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Thoughts, Tips and Ideas

Basic SEO tips for small local service based businesses.

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I’ve recently been doing a load of training regarding website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and methods to improve traffic to your website.

As many of my clients are small, local, service based businesses, I find it more difficult to draw traffic to these websites and track that interaction than if they were online stores, entertainment or events-based websites. This is the beginning of a series of (hopefully) easy to understand tips and tricks for small businesses

  1. Register for “google my business” – I can’t emphasise enough how important this is!. Having that little ‘pin’ on a google map can instantly improve your search engine results, did you know, the results you see when you google (or bing) search on your computer, tablet or phone are often based on your location? Searching ‘café’ while in Cairns, will often show cafés closest to your current location and the cafes in the list have been ‘ranked’ by Google . You should  maintain your information by frequently updating the details of the listing, add photos, and encourage google feedback - all of these actions  help boost your business in that all important ranking. This simple action is ideal for a small business or sole trader looking to boost their online presence
  2. Blog people, blog! – When I first started working as a professional website designer, I worked for a small, digital creative agency in an era where it was more important to just have a website than to even keep it up to date. The ‘set and forget’ mentality is still very noticeable in small businesses and is killing their chances for more work, your website is like a plant; you need to nurture it, keep adding water (content), keep it tidy and up to date. Search engines LOVE websites that are updated regularly and consistently have new content, they will happily promote other websites/businesses over yours in a search results page when it sees your website getting old and outdated. So at least start a blog, or setup a news d feed or your recent activity. Write about hints and tips in your field or case stories of your clients. This is the easiest way to encourage that list ranking. Start with at least 1 post a month, it doesn’t have to be a Herman Melville, or a Steven King, but something short and sharp that suits your target audience – there’s a world of information about  ‘keyword targeting’ and ‘SEO topics’ that can help but for the beginning I am encouraging you to simply start writing. I’m an excellent culprit for slack blogging, being a visual creative, I really struggle to write, therefore I’ve set a challenge to write more and post at least once a month. Let’s see how it goes.
  3. Business networking: another great way to boost your search engine traffic is to get ‘backlinks’ this is other people linking to your website. The more ‘reliable’ websites you get to link to your website the higher your website value. So ask your business colleagues if you can link to your website – perhaps write a ‘guest blog’ post and use your own website. BUT BEWARE, search engines are pretty clever these days and can detect fake ‘link boosting’ websites and networks and could cause more drama

There’s a start at least. There’s a tonne of information, hints and tips out there on the internet, and I will slowly add to this series over time and hopefully provide useful information. Please comment below if you find any of it valuable, or if you need a hand setting up any of these tips, don’t hesitate to ask.

 

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Websites for small businesses in regional communities make sense.

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Having a fully interactive and mobile friendly website is a must for today’s small businesses especially in regional areas. A website enables small businesses to put the customer at the forefront of their business. The customer can decide when they want to view your services and products. They might want to shop or look for services at 3 in the morning after their shift at the mine has finished or on a Sunday afternoon after a busy week at work.

Regional small businesses in the Central Queensland area provide products and services to many customers from country areas around Rockhampton, Gladstone and Bundaberg. These customers can’t always get to your shopfront within normal business hours but they can search through your list of services or products at a time that suits them.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advises that in 2011* the number of Central Queensland households who have access to the internet in their homes are:

  • Rockhampton Regional Council – 69%
  • Bundaberg Regional Council – 67%
  • Gladstone Regional Council – 73%
  • Central Highlands Regional Council – 71%
  • Banana Shire Council – 68%

These statistics are heartening for any small business within the Central Queensland area. We can see that potential customers are online and internet savvy. Not having a website means that a business in this area is missing out on the opportunity to connect with many potential customers. This same information can be applied across all regional communities.

A website serves as a place for a potential customer to explore what your business is about and what it can do for them in the future. They can review your products online and contact you if they have specific questions.

Having a website for regional businesses makes very real business and economic sense. People working on properties, at mines and on farms can’t always get to town but they can still see what your services are and details about your products. They can browse your products outside of normal operating hours … on the weekend or after hours.

