July 1, 2012

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Get Found

How to Optimize Your Company’s Online Presence

Di Lewis

July 1, 2012

When it comes to finding a plumber, more people are going online than going to the Yellow Pages.

So why is it that many companies aren’t paying attention to their web presence? From unclaimed Google Places listings to poorly designed websites, too many companies are neglecting the simple strategies that will get them more customers.

What’s the Point?
Your company’s search engine ranking matters. People frequently look only at the first page of search results, says Jenn Foster, owner of Online Marketing Utah. “It’s not like the Yellow Pages anymore. You don’t want to be AA Auto.”

Because people are finding places to eat, stores and services online, the way to get found is through optimizing your web presence—making sure your company shows up at or near the top of search results.

Many businesses, particularly local businesses that have built up a following through word of mouth, just don’t see the point of search engine optimization (SEO), Foster says. They think they’ve got a solid clientele and don’t need to worry about showing up on Google. That’s a mistake.

While they might have a loyal clientele now, they will have a harder time picking up new business, she says. And as more and more people turn to the internet to find companies, those that don’t have a strong online presence will lose out.

“If businesses don’t have websites and they’re not visible on the search engines, they’re losing market share. It’s as simple as that,” says Greg Shuey, vice president of client services at SEO.com.

Everything Adds Up
Part of the problem is people don’t realize what goes into making really effective SEO, says Joshua Steimle, co-founder and CEO of MWI.

There are things like coding changes and tags for the website, most of which is done up front while the website is being built. Then there’s the long-term commitment to creating high-quality, useful content, he says.

“We have big clients come to us sometimes and we’re like, ‘Wait, you have no content on your website? You just have a big image and a lead form on your main page?’ That’s why you’re not visible,” Shuey says. Having little to no and poor quality content is a mistake companies big and small make.

Make sure the website is updated regularly, once a week or more, and the easiest way to do that is with a blog, Stiemle says.

Shuey says having a blog lets the search engine find new keywords to associate with the company. While the company may be very niche, the blog can talk about indirectly related things, like a wedding rings website blogging about wedding destinations or decorations. The blog lets search engines know the site is active while giving them more content to look at.

Integrating social media on the website is also helpful. Shuey says companies mostly know about Twitter and Facebook, but depending on the company other sites like LinkedIn and Pinterest also add value.

Other forgotten elements of SEO are things like photo and video optimization, he says. Make sure tags, file names and descriptions are all filled out and optimized to help search engines bump the site up. Too often people don’t know that photo and video optimization is available or they don’t realize it’s important, Shuey says.

Site maps are one of those things many people think only need to be done once, but if a website is updated frequently and the site map is not, Shuey says that will decrease the site’s visibility in search engines.

Dead pages on the website will also hurt search engine rankings. Instead, make sure the page is redirected onto an updated or related page, Shuey says. By doing that the site maintains credibility with the search engine, and anyone trying to go to the old link will still find your site.

Another way to add credibility is good online reviews, Foster says. While it’s unethical to make up or pay for reviews, Foster says there are ways to prompt customers to leave reviews to help your SEO. She suggests things like asking customers to leave a review online or even having a computer in the store at the point-of-sale where customers can fill out reviews.

Should You Go It Alone?
Unfortunately, knowing what to do and why doesn’t mean a business owner has the time or expertise to do it. So when is the right time to try to do your own SEO or hire someone else?

“The really cool thing about SEO is everyone who’s involved in the industry is really open to sharing information,” Shuey says. But it’s still not easy. Shuey says if you like writing and are good at it, owner-generated content can be just as good as something from a hired person or firm.

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