DIY SEO for Small Businesses: One Thing to Jump-start Your Online Presence
Before you start scanning this article, let me tell you what to expect. This is NOT a complete guide to DIY SEO for small business owners. What you’ll find here is a single SEO tip that does not involve your website and does not involve spending any money.
Not involve my website? I know what you’re thinking: But, I’ve read all these other articles with SEO tips and tricks to promote my website. Some had 10 tips or 50 tricks and they had a lot to do with my website. What about page titles, and meta descriptions, and quality content and schema markup? Don’t I need all those things to rank higher?
Don’t misunderstand: Those aspects of your website are all important. But I am not publishing another article with a long list of tips.
Here I’m focusing on one important and free DIY SEO tip that you can implement right away.
Search for Your Business Name on Google
It starts by searching for your own business name on Google. Have you ever done this? If you haven’t, or if it’s been awhile, go do that right now. Do this in a separate browser tab so you can keep reading this article and refer back to what you see.
When you search for your business name what do you see in the search results? Are ALL the results on the first page related to your business? Does the information look accurate? Does it convey the business image you desire?
Those searching for your business name most likely fit into one of these three categories:
1. They’ve heard about you through word-of-mouth. Small businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals for new customers. But have you ever considered how your business’ online presence works along with these referrals? Even if I get a referral from my best friend, I’m still going to Google the business name to see what shows up.
2. They’ve seen your other advertisements. Maybe they saw your name on the side of a work truck, a billboard, a business card, a TV commercial, or any other of a myriad forms of marketing. They saw your name through one of these avenues, but they go to the internet to learn more about you.
3. They already have a relationship with you. They may already be a customer, but are looking for something relating to your business. It could be as simple as your phone number.
These searches that involve company names are sometimes called ‘branded searches’ or, more accurately, as ‘direct searches’. If you have an established business, direct searches are probably the most popular search that brings people to your website.
It’s Not Just About Your Website
Do people always need to click through to your website to find what they want to know about your business?
Consider the current customer looking for your phone number. When you searched for your business name did you find your phone number prominently on the first page of Google without clicking any links?
Now think of the potential client who heard about you through a word-of-mouth referral. When they search for your business did any star ratings appear on the first page of Google?
In both cases, we hope the answer is yes.
Some in the local search industry have started referring to Google as the new “homepage”. That’s because when people search for your business name, they may find what they need on the first page of Google without ever clicking through to your website.
A big part of your online presence is your business image as shown on page one of Google for direct searches. You may think you have no control over these search results, buts that not true.
Mike Blumenthal, a local search industry leader, advises: “It’s time to start treating your branded search result just like you do the home page on your site; it needs to look as good as it can, it needs to contain compelling social proof, and, within the constraints that Google imposes, it needs to tell the story of your business.”
One way to take control is by making sure your business is listed in directories that appear on the first page of search results. These high authority directories will help you flood the first page with relevant results for your business name.
So what’s the do-it-yourself SEO tip for small businesses?
The One Thing: Claim and Maintain Business Listings in Key Directories
Sounds kinda basic, right? Maybe even a little boring. But very important. Remember we’re talking about influencing your “home page” on Google.
Let’s break this SEO tip into three simple steps:
1. Key Directories: Identify what directories are “key” for your business. I’m talking about just a handful of directories – pick the ones that are most relevant or with the most online visibility.
2. Claim: Make sure you are listed there and have the ability to edit the information (with a username and login).
3. Maintain: Just being listed is not enough. Utilize the directory features to interact with customers, and keep the listings up-to-date.
The three steps are listed in the order of action: identify, then claim, then maintain. But I’m going to explain the maintenance step first, because I think it is most important. It’s also the step that gets missed the most.
What Is Involved in Maintaining Important Business Listings?
Maintaining the listing means optimizing the content, engaging with customers through these platforms, and of course, keeping your business information up-to-date.
To build your online presence, you can’t just set and forget these important listings.
