Starting up a business is tricky. From finding customers to sourcing affordable labor, getting a business up and running is never easy. One of the hardest aspects of setting up is carving out a space in the search landscape to become more easily locatable for those customers with cash to spend and an immediate need for your product or service.
According to a recent survey, more than seven out of ten internet users buy online. A total of 148 million Americans aged 14 or over were predicted to buy at least one product from a website in 2011, marking a huge potential market of buyers that any start-up would do well to tap into. But how does a new business with a new website, no prior reputation, poor brand recognition and — crucially — no previously established relationship with Google go about claiming search real estate? Surprisingly for one who holds its ranking signals so close, the search engine is the hero of the hour and has published a brand new guide for small business websites looking to get on the fast track to decent keyword rankings.
In a recent 10-minute video, Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google, lifts the lid on SEO for start-ups, including creating small websites of less than 50 pages that are search engine friendly. The guide is useful for those who are busy setting up a new business and don’t have time to learn search engine marketing from scratch as well as get the new venture of the ground. To help, Google has picked out its top tips for small business SEO, all presented in under 10 minutes. Here’s a discussion of what Maile covers in this informative video:
1. Meta Data — The first tip for those working on a small business website, eager to rank for a small number of related terms and their brand name but seriously pushed for time, is to ignore the meta keywords field as Google doesn’t use it as a ranking signal. Do, however, set time aside to complete the meta description on each page. The Meta description also isn’t used as a ranking signal, but it can function as a call to action when it appears in the search listing, making a compelling description that much more important.
2. Webmaster Tools — The second most important task is to create a Webmaster Tools account and verify ownership of the site. This is easily done by copying and pasting the Google-provided meta description from Webmaster Tools into the home page header. When site ownership is verified, set up email forwarding as your very next job so that you can get Google alerts directly to your tablet, phone or laptop should they encounter a problem with the site in the form of malware, crawling issues or if the search engine suspects your site has been hacked.
3. Domain Check — Good practice guidelines recommend doing a background check on your new domain before you purchase it – just the same way you’d research a car or house before money changed hands. If that process was overlooked when the domain name was registered, be sure to check the URL history. Finding out if your new site was previously used as an address for spammers before you invest time and possibly money in SEO is well worth the hour or two you may have to set aside to get it done. Check the keywords listed in Webmaster Tools now that your site is verified – if random terms unrelated to your site are showing up, note them down as they may be an indication the web address was used previously for something else. You can also check that your site ranks on Google when you search for the domain name specifically – if it isn’t appearing it may well have been penalized. Although disheartening to find your brand-new name has a bad rep, finding out now means you can submit a reconsideration request and get back to a blank page with Google, allowing your efforts to be judged on their own merits.
4. Fetch as Googlebot — Familiarize yourself with the Fetch-as-Googlebot feature and its submit-to-index button. This tells Google to crawl through the website, showing you which content it is picking up while submit to index tells it to make the page available to web searchers. This process can result in new pages appearing much faster in the SERPs, and can be repeated each time you upload new content to your site.
5. Analytics — Including Google Analytics code in your website source code is also recommended. Once up and running, you’ll have access to a whole host of data about your site, from the number of visitors, to the amount of time they spend on each page to which pages and links on your site get clicked on the most. Even if you’re not ready to use this data, installing the code takes just a few moments of copying and pasting and means that historical information will be available when you come to need it or when the time comes to hire an SEO as your start-up grows.
*Discover the remaining five top tips in Part 2 of this article tomorrow
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