While it’s rare for a business to not have a website or at least a couple of social media accounts, for companies that do, the problem is whether customers are able to find them.
There are 644 million active websites on the Internet, according to recent estimates. If your website isn’t applying search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, it’s likely no one will find it through a simple Google search, said Joel Burger, president of J3 Web Marketing, based in Fairfield.
Addressing a room of small business owners at a SCORE workshop held in Wilton, Burger said there are many things people can do to improve their Google search rankings.
“The internet is a level playing field,” Burger said. “It is within your control to affect your rankings.”
SCORE is a nonprofit consulting service for small business owners, established by Congress in 1964. The national organization has 389 chapters, including a Fairfield County chapter based in Norwalk.
Google ranks what web pages appear in its search results based on an algorithm that primarily determines relevance and credibility. It’s important to rank as high as possible – in other words, on the first page of search engine results – as most people don’t go past the second page of results. Burger said. Instead, they’ll choose new keywords or search terms.
On the front end – what’s visible to anyone surfing the web, such as a website’s home page – business owners can tailor their website’s content to display specific keywords users might search. Burger suggests businesses choose two to three keywords to focus on, and they can put those keywords inside headers, text, in boldface, and elsewhere on their website and social media sites.
For example, Burger said, on his website he uses the phrase “integrated web marketing” in hopes that users search for those terms. Google has a free service, Google AdWords, that offers keyword suggestions for site owners as well, Burger said.
On the back end, which refers to the portion of a website that contains coding and dictates what web users are able to see when they access the particular site, Burger suggests installing SEO software that asks the website owner for additional keywords, tags and descriptions that can then be used by search engines.
Burger said he uses the free website provider WordPress to manage his site and an SEO software plug-in developed by Yoast.
Besides keywords, Google also ranks its search results based on a site’s credibility. Google rewards websites that regularly have new content on it and when other websites, especially popular ones, link to the website as an authority on any given subject. If no one is linking to your site, Burger suggested commenting on blogs and participating in forums where you can post your site’s URL, or directly contacting websites to make a case for why they should link to your site.
“The more visibility you have online the more people will be driven to your website,” Burger said. “Once they’re on your site, you have a prospective customer.”
Though small business owner Cathy Paine gets most of her customers through in-person presentations, she said she still thinks it’s important to have a strong web presence.
“If there is anyone looking for me, I need them to do be able to find me,” she said. Paine’s company, Norwalk-based Integrated Movement Learning, helps clients improve their flexibility, posture and coordination through a specific study of movement.
“But what I want is the right traffic,” Paine said. “It’s not about the numbers, it’s about attracting the right people who want me and need me.”