smallbiz

6 Small Business SEO Tips

Small Businesses can still market big.

Small Business / Big Online Marketing.

97 % of consumers polled recently stated that they begin sourcing products and services through online means, a number that is increasing with the on surge of mobile tech.

Regardless of what business one may be in, a website is a necessity.

Creating a website is a careful balance of style and function. It needs to be visually stimulating and it needs to be easy to find.

The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the science and engineering that goes into ensuring a website appears at the top of specific search results. SEO is all about making a website the first one a consumer sees and it can take small business online efforts from zero to hero.

Here are some simple SEO techniques any small business can do today to boost its Ssearch Engine rankings:

Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips:

1. Develop The Website To Be Search Engine Friendly.

Almost every website platform is going to do this anyways. However if when a site is customized, several key areas should be examined. Consider your site map, the HTML or code readability and your Folder structure.

These technical aspects reside more or less in the background of every website. Many website designers  are highly focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing site. The aesthetics and image are very important, however a website that is not engineered properly will seldom be seen.

The engineered background of a website is what matters to Search Engines, it is what dictates the websites ranking in search results. Better search results mean a larger audience and more traffic.

Put another way. A good website succeeds in two areas:

  1. Human Audience: It’s layout and content is visually appealing, and it navigates easily – customers can find their way around without any trouble.
  2. Search Bot Audience: It’s internal coding and structure is virtually appealing, Search Engines can find it easily and quickly ascertain what it pertains to, thus affecting its ranking.

Technical engineering does not mean sacrificing appealing design, it simply needs to be considered an equal partner. When it comes to a websites technical engineering one is best to forget about “style” and concentrate on text based descriptions, content. The more clues a website provides to the search bots, the better.

Enter key words that pertain to your business & industry.

2. Determine What Key Words You Want Associated With You Website For Search Results.

This is most easily determined but quickly writing down the first half dozen ways you personally would search for your site. It is best to ask the same thing from those around you, then cross reference and determine which are the most common ways from all of the results.

A few of the results will likely be the same, those are the ones to be key in on. Once that is done, run each of the search terms and isolate where your site stands in the results. The idea is to be in the top 10 results. This may be harder to achieve, depending on the number of related sites in your industry, and how common your business name is.

Generally speaking if you site does not appear within the first two or three pages, then your site should be examined. Not many consumers have the patience to click through that many pages.

While running the test searches, examine which sites are appearing higher in the results. Are the in the same industry? Are they local or global? Small or large? Do they offer direct competition to your business?

When choosing your search terms, remember that other sites will be fighting for top ranking as well. Keep this competition in mind. You may find it useful to break the trest results of search terms into three categories and then target as such:

  1. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | Minimum Competition: Your results show your site low ranked, but the search term is highly relevant to your site, and there is not much in the way of relevant competition. Start here. Prioritize them and you will begin to see results quickly.
  2. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | High Competition: Your appearance in the results is low, the search terms is highly relevant, yet the competition is as well. The high competition should be an indicator that this as a strong opportunity. However your competition is likely entrenched here and it could get expensive trying to punt them.
  3. Strong Search Term | High Ranking: Hurrah! Your site appears high in the results, the search term is relevant and you have clearly risen above any competition. Monitor these terms and ensure you stay on top.

Choosing relevant search terms, and prioritizing your targets should have resulted in at least three strong key words to concentrate on.

Make sure your website is Search Bot friendly. Image source: ezearn.info

3. Your Homepage Is To Contain A Textual Description That Includes 2 – 3 Of Your Top Key Words.

And so we begin melding the artistic and the technical. The content should stimulate the viewer, yet make easy climbing for the Search-Bot-Web-Crawlers.

Simply put: “If you want people searching for your key words to find you, then place the key words all over your site”

Think of your key words as little rock holds for the spidery Search Bots to grab hold of in their search. The more holds your site has, the more grip those little Search Bots will get on your site (that is a good thing).

Keep in mind that you do not want to cover your site in redundant textual info for the sake of the Search Bots as you then lose your Human Audience. It needs to be a careful blend of both worlds.

As you change and adjust your sites engineering and content, monitor the changes in your ranking.

4. Include A Page Or Blog Spot Dedicated To The Top Key Words.

This is a good idea for two reasons:

  1. If provides a natural text space to use your key words (again keep in mind not to overdo it, it needs to be readable).
  2. It provides an opportunity to show expertise and relevance in relation to your key words, and therefore your industry.

