There is an on-going discussion centered around SEO for online businesses interested in gaining a larger following online. In the last decade or so online shopping has exploded into the most popular way to shop for a large majority of customers.

Starting a website for your business is a great first step, however, there are a few best practices that should dictate how you shape your content to appear in search engines. But since not everyone has heard of SEO, let’s talk a little about the basics:

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the practice of using web design and copywriting to increase your chances of being listed at the top of searches in search engines such as Google and Yahoo!. The point of optimizing your search engine results is to get your site seen by as many people as possible and add the most possible traffic to your sites. This marketing effort can help you track how your content affects your page views and helps grow your business, especially in the case of small businesses.

The better your SEO, the sooner customers will find your business. When someone enters a search query into a search engine, that search engine chooses the most relevant content (per their algorithms) to display in return. So, how you handle your website’s content and wording is vital to how useful your site is to your business overall.

Okay, I know what it is, but how exactly does it help my business?

If no one has ever heard of you, how do you expect them to know who you are and what you do? The first step, then, is getting the word out that you exist.

But with thousands of companies out there, it may seem unlikely that your company will rise to the top of thousands of pages of search results–that’s where SEO comes in.

Paid SEO will help your company rise higher in results. In part, this is because of local search results. In other words, if your business has a local component, it will rise higher in results for your local area.

Is this really necessary for my business website?

Absolutely!

Your business is your livelihood. Your business is important to you. Shouldn’t it get every chance to shine and stand out?

When just about anyone looks up something online, most people are going to generally stay on the first page of search results for what they need. After all, who has time to just sit there and scroll through 5,000,000+ results on design companies or even 100 links to local barbecue restaurants in their area?

In our fast-paced society, people just don’t have the time to give every business site in a search engine a fair chance. Because of this, most people will generally go with the top results, as most people would assume that the best results show up first, no matter of how true it is. That’s where SEO comes in.

Should I hire an SEO company?

SEO, and website management in general, can be an overwhelming amount of extra work, especially when you’re busy actually establishing relationships with customers, managing inventory, or just running the day-to-day operations of a business. Luckily, there are plenty of SEO companies to choose from to help provide your business with the traffic it deserves. In many cases, these companies can help improve your site’s visibility by leaps and bounds.

However, as with any business, if you decide to use a professional service, be careful of who you hire. Unfortunately, there are supposed “SEO experts” who might not actually know what they’re doing or even employ unethical practices such as link spamming, using unrelated or unnecessary keywords, et cetera, in order to get you to hire them.

Always do your research before selecting a company. Look for reviews, client recommendations, and companies that employ Google standards of SEO in order to gain a better ranking the correct way.

Can I do it myself?

It’s up to you and what you feel would be the most manageable for you and your business to handle. You certainly can do it yourself, just make sure you follow best-practices. In other words, don’t be spammy.

SEO is about quality content. One thing to consider when using SEO keywords is not to overdo it. Some search engines are now employing over-optimization penalties to lower search rankings. These penalties target sites that have too many keywords stuffed into paragraphs without substantial content in the wording. You can learn more about Google’s standards of SEO on Google’s Support Page.

Conclusion

We live in a competitive marketplace, and online business always manages to raise the stakes. If your competitors are using SEO to expand their customer bases, why shouldn’t you?

If you’d like a complimentary SEO consultation, reach out. We can visit with you about our services and help you determine what route would be best for your business.

Have you been wondering how to increase the number of visitors to your website? Remember, the more visits you have, the more business you’re likely to get. Those visits aren’t just the result of pure luck. They’re the result of strategy.

Search engine optimization (SEO) enables your site to be more easily found by search engines when people search queries related to the content on your website. It’s important to optimize your SEO to improve your website’s ranking in those search results. Optimizing SEO is a paid service provided by CloudZen Designs, but there are also steps you can take that don’t cost anything. Continue reading for easy tips you can implement today.

Note: Google owns about 65% of all search traffic on the web. As a result, most SEO tips are geared toward pleasing their algorithms.

Blogging

Regular blogging (anywhere from once a month to several times a week) does several things. First, it shows Google that you’re updating your site regularly instead of just letting it sit there. Regular updates indicate that you’re making an effort to keep your content fresh and relevant. Second, by updating your site with quality content, Google ranks your site higher. In other words, if you update your site with mediocre content, the fact that you’re doing so regularly doesn’t matter. Third, consider length. While shorter posts (around 300-500 words) used to be typical, Google now prefers longer posts of 1,000 words–or even longer if the content warrants it.

