Top Ten SEO Tips For Small Businesses

Search engine optimisation is something that all business owners with a website need to be aware of. If you’ve got a site and want to drive relevant traffic to that site, you need to know what to do to help the search engines get a good understanding of your business, so they can rank it for the terms you feel are most suitable for visitors. It’s not about tricking the search engines, or trying to boost traffic numbers in general. You need to see an increase in relevant traffic to you site (10 relevant visitors are far better than 1000 non relevant visitors, who leave your site straight away), and Google wants to provide searchers with a list of high quality sites, relevant to their search query.

1. Research your keywords: Make sure that you know what people type into Google and the other search engines when looking for your products or services. Research into how competitive these phrases are – are there any phrases that are relevant, but aren’t quite so competitive? These are more likely to give you the results you want. Also think about plurals and synonyms.

2. Make sure each single page on your site has a unique title tag. If you’ve done your keyword research, you should also aim to use keyword/phrases in the title tag too.

3. Additionally, make sure that all the meta descriptions for each page are unique too. Since the search engines mostly show the title and description of a page in the search results, make sure your descriptions correlates to your title, includes keywords, and has some kind of call to action that persuades the searcher to click on your link rather than the result above or below you.

4. Using your keywords and phrases, look at the headers within your pages. Headers tags are like the headlines of a newspaper – your H1 header should contain your primary keyphrases, with any H2 headers containing your secondary phrases.

5. Look at your copy– does this contain keyphrases? Make sure you don’t keyword stuff your copy though – aim for about a 3% ratio of keywords to copy. The content of your site should be written with your visitors in mind first, SEO second, so make sure it still makes sense and adds value.

6. Analyse your website structure. Do you have a lot of deep pages, hidden within subfolder after subfolder? Aim to keep the architecture of your site nice and flat – you don’t want to make it difficult for search engines or visitors to find content. Try and keep everything within two clicks of the homepage.

7. Going back to content – how fresh is the content on your site? Google and the other search engines love new and unique content. So try and update your website on a regular basis. This could be through a blog, press releases, or new product pages. Just keep it fresh – no one likes anything stale!

8. Linking…. oh linking, everyone is always going on about the number links to your site…why? Because it’s important! Each link is like a vote of confidence in your site, so the more you have (from reputable, high quality sites), the better. Building the number of quality links to your site takes time. Register with industry directories, local directories, become active in social media, make the most of social bookmarking, create amazing relevant content that people will want to link to, create articles and post them out to article sites, comment in forums… there’s so many activities you can do to increase the number of links to your site. It’s an investment – in time and sometimes money, but it’s worth it.

9. Register with Google Webmaster and submit your xml sitemap. This is an xml file includes all the pages of your website in a way that makes it easy for Google to reference and index. Google Webmaster will also tell you if there are any errors with your site, what some popular keywords are surrounding your site, some of the links pointing to your site and more.

10. Register with Google Analytics and start using it on a regular basis to monitor your site. Google Analytics is a free piece of software that enables you to track all the activity on your site. It’s actually a bit scary the amount of information it can give you. But for a small business owner, or marketing professional, it’s an invaluable tool that can help you improve your website performance and growth.

This is just the tip of the SEO iceberg – there’s so much to SEO and it’s constantly changing and evolving. At the end of the day though, it’s all about creating a quality website, adding regular quality content and being active in the world wide web. It’s not rocket science, but it does take time.

Before You Launch Your Small Business, Read This

People start small businesses for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps, they have a passion for something and wish to share that passion with the world. Maybe, they are stuck in a job they feel will lead them nowhere, and they have a great desire to escape it. Many people want to be their own boss- to set their own hours and do their own thing. Others see a need for a particular item or service and decide that they are the perfect person to fill the vacuum. Oftentimes, people just desire a change in life and figure that a career switch and a small business launch is just the thing to fulfill that wish.

Whatever the reason that you might be considering undertaking such a venture, you would be wise to first take some time to plan out the launch of your small business. Nothing would forecast failure to your project more than a lack of proper planning and preparation. Take the time now, and you will not regret it later!

First, explore the small business resources available in your area to gain some invaluable help in putting together a business plan, applying for loans, and other essential tasks. Your local chamber of commerce, library, and bank are all good places to start with. Each of the above would most certainly offer some sort of small business help in the form of literature and classes or seminars. They would also potentially have people experienced in small business growth who would be willing to mentor you through the process.

Then take time to search out any competition you will have. Depending on the type of business you wish to start, that competition may be limited to local stores and companies. However, your competition may also be found elsewhere. The internet has opened up whole new worlds for businesses that were formerly limited to a certain mile radius of customers. Find out who your competitors are, and if possible, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Investigate their costs. Do your research as to how much it will cost you in supplies and overhead to provide those goods and services. Figure out what your profit margin will be, making sure to find a way that you will be able to make a good profit.

Be certain that you understand as much as possible the market you are trying to launch your small business in. Take time to ascertain the problems that will most certainly arise and prepare beforehand, strategies to deal with them. Get advice from others who have gone before you – learn from their mistakes. Figure out a way that you can bring something new to the table – be unique in the goods or services you will be offering. Give your customers a reason to choose YOU over your competition.

Proper planning and preparation will do more for the success of a small business launch than anything else so take the time beforehand for it and you will always be glad you did!

Business Alliances – Strategy For Small Business Growth

Business alliances are often overlooked or not given much consideration by small businesses, yet they can be vital in helping a company grow and prosper. All too often, small businesses think alliances are just for big businesses; as a result, they neither explore nor pursue them. However, they can be just as beneficial for small businesses as they are for large corporations. If a small business is serious about gaining access to new markets, capitalizing on technology, growing profits using shared resources, they should consider a business alliance.