Rule of thumb write as if you had five minutes to explain to a friend or family member what it is you do.

5. Ask Colleagues, Industry Partners, Friends & Family To Post Content About You.

Search Engines view external links to a website as an endorsement of sorts. Like references on a Resume.

Asking external sources to post about your business AND include one of your key words within a direct link to your site, is known as a “Link Exchange”. While a useful SEO tool, many look at this as questionable when done in large quantities, or when exchanged with irrelevant sites or content (Ex. A Dental practice Link Exchanging with a Bulldozer rental site).

Mass Quantity Link Exchange Examined:

  • Some businesses and web developers will trade Link Exchange rights with other sites regardless of their content. For instance Herp.com may ask Derp.com to allow them to place a link on their site in exchange for the same privilege – even if the sites have nothing in common.
  • Others developers may go as far as to purchase the rights to share the links on other sites, or even set up a website directly aimed at nothing more than mass Link Exchanging.

There are a few schools of thought on this as an SEO strategy. Many Search Engines, like Google, do not like this type of thing – considering these types of Mass Link Exchange as misleading in relation to relevant content. These Search Engines are beginning to adapt their algorithms to give this sort of link sharing a pass.

Side Note: Google – the Search Engine with highest consumer use – has made it clear that they are geared towards search results based on relevant content, not SEO “cheats” like link exchanging to irrelevant outside sources. As such creating wide spread relevant content attached to your name is becoming important while mass link exchanging may be on the brink of extinction.

Make sure any link exchange you take part in, is relevant and provides relevant content to the reader. No misleading! That is a massive SEO party foul!

Mass Link Exchanging is frowned upon, however done legitimately, Link Exchanging is a great above-board practice for genuine websites with original content.

6. Back Link Your Website To Your  Social Media.

Relevant Content is the key to true SEO. Image source: Inboundwriter.com

I for one avoid Link Exchanging anyways. I prefer to develop my own content and utilize Social Media platforms for independent link sharing.

It is similar in nature and concept, to Link Exchange, in that it is positioning your link, attached to keywords, elsewhere on the web – yet different in that it is not on external source, but still on your own.

The Bonus here is that it is also CONTENT related, so it scores on two SEO levels and works within many Search Engine preferences for relevant content (it keeps the Google bots happy).

By developing a Social Media platform and link sharing your site, you are creating a larger “web presence” and more reason for Search Bots to find you and rank you.

The Search Engines will essentially crawl the content and trace it back to you. The more relevant content you have for them to crawl, the larger your presence and the higher your rank.

 

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds.

We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

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Small Business: Partnering For Success

Partnering For Success.

One key concept we attempt to convey, both to our clients, and to the public: “Small Business Relationships are Key to Success”. Relationships with your consumer base and relationships with the local small business community. Both are intrinsic to business growth and brand development.

Developing Business to Business partnerships can make the difference in overcoming obstacles.

Business to Business (B2B) Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local suppliers, retailers and even competitors can be profitable for the small business owner. Relationships help us to overcome hiccups. They create goodwill and understanding. By taking the time to create these relationships, one positions their business and brand more positively in the eyes of the surrounding market.

By developing mutually beneficial relationships with surrounding local businesses, the small business owner creates a community in which he or she can thrive.

Relationships help foster partnerships. Partnerships take your business and brand to the next level. For example, partnering with suppliers can help a business to develop programs for more accurate inventory management (FIFO, reduced inventory, faster turn-around). These programs can reduce costs for both parties, thereby increasing profitability.

Partnerships can take on a myriad of different forms based on your business and your partners. As an example, we recently teamed up with a local web-host to offer a special promotion to our local small business community: A contest with a free customized website awarded as top prize.The contest is based solely on meeting the local business owners and it offers an ideal segway into further conversations, a relational stepping stone.

The website is in itself, a great prize, however we took it one step further. By partnering with this web-host, we were able to also offer free registration, and a year of free hosting. This partnership wins on three levels:

  • For any small business on a budget, this is high value prize. A little good will spread into the community.
  • This creates a deeper partnership with our web-host. Providing them with the opportunity to grow and promote their business at minimal risk.
  • Most importantly (to us) a dialogue is developed with the local business community.