Of course, the reason Google prefers that length is because readers now prefer it–or at least, are open to it. Readers want answers to questions and new perspective on issues that matter to them, and they’re willing to read as long as it takes to cover the information.

But be warned: just because readers are open to longer content doesn’t mean you should pad your content with excess words, either.

If you’re not comfortable writing strong content yourself, or if you simply don’t have time, one of our partners can help. Moss River Media, LLC provides expert blogging, among other services, to help you with your content strategy.

Reviews

The more reviews you receive, the higher you’ll be ranked in search results. If you have no reviews and another business has thirty, who do you think a user will call first? As a result, Google ranks businesses with reviews higher. Not all of those reviews have to be five-star, either. A fair mix of three- to five-star reviews will suffice.

As for how to begin acquiring those reviews, it’s simple. All it takes is a call-out on social media or a direct verbal request to your customers and you will begin to see them roll in. While it’s unethical to use incentives for positive reviews, incentivizing any honest review with, say, 10% off is fair practice.

Speaking of reviews, are you managing the reviews that come in to your business? Though every business will likely receive a negative review at some point, the worst thing that business can do is ignore those negative reviews.

Claim Your Google “My Business” Page

When you search for a type of business, like “car washes,” the local business results appear at the top of the website results. Those businesses are listed with Google, and they generally receive more clicks than businesses exclusively found in the website results. In some cases, your business will already be listed with Google, but if not, you can also request to be added to Google’s listings. Once you’re listed, you’ll claim the business as the owner, allowing you to take ownership, change hours, and post updates to the listing.

Aside from the huge benefit you’ll receive from appearing in business search results, this will also allow your business to appear in Google Maps results, an important feature that helps people find you easier.

Social Sharing

Your social media accounts are, in most cases, connected to your website. As a result, when you regularly post updates your social media accounts, search engines consider that as activity relating to your website–again, positively impacting your search engine ranking. Share updates from your blog, changes in hours, promotions, and anything else your customers might be interested in.

How We Can Help

The steps listed above can absolutely be completed by a business owner with some time on their hands. Aside from some writing skills and a basic knowledge of content strategy, they don’t require any special technical skills. However, time is often more difficult to find than we’d like it to be. That’s where CloudZen Designs comes in. We or one of our partners provide every service listed here. Aside from these four action steps, we also offer paid a paid SEO service for budgets of all sizes.

Contact us to get started today!

Time. It’s what most business owners are short on. While a website may seem as though it can be created and then forgotten, the truth is the exact opposite. Unfortunately, because of that shortage of time, business owners often neglect some key elements of good website stewardship, and as a result, potential leads and client nurturing might get left behind–as well as potential business.

Maybe you’ve got a website, or maybe you’re planning to build a new one. It can be tempting to do it yourself–trust me, I know. I’ve seen the results of DIY websites more times than I can count. While you may be able to create a basic site, there are several things we don’t recommend trying without help.

A web designer, obviously, designs the website and makes sure it meets your specifications, but that’s not all we can do. Your website should work for you–think of it as a digital workhorse capable of doing a huge amount of work automatically–if it’s set up correctly and regularly maintained.

SEO

Building a website is only the first step to acquiring visitors. Just because your website is out there doesn’t mean people can find it, especially on first launch. That’s where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. SEO can refer to multiple things. First is a paid service based on the number of hours that fit in each client’s budget. Related to SEO services are digital marketing services, described below.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing includes blogging, acquiring reviews, email marketing, and posting to social media. Posting to social media alone can take around three hours a week, and managing reviews or an email campaign can take another several hours a week. Then there’s blogging, which, yet again, requires a purposeful strategy and several hours per blog post to create quality content.

All SEO is intended to raise your rank in search engine results when customers search for content like what’s available on your website. Digital marketing, though it may not always include direct changes or additions to your website, still impacts where your site ranks in search engine results.

Lead Generation

Need to find new potential clients? I’d be shocked if the answer is no. Businesses need to develop both quality leads and a large quantity to continually bring in new customers–and that takes time and expertise. That’s where the website comes in. While there are many ways to generate leads, your website should be doing a significant amount of the heavy lifting. A website should capture the email addresses of people interested in what you have to say. It should offer call scheduling, if that’s appropriate to your service, so potential clients can easily schedule a time to talk with you.

The number of lead generation tactics is endless–and sorting through them can be overwhelming. A web designer can sit down with you and chat about what options make the most sense for your business, and then they can implement those options on your site and manage their use and information delivery.

Maintenance

After your website is built, it will need maintenance. Different integrations and plugins will require updating to the current version, and tweaks and changes to the information will be necessary as your business changes. Keeping your web site up to date is just as important as the initial web design.

User Experience

Finally, think about your end user. Just because you’ve put up a website with all the relevant information doesn’t mean it’s user friendly. And a website that’s not user friendly limits the time a user will remain on the site. If information is difficult to find, if it’s hard to navigate the site’s hierarchy, or if the information isn’t clear and articulate, your user is going to leave your site for one that’s easier to use.

In Short

First, a web designer creates a website with all the functions and pages your business requires. After they launch it, the project shouldn’t be finished. A good web designer will at least explain what your website is capable of and offer to assist with SEO, maintenance, lead generation, and digital marketing (creating a good user experience should be included in every project). Even businesses on a tight budget deserve the best service possible, and that’s what we offer. We can work within a given budget to create a maintenance and marketing plan that will work for you.

If this seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, we’re here to help. Give us a call today for a free consultation.

For further reading, Forbes has a great list of top design mistakes.

This entire post is about why you should have a website and a Facebook page. The simple answer is this: to make Google like you more. When Google likes you, good things happen.

Over the last year or two, I’ve noticed a trend. Because Facebook has become ubiquitous—that is, most of your customers are using it—some businesses, particularly new businesses or businesses only recently embracing their online presence, have decided they only need a Facebook page.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

But Facebook Is A Great Tool

A Facebook page is great, and I would argue, all but necessary. It allows customers to develop relationships with businesses in a space they’re already comfortable with. From the businesses’ perspective, Facebook is a great way for existing customers to recommend services to their friends, making it awesome for increasing referrals.

And, let’s face it, people are less and less likely to pick up the phone. Facebook allows customers to connect with businesses without having to make a call. Instead, they can turn to the messaging feature they’re already using. And, it’s a great way for businesses such as restaurants to advertise daily specials. It’s also regularly used for everything from communicating inclement weather closures to reminding customers about upcoming events.

If Facebook is so great, why can’t you use it exclusively?

Glad you asked:

Facebook is only intended for sharing basic information about the business.

When visitors go to the “About” section of your businesses’ Facebook page, they are taken to a page detailing when the business was founded, its hours, location, and phone number, and hopefully some basic information about the mission or goal of the business…but that’s about it.

If your customers want to know basically anything beyond what Facebook allows for with their limited space and one-size-fits-all layout…you’re going to need a website.

A well-developed website is more customizable.

Because of that customization, clients and customers can more easily navigate information, and businesses are able to share information in a more organized way.

As noted above, Facebook, understandably, is one-size-fits-all. A Facebook page is meant to be simple, straightforward, one and done. A website, on the other hand, can be customized to suit your wildest dreams. Want your landing page to have a singing animated video? Done.

More realistically, do you want to provide online shopping and automated inventory tracking with shipping notifications to customers? We can help with that.

Do you want to passionately explain why and how you do what you do? CloudZen Designs can definitely help with that.

A website is necessary for search engine optimization (SEO).

This is possibly the most important point of the three. Without getting into the long explanation, search engine optimization means optimizing your web presence so your business shows up higher in search rankings.

This is important.

When customers go to their favorite search engine and look for, let’s say, yarn shops, a list of yarn shops in their area populates at the top of the search engine’s results. Usually, the list of top hits is a result of strong search engine optimization combined with being listed as a business on Google. A significant number of reviews doesn’t hurt either, but that’s a topic for another time.

If your search engine optimization is lacking, you may not show up on that list—or you may be at the bottom.

Perhaps you carry an item or brand that the person would really like to know more about. Maybe you’re the closest option. But none of that matters if you don’t have a website with good SEO that’s caused your business to be highly listed. And if you don’t have a website, guess what? The person looking for your services is going to go right on down the list. I bet fewer than one out of ten people will call a business to find out information that should be on a nonexistent website.

Facebook + Website = Where it’s at

If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this: what’s awesome about having both a website and a Facebook page is that Google can tell they are connected. When a business has both and makes it a point to be active on each one, Google likes it. When Google likes what you’re doing, they rank you higher. The higher you are in search results, the more customers can find you. It’s as simple as that.

Developing a new website might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. CloudZen Designs can help streamline the process and get you into a site that suits your needs.

And hey, if you need social media maintenance help, we’re happy to chat about that, too.