Small businesses that operate in local markets often shy away from competing online, preferring to focus on the traditional methods of conducting business. In the United States, an astounding 15 million businesses do not have a website, that’s 58% of all US businesses (Weebly, 2013). This may seem counterintuitive considering how much of commerce is carried out online. However, it is actually a testament to how technically behind many of America’s small businesses truly are.
Moreover, Weebly reported that 56% of consumers do not trust a business without a website. Ironically, by sticking to traditional methods of commerce, businesses are actually losing credibility. Small businesses must get online immediately if they want to be able to compete. But simply having a website isn’t enough. Once a small business has a website, they have to make sure it is search engine optimized.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your websites content, structure, code, and keywords to make it ideal for search engine bots to crawl and understand. By helping these bots understand the purpose of your website, your site will receive a higher ranking on search engine results pages (SERP) for relevant searches. This can be the difference between winning new customers and losing them to your competitors.
The first and most important step to constructing an SEO strategy is understanding your customers. This can be performed through a variety of methods, but a great resource to discover the latest activities and trends of your target audience is Market Research. This will help you identify to whom you will try to appeal to online and how you will captivate them.
A major element of SEO is utilizing the right keywords so when your potential customers perform a search that applies to your business, you will appear in a good position on the SERP. Understanding your customers will help you understand what keywords to use. This is especially applicable to small businesses whose clientele is more likely to use specific, long tail searches like “best meatballs in Manhattan Beach.” Nowadays, 97% of internet users look for goods or services online and 1 in 5 of those searches is local (Weebly, 2013). If you are a small business, it is now more important than ever to make sure your business appears on the SERP in an ideal position.
Getting your business online has never been easier, especially with Google’s Get Your Business Online program going on now. For small businesses, there are no more excuses. Get online and stay competitive.
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