Noon on a Saturday is when most regional businesses close their doors for the week until starting the new week again on Monday morning. Have you ever experienced having to turn customers away because it’s closing time? Well, you don’t have to close the doors of your website. An online site can be visited anytime of the day or night. People can look at your website instead of going to your shop because it is more accessible.

* Figures from the 2011 census. These figures will have increased each year.

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5 tips for marketing your small business

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Whether your business is just starting out or whether you’ve been established for generations, marketing is a must. And marketing in regional communities with their economic downturns such as in the Central Queensland region is more important than ever. Smart marketing (not expensive marketing) can give you the edge to succeed in any economy.

  1. Determine your brand
    A brand is much more than a logo. It encompasses everything people see, hear, think and feel about your business. It tells your potential customers a story about you and your business. Is your business a family friendly business, located firmly in the local community? Do you want to portray your business as being old and well established or new and edgy? Once determined, your brand should be represented in your website, your brochures and every piece of written material such as your business cards.
  2. Know your customers
    Identify who your target market is. Who do you think would buy your product or service? Is it newly married couples? First home buyers setting up their house? Retired couples? Women? Men? Children? You need to take the time to determine who your customers are so that you can make sure your website design, your branding, your advertising and your slogans and content ‘speak’ to your customers.
  3. Advertising
    Once you have identified your customers you can tailor your advertising to your customers. Advertise in a ‘bespoke’, ‘boutique’ way. Don’t advertise like a big business with a one size fits all approach to promoting your products and services. Take the time to tailor your ads to your customers.
  4. Take advantage of your current customers
    Your current customers know your products or services. You have already converted them to your business. They are now potentially your best advertisers. Connect with these customers through social media or an e-newsletter and encourage them to forward information and promote your business to their friends and family.
  5. Promote community events
    On your Facebook site or website, share community events that reflect your business values. You might like to let your customers know about great things that are happening throughout the Gladstone Libraries or a school fete that is coming up in Rockhampton. By sharing these community events, people associate your business with a positive community event. It implies that your business is concerned about local people and local events. In turn the libraries and schools will see that your business is supportive of them and they and their customers may support you in return.

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Getting your small business on Facebook

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Facebook is not just for sharing photos of cranky cats and smiling babies with your uninterested friends. It is actually a hugely important way to get thousands of people interacting with your business online and offline.

 

Facebook is also not just for young people. The growing demographic for Facebook is the over 40s age group. There are also more women than men using Facebook and as most businesses know women are generally the purchases, providers of information and decision makers in the household.

 

Here are steps you can follow to set up your Facebook page:

 

  • Research other businesses Facebook pages
    One of the best things you can do before creating your business page is to research some other Facebook pages especially pages belonging to your competitors. Have a look at their pages and take note of not just how they look, but how they interact with their customers.
  • Set up a Page
    You need to get a Facebook Page, not a ‘profile’. A profile is for a personal use, businesses need a ‘page’. If your business has a profile you need to change to a page as Facebook regularly deletes these without notice and then you will have lost all of your followers!
  • Add your information
    Make sure you add a really detailed set of information like your business address, services, opening hours and what it is that you do. Make it as detailed as possible.
  • Add some photos
    Click the “Photo” link up the top and then “Create an album” and go ahead and add some photos of your shopfront, your staff or your town. Then create another album for your various product lines. People can now share these with their friends. Make sure you give them all meaningful captions.
  • Add a profile photo
    You’ll need a profile photo. This is the little photo on the left hand side. This is the image that people will see in their feeds so it needs to represent your business’ brand. A logo is generally the best option as this will reinforce your business messaging. It should be at least 180 pixels wide.
  • Invite your friends
    If you are already active on Facebook as a personal user it is a good idea to invite all your friends and get them to spread the word. This can give you a really important initial boost.
  • Start interacting
    Now you can begin interacting with current and potential customers. You can share photos, ideas, tips – anything that will compliment your brand and make people want to receive your posts.

 

To build up your initial following you might like to consider investing in Facebook advertising. For a very small amount of money you can put your Facebook page in front of a lot of people. When you purchase the ad space you select the demographic of the people you want to see your ad. Once you have a large amount of followers they will do your marketing for you by ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ your posts. This is also why you need to make your posts interesting, funny or informative.

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