The areas for partnership are there for any small business, they just need to be explored.

Business to Consumer (or Customer). Developing relationships gains repeat business. Image source: designzzz.com

Business To Customer (B2C) Relationships.

In many aspects the marketplace is changing. In order to communicate the social necessities for brand success, terms like B2C are making a come back . B2C is all about business to customer communications – relationships essentially. It is the means by which a business supplies goods, services and brand information directly to its consumers.

This term became far more frequent with the advent of online business – during the height of the .com period. It fell into obsolescence when that bubble burst, but has been making a comeback recently – more specifically since the initiation of what we now know as Web 2.0 – which encompasses such phenomena as Social Media. Some have even said that the B2C policy of the .com period is what helped usher in the new era of Web 2.0.

It could be said that business to customer relationships, is the primary purpose of Social Media Marketing. B2C is all about engaging your customers directly, supplying them directly and building your brand association and business with them directly.

Developing relationships with your consumer base is invaluable. Engage a customer, provide them with a memorable experience, create an association between a brand and a quality, and you will have them for life. Apple understands this – in fact their credo states “we are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences”.

Big Brands will spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting to “humanize” their brands – to make them accessible, to provide their consumers with a relational experience. The attempt to humanize a brand, is to do away with “cold corporate” image and create a brand that comes across as understanding to the individual customer. What is ironic is that many of these brands will spend money on advertising and marketing – when the money would be better spent on hiring and training support and after sales staff.

Small businesses however, are already perfectly positioned to take advantage of this brand aspect, to develop relationships one on one and create a brand image that cares about its products, services, people and end users.

Brand Power is built not directly on sales – but on quality products, services and relationships. Relationships create a powerful consumer bases, they create an atmosphere that is conducive to sales, thereby achieving the sale WITHOUT souring the consumers mind. Put another way, by giving the customer a positive experience, they will COME TO YOU to make the sale and they will return for subsequent sales.

To paraphrase “Build relationships and they will come”.

Build it and they will come so get active and build your business relationships.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.

Small Business: Why You Need To Be On Twitter

You Belong On Twitter.

Every small business does. It is a tool of engagement and brand development. It is the means to find and learn from your market targets and it is quickly becoming a linchpin to modern marketing.

Consider the following points in regards to Twitter:

1. Twitter shrinks the world. Your brand instantly becomes apparent to both, the customer down the street and across the globe. “Twitter is a place where one person can help another person anywhere in the world” – Dave Larson, @TweetSmarter

2. It is budget friendly, easy to learn and easier to use. Here are a couple of quick Twitter references you should know:

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less.
  • Retweet (RT): A reposting or sharing of someones else’s tweet.
  • @johndoe: The means by which you directly address another Twitter user within your tweet.
  • #Hashtag: Placing the hashtag (#) in front of any word or sentence turns it into a search reference for the Twitter search engine. It can also be used to accentuate the point behind your tweet.
  • “Via”: Source or author of the content being shared.
  • OH: Overheard. The means by which you share a rumour or story.
  • #FF: The Hashtag (search reference) for Follow Friday. The means by which you share people you follow with your followers, “paying it forward” if you will.

Bu utilizing simple tags like this, you literally have the world at your fingertips (whether they listen to you is another story).

3. It is here, it is now, it is real time. Ask a question, expect an answer. The power behind this as a market research tool is enormous. Not only do you have the tool to find your targets, you have the means to speak with them. If you doubt the power Twitter possesses to consolidate an effort – then consider the recent political uprisings that have begun to change the middle east.

4. There is no limit to what you can do with Twitter. Advertise, research, dialogue. build goodwill or address issues.

5.Twitter is a research tool – monitor competitors and other industry relevant parties to see what the latest buzz is from your consumers. This is a great way to see where your brand may be succeeding or failing, but it also works the same way for monitoring your competition.

5. You can spot trends and hop on board. You can spot fails and move out of the way. Twitter hosts communications on everything that is going in the world. You can monitor issues, big and small, relevant or not, and speak to them as you need to.

Twitter can act as a megaphone for your brand successes

6. It is flexible.The speed at which it moves, the nature of limited 140 character posts, and the speed on replies make Twitter the perfect medium to test the waters. Change message types and communications as needed based on real time feedback from sources that matter.

