a small restaurant. Is your target audience “people who eat?” Well, yes, but that’s also the audience of every restaurant, everywhere. You won’t be found with a slogan like “We serve food”. What is your specialty? Do you have home-cooked food? Vegan options? Keto-friendly meals? The more specific you can be the more you will attract the attention of that niche group. Some fear missing out on business if they are too specific but a loyal group of only a few will begin to cascade into many more. And, as you expand, you will also attract the more general population by default because, hey, you serve food. Build on your best strengths first and lay a solid foundation for success.
If you are the physician from the earlier example, your target audience might be “patients with poor or no insurance”. For the addiction recovery center, your audience is “addicts who want to get their entire life on track” (ie, more than a detox center). With the medical billing service, your audience is “doctors seeking flexible service agreements”.
Your web site is the perfect place to bring such focus to your business. You are trying to gain specific customers who will be searching for what you are emphasizing. Knowing your target audience is crucial, especially for small businesses. This is where we start getting into the more technical part of things, building on our foundation.
Strategy: Discover the best keywords related to your business
Now you have a solid concept of what you do. You know what it is that sets you apart from your competitors. And you have identified your target audience, those that are looking for what you are offering.
How are they trying to find it?
Probably anyone you know uses the internet to look for the things they want. Everyone from teens to old ladies use Google, Yelp, and Facebook. They search for what they want and what they need. It can be as easy as typing something in the search bar. So what are they typing?
This can be harder to determine than it might seem. There’s not a magical box that delivers everyone’s search requests. But there are resources and you need to use them. The closer you can guess what your target audience is typing in their search request the closer you can make sure you match for it when building your site for improved SEO.
Free Keyword Research Methods
There are sites like semRush that offers many tools for keyword analysis. This isn’t free forever but, if you have a good idea of what keywords you are researching, it offers several uses (currently 10) for free simply by signing up.
Just type the keywords into your browser search bar. Most browsers, such as Google Chrome, will attempt an autocomplete of your search based not only on previous search history but also what Google guesses you are searching for. That guess is built out from Google’s algorithm. While the process is kept secret, you get to see the result. Is Google suggesting “medical claim billing service” higher up than “medical claim company”? This is a good indicator of what others will be searching for.
Go ahead and load the search engine results page (SERP, in SEO vernacular) in Google Chrome for whatever you typed. Now scroll to the bottom of the page. You will see other suggested searches. These are also built from Google’s algorithm. Maybe one of these will be more preferred.
Don’t forget to focus on long-tail keywords. Think about what people actually type. They might type only “vegan restaurants” in the search bar but most people achieve great results from long-tail searches like “restaurants with full vegan menus”.
Remember that keyword results are ever-changing. Periodically, go back through this process. You might want to update your site’s SEO as things change.
Record your preferred search keywords and long-tail searches. We will use them many times. In later articles we’ll look at the technical side of how to make use of these keywords on your site. Or you can just contact Crimson Web Design and we’ll take care of all the tedious work for you.
When trying to improve web presence for small business, like yours, it can be hard to know where to begin. Sometimes it’s tempting to just start throwing content on your site without fully understanding what you want to accomplish. But now you have an identity and a goal, along with some great descriptors of your business in the form of keywords.
In the next article we’ll look at how to put all that to use with metatags, URLs, titles, and especially content. By starting here though, with the basics, we can move forward with the best (but easy and free!) ways to improve your SEO.