For this article, we look at SEO from the lens of a local business with a physical address.
Back in the day, the Yellow Pages was the gold standard for finding a business. If you needed a plumber, you picked up the hefty paper directory book and looked up “plumber”. The plumber options were listed in alphabetical order. That is why there are so many “AAA Plumbers” and such to this day. Your name showed up first in the Yellow Pages if it started with an “A”. You could also buy ads, so savvy plumbers would buy a large ad to showcase that they were the “trusted source” or that they “fix problems in a jiffy.” They had a small square and they made that ad work for them. People who saw the ad were likely keenly interested in finding a plumber, so it worked. You could also pay to have your business name bolded. Free listings included your business name, phone number and an address.
Today, directories are online and your digital presence matters more than any other marketing platform. When you need that same plumber today, you turn to the Google search bar, right? Google is therefore where you need to show up to grow your business. And, just as the plumbers wanted to show up first and be seen in the Yellow Pages, there are effective strategies that make your company show up when someone uses the Google search bar, which is today’s Yellow Pages. And, to be clear, this applies to all businesses, not just plumbers!
As an aside, when you implement the best practices to show up on Google, you’ll show up well on other search engines, like Bing, as well. So, when we talk about Google, it’s because Google is the dominant player. But, the steps you are using for Google will help you across the board.
When someone searches for a business, say “plumbers in Nashville,” the businesses that show up – without paying for an ad – have strong SEO. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and all that means is that when someone is searching for something your business sells, that your website is an easy, visible option to click on. That is the end goal of SEO: to get people to your website. From there, you need a website that can convert potential customers into actual customers — but that’s the role of the website. The point of SEO is simply to get people to your website.
I want to reiterate that:
- You can have a beautiful website that has terrible SEO.
- You can have a beautiful website with a strong call to action and terrible SEO.
- You can have a website with amazing SEO but the site itself is clunky and ugly and looks dated.
Ideally, you want a beautiful, functional site with strong SEO. But, this article is only talking about SEO
So, what are those tools to get people to your website?
There are four main tools to enhance your SEO that we are going to cover today:
- Website + Content
- Links from other websites (called backlinks)
- A Google My Business account (they are FREE!)
- Paid SEO services
Google is the god of the internet. SEO is simply a tool all businesses need to use in order for the Google gods to decide that your website, and therefore your business, is valuable enough to show up above other, similar businesses.
As you can quickly see, that makes SEO a big business and one that confuses many. With the understanding that SEO is not a silver bullet but rather a regular, deliberate process that takes time, let’s break down four SEO tools and turn confusion into clarity.
#1) Website + Content
As mentioned previously, a pretty website is one thing. A website that actually converts customers is another. And, a site that acts as a beacon to pull people to it is an entirely different thing. Ideally, all three of those things can coexist in your website. But, SEO has nothing to do with how pretty your site is or how well it converts a customer. At the end of the day, if you can’t get anyone to look at your website, none of the other stuff matters.
Meta Descriptions: One of the best ways to ensure your website has strong SEO is to add some almost-invisible words to it. These are called meta descriptions and they don’t appear anywhere on your site for people to read. But, they do appear in Google searches. It’s basically part of the language on which Google relies. If properly written, meta descriptions will increase site visitors over time quite significantly. Every single page on your website should be optimized with meta descriptions. Installing a tool like Yoast, for WordPress, can help you have an easy place to write meta descriptions. From there, it’s figuring out what keywords you want to capitalize on. This is overwhelming and far too technical for a lot of people, so one thing Blueprint.Inc offers is to write all these meta descriptions for a company as a key building block.
Broken Links: If you have broken links on your website, Google dings you as they really don’t like that. Furthermore, it’s a poor customer experience. You can click on every link on your site each month, or you can partner with someone with the tools to check them. At Blueprint Marketing, that is part of our monthly hosting fee for our WordPress clients. That means that if we host your site, we’ll scan it each month to make sure there are no broken links. If your host partner is not doing that, we’d love to talk with you. But, you can click on all those links, or at least the main ones, each month. You’d be surprised how many times an update will affect your website and a link stops working.
Image Alt Tags: Images may say a 1,000 words, but they say zero words to Google without image alt tags. These tags are simple descriptions of what is in the photo and they help Google serve up photos upon someone’s search. It’s commonly looked over and an easy way to make your SEO better than your competitor’s. Another tip is to name your photo before you upload it. So, instead of image IMG_2377.jpg rename it to “Best_Plumber_Nashville.jpg”.
Content: Having content on your site, that pertains to your business, helps potential customers find you. If you are that same plumber, and you have an article about 5 Reasons a Shower Drain Stops Up, you’ll likely start getting Google traffic off of that article. That traffic is also coming from people with stopped up drains. These same people are interacting with your website and getting to know you. CHA CHING! These same people reading this article are great to target with a retargeting ad (retargeting ads are ads that are served only to people who have visited your site via the Google ad network or on social media sites). If you are a plastic surgeon with blog content on how to get rid of a double chin with surgery or kybella, you will 100% pick up more clients than your competitor that doesn’t. Why? Google searches will bring those clients your way. That’s the power of SEO. (Another shameless plug, but Blueprint Marketing also writes content for business websites.)
