Easy, lucrative SEO tips all independent retailers can (and should) easily implement
For independent retailers, taking ownership of your search engine optimization (SEO) could be one of the most lucrative investments of time you put into your business this year.
The customer insight gleaned through tools like Google Analytics has forced almost all of us to become statistic geeks, but SEO remains the obsession for most of us.
Search engine optimization helps your customers find you online without the help of online ads. Essentially, you’ll rise in the rankings for Google, Bing and other search engines for desired search terms without having to pay for it. How is that possible?
First and foremost, there isn’t an end-all, be-all answer. It will always be a, “using-every-tool-in-the-toolbox” type of solution.
In fact, Google, Yahoo and Bing routinely change how their search engine algorithms work. That said, below are some tips that have proven to be effective – some are easier to incorporate than others depending on your level of website involvement, but some of these you can easily do right now. Your store depends on it.
These very basic fundamentals that will get your content showing up more often:
A Facebook account is not a website. I can’t stress this enough. No one goes to Facebook to search for anything; we scroll as users and click things that catch our attention. Too often I hear, “Setting up a website isn’t really worth it for me. I just use Facebook and boost posts now and again and pay for advertising to get my numbers up.” If you can afford to pay to boost posts on Facebook, you can afford to build a quality website rich with SEO tips and tricks.
Putting all your faith and trust in building your business by relying on Facebook is like telling me that your business website address is myspace.com/acmefloorpolishing. You’re laughing right now because no one uses MySpace. I’m laughing because we don’t know how long Facebook will be around. Websites, however, have a solid 20-year track record and provide the basis for other platforms. It pays to secure your own address on the web.
Become Your Target Audience
The second biggest mistake small business owners make when first discussing their SEO needs and desires with me is when they say, “I want my company to come up first in Google when anyone types the name in.” Here’s the truth; if a customer types in the name of your company and it’s not the first, you’ve got bigger problems than SEO. All three search engines usually take care of that pretty well. The bigger problem that needs to be addressed is how potential customers will find you. Stop being a business owner and become your customer.
What broad based search terms would someone use to find your business?
Set up your URL (website address) with SEO in mind
If you were a costume jewelry store in Spokane, Washington, wouldn’t you want a potential customer to find your business with the search term costume jewelry store in Spokane? So the very first step to increase SEO would be to get some of those desired terms in the URL of your business. If the business name were Deb & Daughters, a good URL would be debanddaughtersjewelry.com or even spokanecostumejewelry.com. Placing the desired search terms in the URL not only makes it very obvious what you do, but also helps place it in the three big search engine companies quickly.
Properly Title Your Websites Pages
There are a half dozen or so platforms to build websites on, most of which easily allow you to do the follow these essential tips;
- Keep page titles and descriptions short and to the point.
- Include keywords when appropriate in page titles
- Use no more than 55 characters in a page title
- Page / blog title come before business name in the title
- When appropriate use the desired keywords in the first sentence or first paragraph
- Try to use the desired keyword 3-6 times per page or blog article (or about 1% of your total words)
- When using photographs/images, edit the file name to be descriptive and relevant and edit the ALT tag to match (an alt tag is a text alternative for an image or object on your page.
- When making links to other websites always ensure they are target=”_blank”
- When making any hyperlink always edit the ALT tag to include a description
Set up Your Blog (and Keep Posting…Consistently)
I can’t emphasize enough just how important a blog or news feed on your website can be. Google specifically looks for new and fresh content and values it almost as much as any other content online. Moreover, it’s a free way to connect with your customers to let them know about new products, sales, promotions, open house events and changes in store hours. Set a realistic goal for updates, too.
Far too many businesses will make five or six blog posts a week for the first few months then cut back to two or three then one a month and before the end of the year they aren’t doing it anymore. Start off with a realistic goal and then build up from there. It’s also a great way to drive social media users to your actual website. Not sure what to write about? Look at your competition, locally and nationally, and see what they have to say.
Setup a Google+ business page
I know, I know, Google+ is another one of those silly stepchildren of the Internet that only a select few use and those who do love it, but Google+ hasn’t caught on the way Facebook or Instagram has. What Google+ will do for your SEO results though may surprise you. Not only will it enhance how your business appears in results on organic Google searches (sorry Bing and Yahoo users), linking your website and newest blog posts from a G+ business page will actually get them indexed faster. That is to say, just because you publish a website or post a new blog article, Google doesn’t know it’s there yet to include it in organic searches.
Five years ago it could take months for that to show up, but today with a proper title, quality writing and some other mentioned tweaks, it can start gaining you results in as little as an hour. You might not get a few hundred “+’s” on that G+ outbound link from your business page like you would get thumb-ups on Facebook, but rest assured it will help those organic search results.
Sitemaps are Retailer’s Friend
Signup for and use Google Webmaster Tools. Google will monitor your site and has some simple steps to ensure you’re doing everything possible by their guidelines to show up well in their searches. Yahoo has a similar toolkit.
Create a sitemap to help bots crawl your site. That’s pro-talk for basically helping Google, Yahoo and Bing know your site exists and promote that it’s ready to be scanned so it will show up in searches better. Some content management systems (CMS for short) like WordPress have simple plugins that can help make this faster. There are also options in the previously mentioned Google Webmaster Toolkit.
Submit your site to the DMOZ, the largest and most comprehensive human-edited directory of the web. While most people have never heard of the DMOZ, it is one of the most important lists on the Internet. It can take months before consideration and not all websites are listed, but having a backlink from the DMOZ will certainly increase the value of your site when search engine bots crawl it.
A Word on Google Analytics
Monitor your traffic but don’t obsess about it. Google Analytics is considered to be one of the best ways to monitor website traffic in many different ways, but it’s also easy to become fixated on or discouraged with what you’re seeing. Look at the stats month-over-month, not day-over-day or week-over-week. When you see big spikes or deep dips in traffic ask yourself the following questions:
- What did I do differently today?
- Is the traffic coming organically (searches) or referrals (from another website)
- For spikes, ask yourself how you can repeat the trend
- For dips, look at the day of year and see if it coincides with other cyclical trends.
Your Web Content = An Extension of Your Front Counter
Be fun and be relevant. For small business owners, one approach that’s always works well is to think of your website as an extension of your front counter or customer service team.
If the information is there, and the content you create has meaning, then your customer will care too.
Hint: don’t just publish another blog article because it’s that time of the week to publish another blog article or because you’re dying to be number one for a specific search term.
Great editorial generates trust…and search results. Your free advertising awaits.
Want to gain more knowledge like this? Join us for 2+ free days of retailer e-commerce strategy sessions presented by the Internet Merchants Association at ASD MarketWeek this August 2-5 in Las Vegas. Register here. It’s free!
By Mike Panic
Mike Panic is an SEO expert and successful independent retailer.