As a small business with an even smaller budget looking to build targetted traffic to your website, here is a series of steps you can follow to promote your business online and (almost) instantly improve your website traffic.
1. Give your website an overhaul
This sounds like a huge technical task but actually, it’s mostly the content you’re going to work on since content is Google’s numero uno ranking factor, so put on your writing cap.
Read my guide to writing good marketing copy before you start rewriting anything.
Here are your goals:
- All of your content is original – it’s not like any other website, and each page is not like other pages on your website.
- Each of your pages has a unique title and description. This is contained in the <title> and <description> of your website. You can check this by viewing the web page, right clicking and choosing ‘view source’. Alternatively, if you register your site with Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll find the pages with missing or short titles/descriptions under Diagnostics –> HTML Suggestions, after Google has crawled your whole website.
- Each of your pages can be reached from just one URL. So you need to make sure of two things – 1) all the pages can be reached, and 2) the can only be reached from ONE URL. If you can access the same page several different ways, Google may treat each of these ways as another copy of that page and view it as duplicate content.
As well as marketing copy, make sure your website offers something of value. A recent leaked Google document revealed that their raters are instructed to rate relevance along a continuum with 5 options: “Vital”, “Useful”, “Relevant”, “Slightly Relevant”, and “Off-topic”. So even small business sites – electricians, plumbers, window cleaners etc – would do well to include some tips and tricks in ‘how to’ guides to satisfy the ‘useful’ element.
As a recommendation, your site should include at least 5 high quality, original, useful articles related to your business but that don’t directly advertise your business. To get noticed in Google, you’ll need to add to these over time.
2. Build a network of social/sharing sites.
If you haven’t got time, as a mimimum, sign up for Twitter and Facebook. Then:
- Add a link to your twitter and facebook account from your site (you might need some help with this if you’re not technical).
- Add the ability to Tweet / share on Facebook to the bottom of your content (ditto).
- Post the five articles you have on your website, mentioned above, through your network or on Twitter/Facebook. Try tweeting them regularly, 3-4 times a day spaced over the course of a day for a few days.
This is simply free traffic and free high rankings so not to be missed.
4. Add your website to free business directories.
Stick to quality ones. Here are some:
To find more, Google terms like ‘business directory’ and ‘free business directory’ but avoid spammy looking ones that don’t look like they offer a good user experience – chances are Google will have flagged these as being low or no value. You may also like to try finding directories relevant to your industry by using additional keywords (e.g. ‘jewellery directory’).
Avoid paid directories as these are just like paid links so frowned upon by Google (unless you’re paying simply to be considered and it’s not guaranteed).
5. Do some competitor research.
http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/ is a great place to compare your site to others. See what links they have – it will give you ideas of who you can approach to give your own site links.
One good place (slightly off topic) that you can build topical links is in forums relating to your business. Most allow you to create a profile which includes a website link, and many allow a ‘signature’ on your forum posts, often after you’ve built up some trust in the forum. Do pick quality forums with valuable discussion, and offer useful, insightful posts. Otherwise your profile and comments are just forum spam which Google ignores and sometimes frowns on.
Remember that Google looks for a natural link profile so try and build lots of different types of links of different values.
6. Sign up to Squidoo and Hubpages.
Then enjoy writing a squidoo lens and a hub page about a topic that interests you in relation to your business – it’s actually a lot of fun. Include several links from the lens/hub page to different pages on your website, making sure you link to them using words that are relevant to your website rather than generic terms like ‘click here’.
For your squidoo lens:
- Ensure you include a link to your website in the bio.
- After you’ve published your lens, go find a few other lenses on the same topic, comment on them and ask for feedback on yours.
- Ensure you submit your lens to squidoo lens directories (NB. not every one on this page is active).
For both sites:
- Post links to the articles through your network of social network sites (or Twitter/Facebook if that’s what you set up).
7. Sign up for Yahoo Answers and start answering questions.
When you get to Level 2, you’ll be able to post answers with live links under ‘sources’ (for example, to the useful articles on your website). It takes quite a lot of effort but it’s worth it – the site is spidered regularly and will help you get new content noticed by Google and indexed fast.
Obviously, don’t spam – only answer questions where a link back to an article on your website would actually help the person asking the question, and make sure you answer unrelated questions without links back to your site regularly too.