7. Twitter is a great way to spread goodwill. Position your brand on Twitter as an expert and proprietor of helpful industry tips and info. Be helpful and enrich others – the efforts are appreciated and can quickly build brand reputation.

8. Customer Service. Twitter efforts can play a huge role in partnering with your Customer Service and After Sales Service efforts. The speed with which you can address concerns, comments or questions is incredible. Use Twitter to address customer comments and build your brand at the same time (or use it to move them to a less “public” avenue such as email, in order to address more volatile concerns).

9. Immediate information spread. Why does this matter? If you have a sudden issue, crisis or concern – Twitter possesses the speed and wide range communication capabilities to get your message out asap.

10. Connecting. I have been thrilled time and again, with how useful Twitter is for searching out new and relevant contacts. By city, by industry, by name – no matter the parameters, I can seek out those I need to network with.

11. It builds your small business future. Your tweets are entirely public, they are being seen by not just your current customers, but potential ones as well. This positioning of your brand within the eyes of the consumer base, can translate into future sales.

12. Use Twitter as a megaphone for your successes. Don’t brag, but if you get a compliment, favorite, Re-tweet it, and/or reply to it. Doing so spreads the word that, “hey! someone thought you were pretty great!”

Going Viral: Twitter spreads information widely and quickly.

13. Build your brand. We have already addresses this briefly, but Twitter is an ideal medium for establish your brands philosophies, morals and standards within your consumer base. Use Twitter to reinforce your brand message, stay consistent and you will see positive brand growth.

14. Twitter provides a tool to humanize your brand. It is B2B and more. It is B2C (business to customer). You can dialogue directly with the people purchasing your products and services. You can avoid the cold corporate image and show your small business is human just like them.

All that being said, there are pros and cons to all things. Likewise their are correct ways to go about it. Some businesses and Social Media Specialists would purchase follows, but the best and most appropriate use of Twitter is to develop your audience through organic relationships – communicate, speak to them, ask questions and monitor results. Go to your customers and build your brand B2B and B2C.

If you do find yourself on Twitter – drop by and tweet “Hi” – @MarketingTMS

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

Building Your Brand Through Service

How do you build a brand?

Branding is about more than just your image. A hot logo is only the tip of the iceberg.

Branding is about creating a consistent message for your customer base. One that communicates the same firm philosophy and image across the board.

Image plays a key role. A good Graphic Designer or Marketer will set you up with a full brand package that presents the same logo, same colour scheme, same concept across all of your promotional materials. That however is only the aesthetic aspect of Branding, and it is not enough.

Brand Association.

Branding is all about association – the associations that develop within the consumer. When it comes to this Brand Association, a business should be focused on two areas:

  1. WHO is the customer associating certain products, services and quality with? (is it your Brand?)
  2. WHAT products, services and quality are they associating with you? (is it good products and service or poor products and service?)

Five & Dime Branding Package by Bravo Coompany. Image Source: Behance.net

Simply put, when a customer looks to procure a specific product or service, do they naturally turn to you first? if not are you within the top three businesses they naturally turn to?

If you cannot with all certainty answer yes to either of these questions, then your brand may have some room for improvement.

Building Your Brand.

One cannot successfully build a brand over night. Brands build their reputation over time and as they do they build a faithful customer base. Their are two key way to speed up the development of your brand reputation:

1. Develop your business in key areas that matter to your consumer base. In other words, determine what matters to your customers and ensure that your business is focused on those areas first and foremost.

Can we build it? Yes we can! Build your brand through long-term consistent engagement.

Example: I boycott a certain Coffee Chain here in Canada – because they consistently get my order wrong – I am talking EVERY single time. They may release a new flavor of donut every month, which is fun, but what matters most to me is that I get what I ordered. As they cannot achieve this, they have lost my business. 

Determine what your key Target Market wants and aim for that. Do not get caught up marketing and branding yourself in areas that do not matter. It wastes resources and time.

2. Seek to broadcast your Brand’s message and success in these areas as often as possible through creative and consistent communication. There are numerous avenues through which to address and dialogue with your customer base – use them as often and as widespread as possible.

There is no better medium for building a brand, then happy consumers and nothing spreads legitimacy, like word of mouth. The more customers you reach with your brands QUALITY services and products, the more viral your brand will become.

Depositing Goodwill In The Consumer Bank

Branding Tip? Make a goodwill deposit of extra service into your customer bank EVERY chance you get.