It’s no secret, businesses that share resources can create greater efficiencies and become more profitable. Business alliances can increase synergies and mitigate potential risk, while allowing companies to work together toward common goals as they maintain their individuality. There are several types of business alliances, each with its unique attributes.

Now is the time to assess what your business brings to the table. What assets, either tangible or intangible, does your business possess that when leveraged with another company can unlock greater potential for each business?

Alliance opportunities can be developed with suppliers, customers, investors, complementary businesses and friendly competitors. Some alliances are natural matches, while others require some creative thinking. I’ve listed the different types of alliances below, along with a description and example of each. When reading through them, think about how your business can create the benefits of a win-win proposition with another company.

JOINT VENTURE

A joint venture is a contractual arrangement whereby a separate entity is created to carry on a trade or business on its own, separate from the core business of the participating companies. Businesses often come together to share knowledge, markets, funds and profits. In some cases, a large company can decide to form a joint venture with a smaller business in order to quickly acquire critical intellectual property, technology, or resources otherwise hard to obtain. Companies with identical products and services can also join forces to penetrate markets they wouldn’t or couldn’t consider without investing a tremendous amount of resources. Separation is often inevitable because JVs generally have a limited life and purpose.

Example: You’ve developed a product but have a limited distribution base. Another company has the distribution system in place with a sizable market and wants to expand its company’s product offerings. You form a joint venture with the other company to jointly promote the product. It’s a win-win because you don’t have to fund the costs of reaching the potential customers and the other company expands its value and product offering to its current distribution base without having to fund the research and development costs of a new product. A contract would be signed detailing the aspects of the agreement.

STRATEGIC ALLIANCE

A strategic alliance is generally an arrangement whereby a separate entity is not created. Participants engage in joint activities but do not create an entity that would carry on trade or business on its own. The strategic alliance partners may provide resources such as products, distribution channels, manufacturing capabilities, capital equipment, knowledge, expertise, or intellectual property. Each party in the alliance maintains autonomy.

Example: A business management consultant wants to expand his services. He currently offers coaching, marketing, financial and operational consulting. He has noticed an increase demand for HR and diversity consulting from his clientele. He currently has no desire to hire additional personnel with the degrees and certifications required to offer these services. He seeks a strategic alliance with a HR and diversity consulting firm. The new firm agrees to work with his firm when opportunities arise for their services and a percentage of the revenue generated from the services provided will be returned to his firm.

PARTNERSHIP

A partnership is a legal agreement between two parties wherein both the parties agree to share profits and losses of a common business with no anticipated end date.

Example: A company whose primary function is to sell ads and produce unique coupon circulars to promote a variety of small businesses to the residential community had a substantial printing bill monthly. The company sought a partnership with a small printing company. The printing company had the expertise but limited printing volume. It required purchasing equipment that the printer didn’t have but saw a need for. A contract was signed establishing the new company; cost of the equipment was split between the two entities. The coupon circular producer sent all its business to the new venture at a substantial discount. The profits from the new venture were divided among the coupon circular company and the printing company. Each kept their original businesses separate from the new business.

MARKETING ALLIANCE

A marketing alliance is an agreement involving two or more companies to share cost and resources to promote each of the companies within the group. The target markets of the companies within the alliance usually share similar characteristics. The alliance can be a formal or an informal agreement.

Example: A group of locally owned and operated restaurants band together to form a marketing alliance. The alliance, similar to groups throughout the nation, promotes the uniqueness of their cuisines in an effort to stand out against the national chains. The group pools their resources to run ads and produce a direct mail guide to promote their menus, while offering discounts. They pay an upfront fee and then contribute several hundred dollars in gift certificates every quarter. Those certificates are sold online at a discount to help fund their marketing efforts. Donating gift certificates help keep the cost down for the participating restaurateurs.

COLLABORATION

A collaboration is when two or more businesses come together to share resources to create greater efficiencies such as the sharing of employees, equipment, shipping cost, rent, products and etc. Collaborations are generally for specific time periods and resources.

Example: As a small business you may have a difficult time throwing a first class holiday party for your employees. You want to show them just how much they are appreciated but the economy is tight and company funds are even tighter. Pooling your resources to have a party with a complementary company, saves money for both companies and could potentially pay off in new business opportunities and networking.

Managing the Alliances

Each company should bring a balance set of strengths to the alliance but there are other considerations as well. You must manage the alliance to ensure it contributes to the success of each company. Listed below are few of the things you should consider to produce a successful alliance:

1. Alliances should be made with the decision maker. You must have the support and commitment from the business owner and not just a manager.

2. Communication is a key ingredient. Clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the alliance in the beginning.

3. Develop the metrics the alliance will be measured against. Determine how the performance of each of the companies will be measured.

4. Allocate proper resources to the alliance. Don’t get half way through the project before you determine the proper resources were not allocated to the venture.

5. Ensure that all participating employees are committed to the success of the alliance. You need buy-in from everyone involved, not just a few select people.

6. Detail the responsibilities of each of the participating companies. Be explicit in what the expectations are for each of the companies in the alliance.

7. Just like all things, nothing is perfect. Be prepared to make changes if something is not working.

8. Stay committed and focused on the benefits of the alliance rather than the inconveniences the alliance may cause.

Each party must benefit from the alliance for it to be successful. Otherwise, like a marriage, the relationship will go from honeymoon to divorce court quickly and all parties will suffer.