By Gina Morin, Design Intervention
There seems to be this idea that if you have a website built, you will automatically rank number one in Google, all your customers will find you, and all your business problems will be solved. Unfortunately, that isn't an automatic result of launching a website, but there are things you can do to help your ranking.
Your New Website Goes Live
Your website is live; it's beautiful, it says everything you want. While the website may have been optimized for search engines, there are limitations to where you will rank without spending money that your budget may not allow for. Yet there are things you can do yourself (or with a little assistance) to help your ranking and drive clients to your website.
What About SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
You might be asking yourself, isn't that what the web designer is supposed to do? The answer is yes and no. Depending on who you work with and what your budget is, you may or may not be paying for some of that along with the web build. Here's the thing, there are companies out there strictly dedicated to SEO—and rightly so. SEO involves multiple strategies and tactics, competitor analysis, keyword research, an SEO writer, ongoing reviews, and reports, etc. SEO companies can require at least a 3-6 month commitment to do this. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. This is all good stuff, and businesses can see excellent results, but most independent, small businesses just don't have the budget to do this kind of in-depth optimization of their site.
Did I lose you yet? This SEO stuff gets complicated and a little boring, but stay with me... There are tactical "best practice" things that a lot of web designers do (including myself) to help your rankings. They include things to improve user experience like making sure the site is built mobile-friendly and loads quickly, to more complex things like indexing the website with Google and doing 301 redirects on old links to avoid errors.
I have found that for the primary, small business website, these tactics help quite a bit, but there are more things YOU can do to help your Google ranking and your online credibility with little or no help from your web designer.
Digital Marketing Strategies
There are MANY ways to improve your ranking and your credibility online. What you do depends on the type of business you have and who you are trying to reach. Just note, it takes TIME and EFFORT to do this. You have to prove that you are trustworthy and valuable to your audience AND the search engines. That doesn't happen overnight. Here are JUST SOME of the digital marketing strategies you can explore:
Google My Business Page:
If you are trying to reach a local audience, and you don't have a Google My Business page yet, get one NOW! This works if you have a bricks-and-mortar business or serve the locals without a storefront (like a home office). If you are targeted with your category and description on this page, you could see improved results in your ranking pretty quickly. Google Maps are the first things that show up on local search, and while your website might fall below that, your Google My Business Page could potentially be in the top three on the Google Map. TIP: In most cases, you want to avoid duplicate listings for your business. Google will be confused by the duplicate listings and will not know which one is valid. To be most effective, create a single, clear identity about your business to Google. If you have duplicate listings for your business and need to fix them, read this. And here's a great article that explains how to set it up.
Example: Below you can see my search for "graphic design mystic" (Mystic, CT) and I come up first in the Google Map, and my website shows up first just below that. Notice I don't have a link to "Directions" because I don't have a storefront. If you have a storefront, the "Directions" button would appear.
Starting a blog is a great way to showcase your expertise. Writing about valuable topics that help your customers can build credibility and allow you to gain followers that will see you as a trusted resource. I know you are rolling your eyes at the thought of finding the time or energy to write a blog. Don't get overwhelmed by this idea. While some people post a blog daily, you can decide on a blogging schedule that works for you—once a week, once a month—just be sure to stay consistent. TIP: Google likes blogging too! The more content you have on your site related to the key phrases clients are searching for and clicking on, the better Google will rank that page in searches.
Dust off that business Facebook page and start posting. Or maybe your target audience is on Twitter or Instagram? Regardless, choose a social media platform that will reach your clients and start engaging, posting, or paying to boost your posts and see what kind of results you get. Remember your customers aren't hanging out on your website, they are hanging out on social media. You need to get in front of them and go where they are. TIP: If you have started blogging, recycle that content by linking to your blog post across all your social media accounts to reach a broader audience and drive them back to your website.
Do you have an email list that you have collected over the years? Maybe you have all the emails of customers you have done business with? Why not start marketing to them through a branded email with your logo, graphics, and links to your website? Showing up in your client's inbox consistently with a professional looking email builds TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) so that when they need the service or product that you sell, you will be the first one they think of! TIP: Be sure only to use email addresses of those you have done business with or those who have opted-in to receive communication from you to avoid violating anti-spam laws.
Vlogging, or Video Blogging, allows you to reach your audience in a more engaging way than a written blog. Video allows you to tell your story and visually bring your audience into your world so you can show them what your business is all about. You can use your video on your website, on YouTube and other social media platforms and you can even link to your video in those branded emails I mentioned above. TIP: If you are using video on your website, be sure that the transcript of your video follows it because Google can only "read" text, not video.
While there are many other things you can do, you may find that they cost more money and can take more time than you really can dedicate to your marketing. So as you move forward, keep these things in mind:
- Look into all your options. Pick one or two, take action and then tweak if necessary.
- Don't overload yourself with a digital strategy you can't follow-through on consistently.
- Where focus goes, energy flows. If you block out the time to make your digital marketing a priority, you will start to see results over time.
Do you need help executing a digital strategy? Let's chat!