Every business, no matter how small, must have a compelling presence online to succeed. From plumbers to photographers and horticulturists to handypersons, people seeking services search online for businesses near them with the best reviews. If you sell widgets or anything else, you know people want to find the best widget, purchase it with a few clicks, and get it in a few days.
Creating your digital presence may seem daunting, especially if there is little or no budget to hire help. Start with the core of your digital presence, which is your website. While you might also use social media marketing and pay-per-click advertising, these digital marketing will be of little use to you without a compelling website.
This article will break down the basics any small business owner or sole proprietor should know and execute to maximize views of their site by their target market, convert those views into customers and clients, and create brand recognition and loyalty.
Commit to this idea. Gone are the days when business owners grudgingly bought a domain name and put up an essential website that was no more than an online billboard. Today, an effective website will do much more than any print advertising ever could. Your website should:
- Rank well in search results for your product or service
- Attract the searcher to click on the link to your site
- Convert the viewer to a client or customer
- Provide the mechanism by which the client or customer can leave a positive review
If location is important, say for a pet sitter or landscaper or Mexican restaurant, your website should appear in the results when someone searches for “pet sitter/landscaper/Mexican restaurant near me.”
Your website can do all of this and create brand recognition and customer loyalty by employing the following techniques regarding its content. And as a matter of the structure of your site, optimizing for mobile devices is a must, as most people search for services and products online using their phone or tablet.
Search Engine Optimization is performed in two steps – first, identifying what terms your target market is searching for and then using those terms in your website content.
Using Google as your search engine, type in what your particular service or product is. As an example, I’ll type in “pet sitter” if I’m offering pet sitting services. Google gives me several local results and a map of my area first (I’ll get to how to appear there later) as well as a “People Also Ask” section:
- How much is a pet sitter
- What is the hourly rate for dog sitting
- Where can I hire a pet sitter
- Is it safe to hire a pet sitter
- How do I start pet sitting
- Where can I find reliable pet sitters
Google believes that people searching for a pet sitter ask these questions, so answer them on your website through your service pages or blog posts.
You can get additional related queries by clicking on any relevant queries Google provides you in the “People Also Ask” section. For example, I would not click on “How do I start pet sitting” because I am not looking to start pet sitting, I am looking for a pet sitter. When I click on “How much is a pet sitter” Google provides the following additional queries:
- What do pet sitters get paid
- Do I pay a pet sitter before or after
If I click on “Where can I hire a pet sitter: Google provides the NAPPS Pet Sitter Locator website. I might want to register my business on this site! Google also provides the query “What are the duties of a pet sitter.”
By identifying what your target market is searching for, you can optimize your site’s content to address those queries and rank better.
Now that you know what your target market is searching for, here’s how you appear in those searches.
When I searched for “pet sitter,” Google gave me a map of my area and local results for that query. To appear in those local results, create location pages describing your services in detail, focusing on terms such as “reliable pet sitter in Anytown,” “experienced pet sitter serving TownNextDoor,” “Affordable pet sitter serving YourCounty.”
Also, make sure your Google business account listing has the physical address of your business to appear in local results.
Your service or product pages are the places to start content marketing. For example, if my pet sitting business includes dog sitting, I would have a “Dog Sitting” service page, describing my duties as a dog sitter, my experience with various breeds (list them!), and providing my rates. I would incorporate the queries Google gave me word-for-word to recognize I am answering those queries, using them as headers for the different sections on that page.
Here, you can add fresh, relevant content, which keeps Google happy and answer the queries Google gave you in detail. If your viewer clicks on this post, chances are they are on their buyer’s journey and want to hire you or purchase your product. You can also use your blog to show your target market your expertise and experience.
On all of your pages, be sure to give your viewer an easy way to contact you or purchase your product. Put your phone number in a prominent place, say, the right corner of your header. Also, list your email address and have a “contact us” form that the viewer can complete to reach you. If selling a product, when you mention that product in your blog post, link to the purchase page.
You can set up your site to ask for viewers’ email addresses, either to keep them apprised of news and promotions or in exchange for some bit of engaging content. For example, as a pet sitter with expertise in handling dogs of all breeds and temperaments, I might write a short article on “What to Do if You and Your Dog are Approached by a Dog Off-Leash” and offer it in exchange for a viewer’s email address. Structurally, you can set up a pop-up or slide-in window to perform this function.
Some services will create and maintain an email list for you, such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. Whether you outsource your email campaign or do it yourself, be sure to keep emails to your contact list to no more than one or two per week, make them brief, and include a call to action with a link to your service or product page.
First, claim your business’ listing on Google My Business, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Yellow Pages. Then, incentivize your clients or customers to rate you and make it easy for them to do so. The good news is that this can be automated.
Once you’ve claimed your business’s listing, get your review link. It may be the same URL as your business listing or a specific review page under your listing. Copy that URL and include it in an email that you’ve set up to go out to customers or clients sometime after your transaction with them.
You can add steps if you want to screen reviews (yes, this is possible to an extent!). While you cannot prevent negative reviews from being entered directly on the site if a customer or client is motivated to go through that process, you can facilitate positive reviews by sending a preliminary automated email asking for a rating and review. If the client or customer responds with a minimum number of stars, they will receive a second automated email linked to the review site.
I hope these five digital marketing basics are of use to you in growing your business online. Good luck!
About the Author: Laura J. Neville is a retired attorney and Senior Content Writer at Sagapixel, the premier medical spa SEO agency.