Nowadays, even the smallest companies have begun to use the Internet to help build their customer base, whether by using their website as a way of keeping in contact with their clients or as a basic means of advertising. Yet, too often we hear about companies that are reluctant to build out a website presence because they are “just local”.
Contrary to popular belief, having a website and following the basics of SEO … which stands for “search engine optimization” … isn’t just for companies going after markets outside their local geographic area. In fact, some of the best opportunities on the Internet today are about serving and connecting with your local market.
If you are one of those companies still paying for a premium listing in your local Yellow Pages, you might want to reconsider that investment and redirect those dollars to building you online presence instead. Designing and building an effective company web site typically costs less than you probably think … a good functional website can be built for anywhere between $500 and $2500 which will almost certainly support the core functionality you are likely to need. Best of all, popular website platforms such as WordPress are fully scalable, so you can add more functionality and horse power over time as your needs change.
But the core of this article is about the basics of SEO … with an emphasis on SEO for local businesses.
The thing about SEO is that anyone can claim to do it, but when you take the time to look, very few so-called “SEO experts” even bother to use good SEO on their own websites. SEO has become a buzzword that everyone will say they offer, but few really know what they are talking about … even at the most basic level. The goal of this article is to arm you with enough of the basics for SEO that you can direct your webmaster (or determine whether or not he/she is well equipped to help you).
Recent industry surveys suggest that as many as 90% of consumers looking for local products and services now will first look on the Internet instead of the phone book.
The point of good SEO is to optimize your website page(s) to give them the best chance of being indexed and found in the search engines. The more pages on your website that are indexed, and the better they rank in the results relative to other website for the same search term, the more traffic you are likely to receive.
Remember — as many as 90% of consumers will search for local products and services using the Internet instead of the phone book. So if you adopt the basics of SEO for your local business, you have the opportunity to receive traffic to your website from people who are likely to want to buy your product or service.
Here are some basic SEO techniques for your local business:
In a perfect world, your domain name will include your primary target keyword or search phrase that you’d like to “rank” for. But don’t stress about this. If you have an existing web site and your domain name is tied to your brand or company name, that’s okay. It may take a little more time to start showing up in the search results where you want to, but you can begin to optimize for you target search phrase using your existing domain. Don’t get pressured into abandoning your existing domain because it is not necessary.
Once you know what your target keyword phrase is, localize it by adding a geographic qualifier. So for example, if your target keyword phrase is estate tax attorney and you operate locally in Winnipeg, then you want to optimize for “Winnipeg estate tax attorney”. There will be far less competition in the search engines for the local phrase and yet it is ultra-targeted which means people searching for Winnipeg estate tax attorney want a Winnipeg estate tax attorney.
Ensure the keyword phrase you are targeting is in the URL of your page (eg., yourdomain.com/winnipegestatetaxattorney), the meta title tag of your page, the meta description of your page, and in the formatted headlines on your page (H1 and H2 tags). If this sounds like tech-speak to you, insist that these elements be covered by your web designer. If he/she doesn’t understand, then run away from him or her as fast as you can and find someone who does to support you instead.
Make sure your website and web page content is on topic relative to the search phrase you are targeting. If the page is supposed to be about Winnipeg estate tax attorney, then stay on topic and provide appropriate content … say, the 3 things you must know before choosing a Winnipeg estate tax attorney. This is an SEO basics “golden rule”.
Provide ongoing fresh content on your website. Use your website as a way to build a relationship with your existing and prospective customers. Maintain a blog or “what’s new” page, or a regular newsletter they can subscribe to. Use the news to educate and help your readers and invite them to contact you if they require assistance.