Customers buy what your business sells. Seems simple enough, right?
If only it were that easy. Before customers can buy from you, they have to find you. That’s the difficult part.
Bigger firms get round this by spending large sums in market research, branding, advertising, and sales. By building on their current relationships and reputation, they can extend their reach into their existing customer base. They can also leverage off their historic performance and invest past profits in creating new markets and offerings.
But not small business owners. They don’t have the luxury of either spending power or the width and depth of relationships from which to build.
Yet then there’s the internet, which has seemingly made it all very easy for businesses small and large. Your prospective customers type in what they’re looking for and, hey, presto! They find you!
Again, if only it were that simple.
Succeeding in growing a business means being easy to find on the internet. Yes, referrals will bring in new business, and, yes, the network of contacts will generate new enquiries. But these aren’t enough in themselves to accelerate growth to the point where business really takes off. Passive forms of promotional activity like advertising, sponsorship, and mail shots fail to achieve required results; even telesales activities don’t generate enough levels of interest.
So how do you get found on the internet? The answer lies in keywords. They’re the basic building block of that thing called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), because a search engine scours the entire internet for web pages it considers most relevant to the keywords users type in. If, however, after a few gos at typing in search terms, a search engine’s results are too abstract or off-topic, users will either use another search engine or abandon the internet altogether. A search engine therefore has a vested interest in generating the right responses to any enquiry.
There are multiple search engines, but Google is the dominant force with its cunning algorithm, ranking its search results in a way that makes it easier for you to find what you’re looking for and harder for web masters to cheat. This algorithm is probably the most closely guarded secret on the planet because website builders are constantly seeking to get round it so their pages rank at the top.
Where does all this leave you, the small business owner? Basically, you have to determine exactly what your prospective customer would type into the search engine to find you. Compile as many possibilities as you can, be they responses from existing customers, keywords you can reasonably deduce given the nature of your product or service, or online tools like Google Analytics or WordPress Stats that show exactly what search terms have brought people to your site. Review these possibilities and find the repetitions, the words and phrases that people use to describe what their problem is and what they’re seeking to solve it.
Once you have these specific terms, describe what you do in light of them. Forget the usual exhortations and boasts of past expertise and excellence. Forget the bells and whistles and reader-unfriendly tricks to SEO. Optimise your website by writing content people actually want to read, giving relevant information using relevant keywords that will incline Google to rank your site near the top of its results, exactly where your prospective customer is looking.
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