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The Top 5 Bare Minimums for Marketing Your Small Business Online

December 9, 2012

This seems to be a great and very authoritative article on SEO.

We’re very in-tune with the desires of contractors and service professionals. We realize that marketing, social media and SEO are words that you wish you could rid from your vocabulary. Again, we understand. But the landscape is changing and you need to adjust if you want to stay competitive. As TopRank states, nowadays it’s not just your “competition” that’s showing up more prominently to your customers:

What companies need to understand is that online competition isn’t just businesses competing for market share in the business world, but information and content published from a variety of sources that compete for search engine and social media users’ attention.

So we’ve put together the top 5 bare minimum techniques that will have the largest impact on your marketing for 2013. Stick to these to make the largest impact on your business with the smallest amount of work needed.

Step 1: Make Sure Google and Your Customers Know What Your Site is About

This is a very easy process and involves “META/title tags” and “heading tags.”

For those of you who don’t know, when a customer does a search for “house painters in Denver” for example, Google files through the millions of possible websites that litter the Internet. They then narrow down the possible websites to show this customer by things like geographic location, industry and then popularity. Finally, they’ll reveal whatever websites feature the best mix of this criteria and that’s the result this customer will find for this given search.

Now you can get a leg up by telling Google what your website is about through utilizing the META data (or title tags) you display. Tom Snyder Painting actually did an excellent job of combining Denver and painting in their title tags. Here’s the result below:

Search results of local small business

Make sure you limit your META title tag to less than 60 characters (click here to keep track) and your META description to less than 120 characters.

Title tags for content headings

Regarding heading tags, these refer to the titles and subtitles you give the content on your website. They go in order of h1, h2, h3 and so on in order of importance.

Be sure to stick industry relevant and related terms in your heading tags as well to reinforce your case as to why you should show up given an industry related search. If you have trouble finding where these tags are, feel free to ask me in the comments below and I’ll show you on your specific website.

Step 2: Claim Your Business Listings on Angie’s List, Foursquare, Google Places, Yelp

When claiming your listing, be sure to fill out as much information as possible. Feel free to copy/paste where you can. Most importantly, don’t forget to include structured citations like your phone number and address. Stick to the websites listed above because Google likes them the best which will result in the largest impact for your business.

search results for small business advertising online

To the left is a screen shot of a simple search for “Austin auto repair.” As you can see, Yelp and Google Places are the first to show up so if have not claimed your company’s listing, you’re nowhere to be found.

Below I’ve provided the links so you can claim your business on these specific listings:

Step 3: Engage the Visitors to Your Website

Given the fact that you already have a website for your company (if not, come see me), it’s now time to get it working for you. Most potential customers going to your website are looking to:

  1. Find out more information about why they should choose you
  2. Contact you to get started with their project asap

With that being said, the two biggest returns you’ll see are going to come from high-quality photos of your work as well as reviews from customers you’ve already done work for. These two components will add an incredible amount of value to your website and brand. I cannot stress this enough.

Written content is good for the search engines but I find most contractors often go too far off the reservation and begin to loose readers rather quickly. So find someone that can write well and supply them the topic (i.e. your company and a few differentiating factors) for them to do their thing.

Besides that, have a basic form where customers can fill out their name, email and/or phone number for a call back if they so choose. Place this page on the side bar so that it is displayed on every subpage of your website. Feel free to include a coupon here – if you can afford it – as your customers will undoubtedly be looking for one. If they can’t find one with you, you can bet they’ll find one from one of your competitors.

And please, please, please make sure your phone number is listed in the top right corner of your header! This is where customers are going to look for it so make it easy for them to find.

Step 4: Optimize Your Website for Mobile Use (This May Already Be Done for You!)

If you’re on an outdated website platform, this may be a bit tricky; it may be time to switch over to an easier platform like Weebly where you can simply drag and drop components at free will (we use Weebly and we’re blown away at the ease of use and low cost at which they provide it). But any new platform for building a website has to be optimized for mobile to stay competitive so take advantage of this since it’s freely available to you on many platforms.

Step 5: Get Reviews on As Many Sources As Possible*

Turn this final step into a game. In other words, do whatever you can to ensure this step is completed. So go to Wal-Mart, buy a whiteboard and list Angie’s List, Google and Yelp at the top. Since you’ve already accomplished step 1, your basic business information will be listed on these websites already. With each new customer you serve, staple a card to your invoice with a call to action for the customer to write a review about your company and the steps to do so (I’ll provide the steps in a later post).

After one week, if you still do not see a review from them, send a follow up email thanking them for choosing your business and another nudge to share their feedback online. If can you afford it, include a promotion or gift card if they do supply some feedback.

I’ll try not to sound biased since I run a website devoted to reviews but the importance of it cannot be overstated enough. Not only do positive reviews provide prospective customers with the social confidence needed to move forward with their interest in you but the fresh content is awesome for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. The two biggest proponents of reviews are Google and Amazon. Both are putting immense pressure to collect this valuable, unique content in order to further validate their websites. Yelp is the main driver of this pressure as Googlers are leaving the search giant to find information on local companies through Yelp now.

For your business though, stick with Angie’s List, Google and Yelp. Below are screen shots on how they’ll show up. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: are you really going to go with a company that has zero social proof?

Yelp search results

Yelp Search Results


Google Search Results

Angie's List search results

Angie’s List Search Results

So be sure to feel out your customer to see if they already utilize Angie’s List or Yelp. If not, stick with Google until you build up 15-20 reviews on the search giant.

*Note: one issue you may run into is making sure these reviews stick. Google has almost no qualms in taking reviews off the street but Yelp and Angie’s List are not so lenient. Angie’s List will allow anonymous reviews but they require your customer to have a membership to their service in order for the review to have any significant impact on your business listing. And more times than not, I speak with a business owner who has several reviews removed from their Yelp profile simply because these customers are not regular “Yelpers.” The more they’re writing reviews on other businesses through Yelp, the more likely their review on your company will stick.


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