Here are some very important reasons why:
Monitor and Respond to Customer Reviews
Most of the directories that show on page one of search engine results are popular places for customers to leave reviews. Having an account linked to the directory listing usually means you’ll be notified when new reviews are left. A login enables you to respond to reviews as the business owner.
How and if you respond says something about your business. People researching your business will look at reviews AND look at your responses. The best practice is to respond to ALL reviews. If this isn’t possible, second best is to respond to all negative reviews and respond to as many positive reviews as possible.
Keep Business Information Up-to-Date
These directories include information about your business such as address, phone number, website, business hours, and some description of services or products. They may include some type of contact information as well.
If you have an account for your listing you can make sure all of this information is accurate. Inaccurate information is confusing, and doesn’t present a good business image.
A study done in 2018 found that 93% of consumers say they are frustrated by incorrect information in online directories. And apparently, it happens a lot.
The study also showed that 71% of consumers had a negative experience in the last 12 months because of incorrect local business information found online.
Communicate with Customers
Although it differs from directory to directory, many provide ways of contacting you other than just a phone number. This could be a form of messaging or forms that generate emails. You’ll want to keep up with these forms of communication so you don’t lose any potential customers.
For example, if you have a Facebook business page, do you keep up with any messages sent through Facebook Messenger? Google My Business (GMB) has had a messaging-to-text feature for awhile now, and it currently looks like they are testing out new messaging features through the GMB app. If you have messaging turned on in your Google My Business account, this is something to keep an eye on.
In addition to showing up in search results, some of these listings have advertising features you can utilize for free.
The first that comes to mind is Google Posts. These posts show up in the Google Business Profile and can be anything from Product advertisements, Events, or just Latest News.
Bing Places for Business has a place to promote deals and discounts. And Yelp let’s you create a check-in offer to encourage people to visit your business.
Keep Tabs on Your Business Image
Users may be encouraged to add content to your listing. Forms of content can include customer photos, suggestions for edits, and reviews.
Whereas this user generated content can be an asset to your business, it also has the potential for harm. For this reason it’s good to keep an eye on what edits are made. Google let’s you accept or reject suggested edits.
It may not always be possible to remove a customer added photo. But if it doesn’t present your business in the best way, you can flood it out with other, more appropriate photos.
All of the above mentioned actions require that you have full access to the business listing. So it should be evident that rather than just being listed in directories, you must have login access to them. That is what it means to “claim” the business listing, and it’s why that step is so important.
But how do you determine which listings are “key” for your business?
Which Business Directories are Important for My Business?
In the context of do-it-yourself SEO, remember, we are talking about the directory listings that appear on page one when someone searches your business name. You also want to focus on directories that have some of the features described above.
Look back at the Google search for your business name. Start with the ones you have. Is your business listed in some important directories that you have not claimed? That would be your first step.
Now consider if you could use a few more directory listings to show in the direct Google search. If you’re looking for ideas, perform similar searches for your competitor’s names and notice differences. This is a good way to find out where others in your industry are showing up online.
The specific directories will vary depending on your business type. But there are some directories that are relevant to ALL business types.
These include Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBB, Bing Places for Business (for searches on Bing) and Yellowpages. These seven all have options for free listings, show up prominently in search results, and have methods of client interaction.
Depending on your business type, examples of other relevant sites could include TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Foursquare, and niche directories specific to your business.
DIY SEO for Business Listings: Don’t Set It and Forget It
If you have a small business and are looking for a little DIY SEO, here’s a quick recap of what we learned:
- Pay attention to Google as your “home page”. Perform a search of your business name and analyze the results.
- The most important takeaway is this: Key business listings need continued monitoring. It will not help your online presence to set them once and then forget about them.
- Chose key business listings wisely, but don’t overwhelm yourself my choosing too many. Since they require attention, be reasonable. Definitely chose more than one or two, but probably not more than ten. (unless you have a lot of help to monitor them)
- Once you’ve chosen them, put in the time to add all relevant information about your business, and make sure to check back on them regularly.
You may be surprised how much this one task can help grow your business online.