8. Record a short ‘tips’ video about a topic relating to your business.
You don’t need expensive equipment – just a high quality camera phone, digital camera or camcorder will do the trick. Then promote it like this:
- Offer multiple formats – for example, if they want a high quality file (which will take longer to download) or a low quality file (which will play faster).
- Include company branding – there are 101 free or very cheap video editors allowing you to insert graphics at the beginning, end and sometimes all the way through your video (for example, in a bar at the bottom).
- Name your files appropriately – for example a video entitled ‘Repairing-your-television.avi’ will do better in the rankings than a video entitled ‘repair.avi’.
- Include appropriate keywords elsewhere in the URL – for example, you could place some of your videos inside a folder /television-repairs/ and others inside a folder /radio-repairs/ to help Google better understand that the videos are about televisions or radios respectively.
- Optimise the pages on which your video files are placed. Ensure that the page contains relevant content to the video, to help Google understand further what the video is about.
- Set up your own video channel, on sites like YouTube, enabling you to add more information to the page and adjust the content.
- Optimise your anchor text – that is, when you link to the video, link using something descriptive like ‘Television repair guide’ rather than ‘click here’.
- Offer a transcript of the video – Not only is this a great usability factor for people who can’t watch the video (for example, because they have a slow connection) but it’s also great content for SEO.
- Mark up your video using RDFa or similar – allowing you to pass specific information to Google about your video.
- Create a video sitemap. This is a special kind of sitemap for Google to understand what videos you have.
- Promote – there are hundreds of video websites and search engines that you can submit your videos to. Don’t forget to put your new vids out through your network of social sites, or Twitter/Facebook as a minimum.
9. Create a ‘lesson plan’ or ‘teaching resource’ on your website.
This is a super juicy tip that you’re unlikely to get from anywhere else unless they’ve copied it from here. There are hundreds of sites that will give you links to lesson plans and teaching resources placed on your website, MERLOT for example. Many of them are trusted .edu domains too. Make sure your resource is genuinely useful so that it gets shared and rated well – it also needs to be on-topic so you can build links from on-topic pages (more valuable).
TIP: Sites designed to help parents homeschool are a great place to get links to free education resources that you’ve put on your website.
10. Don’t dismiss Google adwords.
Adwords can really work for your business – unfortunately most people don’t know how to use it and end up spending too much on highly competitive search terms that aren’t going to bring good results. Adwords is a good way to bring in traffic before you’re doing well naturally in the search engine results. Make sure you:
- Set an affordable, realistic budget. If you got no sales at all from Adwords, can you still afford to spend that much? Make sure you can.
- Bid on very specific keywords likely to generate sales, like ‘buy crate of wine’ rather than ‘wine’. Use Google’s keyword tool to figure out what people are actually searching for – make sure you tick the ‘phrase’ and ‘exact’ boxes (pictured right), as broad match results are misleading (the help icon over that box explains the difference).
- Do set up Goals in Google Analytics to accurately monitor how your campaign is performing.
- Watch your conversion rate carefully (how much it costs per click and per successful sale) and adjust your bids accordingly.
11. Get kitted out.
People in this business always have their favourite tools for SEO – mine are:
- Xenu – check your site for broken links.
- Free monitor for Google – check your rankings
- Check Domains – sitemap generator
- Site speed analyser – gives you a free analysis and tips on how to improve your website’s speed
I also love Google’s webmaster tools, Google Analytics and SEO Moz’s suite of pro tools.
Another way besides Xenu to check for broken links is to keep an eye on ‘Crawl Errors’ in Google’s Webmaster Tools. You need to fix these by adding a 301 redirect to your htaccess file. If you’re using WordPress, install the ‘Redirection’ plug in by John Godley as this is a super easy way to do redirects without having to edit the rules in htaccess yourself.
12. Add sitemaps.
Sitemaps really help the search engines find every page on your website. My favourite tool for creating sitemaps is Check Domains. It’s free and it produces ROR, HTML, TXT, image and video sitemaps, and handles big sites well. When you’ve run the sitemap generator:
- Upload your new sitemaps to your server.
- Make sure you link them up from your site’s footer.
- Submit the XML sitemap to Google using Webmaster Tools..