One great example of Branding through quality service, that stands out for me, dates back to my days with the Customer Service Team of a large local manufacturer. Over the course of several months I had developed a good dialogue and banter with one of our wholesalers. There had been several key moments when he had asked for help to remedy errors on their part. Our company had no actual responsibility to assist, however we took on a little extra labor and cost, and gave him a hand.

Catch that? We were in no way beholden to help with his errors, it cost one of our reps some time and effort and it cost the business a few extra dollars – we could have easily said “sorry we cannot help you with this” and walked away with no hard feelings, instead we went the extra mile.

Sure enough several months after all of this, we missed a high priority shipment to this same wholesaler. I emailed with a profuse apology, explained the situation and waited to get slammed.

His reply was simple: “no worries you have investments in the bank of Jake (his name) and you are allowed to make a withdrawal every once in awhile”.

I was taken aback, our extra service had been remembered, we had “deposited” GOODWILL with him. Our Brand had established enough goodwill, good faith and reputation with him, that he stood by us despite our error. That is what effective Branding can do.

A good example of what not to do, comes from a recent interaction I had with an international courier service. I was forced to spend over 2 hours listening to their on-hold propaganda about their outstanding deliveries and service. This all spanned three different phone calls with three different answers to the same inquiry. The final straw came when I was told by the service rep that they did not know where the package was, and to just “wait and see if it turns up tomorrow”. 

Service is key to Branding. Build your service and you will build your reputation. Build your reputation and you have built your Brand.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.

How Lowe’s is Building Brand Loyalty with an Integrated Social Media Strategy

Brianna Smith @ BeingYourBrand knows here stuff! Check out this great article on Lowe’s Pinterest use and why it is so effective! (We recommend visiting her Blog first chance you get!)

How Lowe’s is Building Brand Loyalty with an Integrated Social Media Strategy.

Lowe’s Facebook Strategy

The core of Lowe’s social media strategy is their Facebook page. With over 1.1 million likes (almost twice as many as the main competitor, Home Depot), Lowe’s has created a successful strategy to communicate with their customers using this social media platform.Lowes Facebook Page

Lowe’s leverages the best features of the Facebook timeline format, the cover photo and the history timeline.

For their cover photo, Lowe’s uses an attention grabbing photo composed of the top pins that followers have re-pinned on Pinterest. They also tie their profile picture directly into the timeline cover photo and use it to drive traffic to their Pinterest account.

The success of Lowe’s Facebook strategy is due greatly to their positive and real-time interaction with fans. Lowe’s responds to the majority of questions and comments within minutes. When a fan has a question about a product, Lowe’s not only answer the specific question, but frequently directs them back to Lowes.com and includes tips on how to use the product.

Check out the full article to find out how Lowe’s mastered the art of responding to negative comments and leveraged the other features of the new timeline format.

Lowe’s Twitter Strategy

Lowes Twitter ProfileWith over 47,000 followers, Lowe’s usesTwitter to answer customer questions and concerns, as well as spread community awareness. As with their Facebook page, Lowe’s does a great job of taking the conversation offline for any negative mentions by asking followers to email them at a Twitter-specific Lowe’s email address. They also respond to all questions, comments, and mentions, often within minutes of the original Tweet.

Check out the full article to find out how Lowe’s uses hashtags to give back to their followers.

Lowe’s Pinterest Strategy

The rapid growth of Pinterest has many companies overwhelmed, but Lowe’s has leveraged the user base and Lowes Pinterest Profilegrowing popularity create to a strong presence on the new social media platform. With almost 7,000 followers (and growing), Lowe’s is building a strong community around their brand on Pinterest. The boards on their Pinterest profile include topics that interest all their different types of customers.

Lowe’s uses Pinterest as a resource tool for customers to find fun and new projects. For example, they have a board for grilling recipes, which includes links to both the full recipe and grills available at lowes.com. Other popular boards on their Pinterest profile are craft, landscaping, and interior design projects using Lowe’s products.

Check out the full article to find out why Pinterest was the perfect addition to Lowe’s social media strategy.

Lowe’s social media strategy has been a success because they appear to understand that social media is a powerful tool for creating and maintaining relationships with customers. Visit the Mudbug Media blog to find out the five key factors that make Lowe’s strategy a success and to read the full article: