Posts

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!

We at CloudZen Designs like to imagine that most people know a website is pretty much the minimum item business owners should invest in when they decide to begin curating a digital space. And claiming ownership of a digital space isn’t really an option anymore… which is why we’re sometimes dumbfounded that businesses don’t have a website or aren’t utilizing its maximum potential. Learn what benefits you can get from having a website. Hint: There’s one big one that should make your ears perk!

Your website should be working for you

But what do I mean by that? It’s just a digital property; what can you really expect from it?

Your website is so much more than a digital property with your name on it. A website, properly set up, should do a number of things.

Aesthetically, it should:

  • Accurately convey your brand. When people visit your site, they should be greeted with colors, wording, design, and information that represents who you are and what you do. Branding is more than just picking the correct colors or the most appealing logo. Branding is all about creating a consistent experience that the customer can easily call to mind when they need to purchase a product you sell or invest in services you provide.

Your website should functionally:

  • Provide you with regular referrals.
  • Collect leads.
  • Provide your customers with an easy browsing and shopping experience.
  • Fully and correctly describe what you do, how you do it, and whom you do it for.
  • Be designed to increase your SEO.

Why? Because websites are a marketing device.

I went to a craft fair recently. It was amazing–artists from all over the state gathered to show off their wares. And this wasn’t just folks making grade-school crafts (though that’s lovely). We’re talking professional artisans hand-carving all kinds of intricate items, painters, photographers, even one person who paints durable rugs. Oh, and the potters. And the soap makers.

I digress.

I collected a stack of business cards half an inch thick in an effort to keep track of which artists I ran into that I’d like to purchase from in the future. But when I got home, I found something really disturbing: a significant portion of the cards had no website listed, just a generic email address. I’m going to be honest–my initial reaction was something along the lines of damn it.

First of all, carefully consider what you put on your business card. No one should look at it and have to try to figure out what you do. It should be obvious.

Second, one of your goals as a business owner should be to make the decision to purchase as easy as possible–especially for purchases that use disposable income, like art or crafts. A website benefits business owners in this niche, especially a beautiful website that draws visitors in and makes them want to stay awhile. Good marketing, after all, isn’t about hard selling, but about creating relationships with your customers that make them feel good about doing business with you–and a website can do a lot of that legwork for you. If you don’t even have a website? Say goodbye to a number of lost customers.

The biggest benefit to a website? A good website converts–which means it makes you more money.

One of the many website benefits you should be receiving is more customers. They may make a purchase because your online store is so good. They may sign up for a newsletter and engage with your business later, hopefully, multiple times. They may call for consulting or come visit your storefront.

If your website isn’t converting, it’s likely because it’s not set up to drive business. If it’s not set up to drive business and make money, you are losing money. It’s that simple, and it’s that serious. Because of all the available benefits of a website, whatever you spent to have your website built should be an investment, not an output that pays nothing in return.

CloudZen Designs can design a website, but we can also set up a newsletter opt-in, optimize online shopping, and ensure your site matches your business goals and your overall brand. We can even work with you to achieve higher SEO rankings.

Remember: a website is a marketing tool. It’s an extension of your business’ physical property, an extension of your sales force, and extension of your brand. A good website should convert visitors to customers, which will increase profitability.

For another take on why businesses need a website, check out this post from Constant Contact.

Well, since you asked…

When your website service provider starts talking about hosting, domain names, and possibly (probably) WordPress, your eyes may start to glaze over. What does it all mean? Is it important? Why are they speaking in a foreign language? And most importantly, you may be asking yourself whether you really need to know any of it.

We’ve got you covered. Take a deep breath, step away from the panic button, and read on:

To understand what hosting is, it’s easiest to explain a bit more about websites and how they work.

Domain names: This is the web address. So, when you type in “cloudzendesigns.com,” you’re typing our domain name which then takes you to our website. The cost of a domain name is usually around $5 to $15 per year.

Some companies buy several domain names that are similar to their main domain name. The only difference may be the extension (.net, .com, .org, and so on), or the difference may be more substantial. For example, we could purchase a domain like weareawesomewebsitebuilders.com.

But why? Well, any number of domain names can be purchased, and then your website manager can set up those sites to redirect to your main site. So, we would set up weareawesomewebsitebuilders.com to redirect to cloudzendesigns.com. This allows one company to own multiple web properties, thereby expanding their reach. Companies commonly purchase domain names that are actually common misspellings of their actual company name, so anytime someone mistypes the domain into the navigation bar, they are still directed to their intended destination.

Okay, you’ve got a domain name, maybe several, but how do you attach a website to it?

Here’s where you build a website. There are a number of interfaces used for this, but a common one, and the one we use, is WordPress. WordPress is essentially a dashboard that allows you to create pages, blog posts, install widgets, and more. It’s an overall management system for the back end of a website.

But, the thing that connects your domain name and the website you’ve built is your hosting service. Think of a hosting service as, literally, a host. The hosting company is the digital space where your website lives. Hosting plans come in all sizes and all costs, depending on how much space you need and what, if any, add-on’s you’ve opted for.

Steps so far:

  • Purchase a domain name.
  • Build a website (or, you know, have us build it).
  • Purchase a hosting plan.

Once you’ve completed those steps, you’ll need to provide some information to your host that connects all the dots. The information you’ll provide will connect the hosting plan and the website you’ve built to the domain name, so when users navigate to your domain name, your website will appear.

Great…but why is a hosting plan important?

There are several reasons a hosting plan matters (okay, the linked article is several years old—but the advice included is still solid). There are dozens of dozens of hosting companies out there, but despite the level of competition in the market, there are still companies that offer less-than-stellar service and features. It’s important to consider the features your host will provide and determine whether they are comprehensive enough to provide the service you will require.

A few important-to-consider features include:

  • Downtime
  • Ease of use (including how easy it is to leave the host)
  • The differences in shared versus dedicated servers

A host is literally the place where your website lives—so you want to make sure your website lives in a home that is securely guarded and where the power is always on. Similarly, you’ll want to consider whether your website is small is enough or simple enough to warrant being comfortable with a roommate or if your website will be more comfortable living in its own house (shared or non-shared servers).

CloudZen Designs offers the best hosting on the market. Aside from over 99% server uptime and great customer service, we can easily upgrade your storage space as your business grows. If you’ve already got hosting, we’d love to chat about switching you to our service. If you’re building a new website, it’s easy as pie to set up your site on our servers from the beginning.

After building your website, if you decide to use CloudZen hosting, CloudZen Designs will set it up at no cost. Got questions? Contact us today and let’s chat.