If you’re a retail business owner, one of the key factors contributing to your success is location. A prime spot in a busy mall or on a thriving downtown city street can be as important as your product, price or promotions. If you’re not blessed with the best location, or don’t have a storefront kind of business, you’ll have to work harder at attracting customers. There are many ways of marketing your business and in today’s wired world, many businesses turn to the internet. If you have a website or are planning one, you might wonder what will make your online space a prime location that’s easily found by potential customers?
Since there are no avenues or sidewalks, “window-shopping” happens differently on the internet and getting found online requires more than simply creating an attractive website. Claiming a domain name (your web address) that either includes your company name (joetheplumber.com) or describes the product or service you sell (drainsunclogged.ca) certainly helps. But if potential customers don’t know you by name or are searching for different terms than the ones you use in your domain name, they won’t be finding your website.
Getting Found Online Begins with SEO
Most of us use search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing to find the products and services we’re seeking on the web. There is no shortage of studies revealing the advantages of having links to your website appear on the first page of search engine results. Of course, the closer to the top of page one you show up, the better. It makes sense then, to consider search engines as a key component to being found online. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a much-discussed but often under-utilized practice employed to help improve a website’s “natural” or unpaid search engine results. And while many SEO “specialists” may make claims guaranteeing you page one rankings, there is no magic, quick-fix solution that will put you at the top of search results and, more importantly, keep you there.
The goal of search engines like Google is to display websites that have the most relevance to search terms; they do this by ranking sites on a variety of factors. Websites with useful, keyword-rich content that is current and consistently updated are given more weight than pretty, image-heavy sites with little to say. Other influencing factors are referral links from other websites, links from online advertising, and, more recently, social media links. You thought all that chatter on Facebook and Twitter was about what people had for lunch? Recent changes to ranking criteria now place greater value on links and traffic from social media sites. Shares and ‘likes’ on social networks are considered personal recommendations and thought to be more reliable as a gauge of usefulness and relevance than paid advertising or traditional linking strategies. The more traffic your website receives from social media sites, the better its chance to rank higher with Google and other search engines.
Keyword Research and Regularly Updated Content Help
Achieving top rankings takes patience, effort and time, and not simply the time required to optimize a site in the first place. Search engines may not send their “bots” to visit your business website immediately after you submit it for indexing, but they will return to your site again and again to review and adjust rankings if you regularly update it with fresh content. This too, takes time. Writing rich content which connects with customers and search engines alike is no easy task. Keyword research – the process of understanding which terms are being used in searches – is time-consuming and keeping your site ranking well requires continuous monitoring. What’s more, there are plenty of other websites competing for attention that will also be using many of the same keywords. If these competitors have been there well ahead of you, it may take a while to unseat them. Do you have the time, knowledge or ability to do all this SEO work yourself? If not, you might want to consider hiring website professionals to assist you in this ongoing process.
If you decide to engage a web or SEO agency, ignore any inflated claims about “guaranteed page one rankings” and take a look at the work they’re doing for themselves and others. Do the web professionals and their clients rank well for a variety of the search terms you would expect them to? Do they do well at updating their own site, blog or social media channels? If yes, then take the next step and speak to them about optimizing your business website to make it a prime piece of online real estate that attracts and retains customers.