Getting Found on the Internet

The internet is not a 'build it and they will come' proposition. Something that many business owners don’t fully appreciate is the enormity of the internet, and how difficult it can be to "get found" out there. Simply building a website, no matter how appealing it may be, will not get traffic to that website.

In order to generate traffic to your site you must do something to bring those visitors in, either in cyberspace or in the real world (preferably both). 

The most effective way for virtually any business to get in front of their target consumers is to appear in online search engine results.

This doesn't mean appearing in a search for your company name however. To be meaningful to your business, it means appearing in search results for terms that people will use when shopping for the products and services that you sell.

Most search engine results pages (SERP's) offer several types of results or listings. We'll focus on the three most prominent types of listings, referred to as ‘organic,’ ‘premium or paid,’ and ‘local.'

Search Engine Results

Organic results are the unpaid listings of all the various websites out there, relevant to the word or phrase that was searched. These are the most valuable, and most difficult to acquire listings. If you want to appear here for highly searched terms, it takes time and resources.

Premium results or Paid results are advertisements that are being presented based on the searched for words and terms. Appearing in these results is easy, doing so profitably... less easy. Read more about what it takes to manage profitable search engine marketing, (PPC Marketing).

Local results are listings for businesses and organizations based on a combination of search terms and geography. This is a place where businesses can appear without the same expenditure of time and money as normal ‘organic’ listings, and sometimes with even greater reward.

So with this in mind, lets take a look at some of the free, or very inexpensive steps that any business owner can take to make sure their business gets found on the internet.

On-Page Tactics - Think of this as things to do on your own website: 

  • Make sure that your site is laid-out well, and doesn’t contain any of these cardinal sins of web design.
  • Use Keyword rich page titles and meta-titles, which are descriptive of your business. For example, if your business is a tennis club that offers children’s programs and adult programs; use titles like “Kids Tennis” rather than “Kids Program.” For adults “Tennis Lessons” as a page title instead of just “Lessons.” You want to make sure that the search engine bots can easily identify what your site is about.
  • Use keyword rich meta-descriptions, and make sure the descriptions don’t waste valuable characters repeating your company’s name.
  • Write descriptions so that they will help your search engine conversion or “click-through rate.” Meta-descriptions are what normally appear along with search results to describe your business. Don’t just stuff keywords in there, that won’t get the job done.
  • Complete your site meta-keyword tags too, no matter what anyone tells you about search engines ignoring them (even Google themselves).
  • Use short but search friendly urls that include essential keywords.
  • Create a sitemap of your site, on your site, and submit it to the major search engines.
  • Make sure there is “alt-text’ associated to your images, especially images that have important words contained within them. The Search crawlers aren’t reading words that are inside of images on your site.
  • Install Google Analytics, and look at where your traffic comes from. Use this information to adjust your future online marketing tactics.

Off-Page Tactics - Things to do BESIDES what you do on your own website:

Google Search Local Results

Google says they ‘pay attention’ to their own properties, like Google+, YouTube, etc. and any experienced SEO can attest to this, check out the Google Local Search results to the right, notice any common theme? Google is probably the most important place for your business to rank well, and if you rank well on Google, you will rank well on Bing, Yahoo and other search engines quickly. I’ve heard of SEO’s that don’t believe in using any Google tools. Unless you are doing serious ‘Black-Hat SEO’ you should be absolutely using Google’s tools.

  • Claim your business listing with Google, and make sure you’ve filled out your “Google Places” profile with all the applicable and relevant info. Include pictures, select all relevant Places-“Categories” This is key to appearing in Google Local Results.
  • Use social media, and have it point to helpful useful information on your website whenever possible.
  • Include a G+ profile and make updates there too, for the above reasons, even if you don’t see the same engagement in G+ that you may get from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. 

How to Get Ahead of Your Competition:

This is the part that separates the men from the boys; or the women from the girls, the internet isn’t sexist. There are some key things that you can do in the digital world that will distinguish you from eighty percent of everyone else out there. The smartest thing to do is to engage professionals to assess where you are, and at the very least help layout your options. There are some do-it yourself things you can do however, that will give you a fighting chance in the vast scariness of cyberspace:

  • Find high quality places where you can build links (called 'backlinks') to your website. Can you get a local paper to do a story in their online edition that includes a link to your website? Are there local bloggers that would be interested in writing about your business?
  • Be careful about where you try to place your links, and be VERY WARY about buying "link placement" services. It's important to understand the difference between white-hat and black-hat SEO. 
  • Consider creating an AdWords campaign. There are plenty of resources to guide you through this process, and Google offers a resource called AdWords Express that can simplify the process for you (it’s not as good as proper PPC management, but it’s a start.)
  • Put your website where your real-world traffic will see it. Place your website on your business cards, on signage, and really anywhere that makes any sense for your business.
  • Come up with novel ways to get people to go to your website and social media outlets. Have coupon or offer available through your site, or offer a perk for people that review your services online. 

These tips are a primer that will help most small businesses catch up with, or surpass their competition. Arguably any business can benefit from properly leveraging the internet. Most would also be far better off having professional help taking care of their digital marketing, while the business owners focus on managing their business. But if you take your time, and use the information provided here as a starting point, you can begin take control of your online presence and make the internet a tool to grow your business.