Keywords: Keywords are words or phrases to use in your content that simply match commonly searched for terms that overlap with what you sell. For example if you are a jewelry store in Birmingham, please have “Monique Pearl, a jewelry store in Birmingham, AL,” written several times in your content on your website! (Obviously, don’t use our fictional store name, Monique Pearl, in your content … just ‘a jewelry store in Birmingham’ or whatever city your business is in!) That way, when someone is Googling “jewelry store birmingham” your business will show up. It’s worth the time to think through what keywords you need to build content around. And, this is what SEO content companies can help you build as well. But, beware of content simply written to boost SEO and actually provide no value to the person who finds your site through this blog post. You want all your content to be reflective of your brand and business.
#2) Links from Other Websites
If your business is lucky enough to be written about, and linked to, by The New York Times, your site will rank higher. Why? The New York Times carries a lot of weight with Google. Thus, if The New York Times says that they deem your business worthy enough to link to, it actually means a whole lot. It helps pull you up in SEO rankings. So, the more reputable sites that link to you, the higher your SEO will be.
These links, the ones where other companies are linking to you, are called backlinks.
Different websites have different rankings. StyleBlueprint.com is one of our three divisions at Blueprint.Inc. It’s our digital magazine and we started publishing in 2009. It has a strong SEO ranking. This means a link from StyleBlueprint is helpful to your website. This is also why StyleBlueprint has to sift through hundreds of email requests each week to add a link to their site from our site. These requests typically come from companies hired by businesses to strengthen their SEO and they, in turn, relentlessly send emails asking for their client’s website to be added to already published articles. They simply want the backlink. (By the way, we never add the backlinks requested from these companies. Never.) If you get enough links from other reputable companies it actually does make a difference to your website’s SEO which is why these companies exist. Higher SEO means more potential customers which means more revenue … it pays to aggressively ask for the links – BUT it’s also kinda spammy. But, this is also one of the many reasons companies pay real dollars for PR companies. They want their company name and link placed in multiple locations online that will bring them long-term value from these backlinks along with that content.
Backlinks are just one component of SEO, but it’s part of the SEO puzzle to remember.
#3) Google My Business Account
This is a free service from Google and it helps Google weed out imposter businesses, of which there are plenty. Not only does it help your SEO, it ensures your business shows up on Google Maps and that potential customers find accurate store hours, photos and reviews. And, of course there is a link to your website.
Make sure you have claimed your GMB account (that’s Google My Business for short). Then, you’ll want to update business hours, load photos that represent your business, and monitor your reviews. There are services that can do this for you, but this is your first step to building a strong local SEO presence.
If you do not have a Google My Business Page, get started here
The very confusing part of SEO (as if there is only one confusing part!) is that Organic SEO (bullet points #1 and #2 on this list) and Local SEO overlap, but act independently of each as well. A strong GMB page actually answers all the questions many people go to websites for (hours, directions, reservation link, etc). But, working both these sides of the SEO game both bring you to the same end goal: more customers and more revenue.
And make sure you know your GMB password and how to access it quickly. You’ll also need to respond when reviews come in.
#4) Local SEO Paid Services
No one likes paying for insurance and many don’t like eating their vegetables. Both insurance and eating vegetables are a lot like paying for local SEO services. These services basically allow you to know that you are doing the right things for the long term SEO health of your business. The results are not immediate, but they pay off over time. This is your digital insurance and it further enhances your relationship with Google.
These services come in a variety of price points, but what they do is make sure your business information is correct across a variety of online directories that are cumbersome and time intensive to change on your own. For instance, if your business is listed as 123 Main St in one listing, and 123 Main Street in another, and 123 Main Str in yet another, your human brain would know that these are all the same business. But, what Google sees is inconsistencies. Inconsistencies mean “not reliable” and that is not good. By methodically taking the time to get these listings changed, these services strengthen your legitimacy in Google’s eyes.
These services also will optimize your GMB page, monitor your reviews, optimize backlinks to your site, and SO MUCH MORE. Companies like Blueprint Marketing can do all of this, host your website to ensure it comes up quickly (which helps your SEO) and strengthen your website by optimizing meta-descriptions.
But, all of this is dependent on the level of spending you have.
These services typically start for under $300 a month and they take care of things that as a business owner, we don’t have time to take care of. It’s your SEO insurance and it matters.
If you are interested in finding out about the different levels of Local SEO Blueprint Marketing delivers, let us know here.
At the end of the day, SEO matters because it’s a process that builds and expands your digital footprint, the foundation of your online presence. From here, you need to look at how your website converts customers and if it is feeding your sales funnel. But, to get those people to your website, in order to feed that sales funnel, you likely need to strengthen your SEO.
P.S. Changes are always happening in the world of SEO. For example, recent changes put far more emphasis on the speed and performance of your website. It’s important to understand that SEO building is a continual project that is never “done” but always builds on what you’ve done in the past. Starting today allows you to be that much better in three months, and then a year, and then in 5 years.