Ben Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. In my travels over the last 5 years, I have been inspired by many a business owner who grasped this concept, 100%.
There were some that constantly reached for knowledge, and found time to get some, no matter what was going on in life. They reached for the knowledge to improve their small business and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. From a small Phoenix tire shop that looked high and low for all the free, or inexpensive ways to stand out locally, to the Chief Operations executive running a medium sized corp, who burned the midnight oil and put blood sweat and tears into building a web presence that is second to none, here in the Valley of The Sun.
I have great respect for those who focused on the prize, not the path. They may have not have certainty on where they were going, but they had confidence in their own abilities, and persistence on a given course. And these days it takes a certain amount of grit, and hard work to stand out.
That said, there are some who don’t understand that a solid web image takes time to create, and there are others who know that you’re either shrinking or expanding, and that there really is no “comfort zone”.
Funny thing about creating a good online presence, is that it doesn’t take as much time as many assume. There are the basics. And though unknown to most, not ensuring your business has them, or assuming that just because one has a one size fits all, “template based” website, doesn’t mean you will be “OK”. The general consensus is: “If I build a website, they will come”. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when we consider how many small businesses utilized FREE website builders. Companies like W I X, Weebly, Site Cube (To name a few). These are essentially the IKEA / Walmart, of the web development industry. What makes them most attractive is their price tag, but what people get, is nothing close to what they assume is adequate for their small business. Free website builders are bottom of the barrel. Yes, that’s right. And where I understand why some choose them, I don’t understand why more don’t do the necessary research that will reveal (upon close inspection) that these options are not truly options at all.
Back when the internet was young, web basics weren’t nearly as important as they are today. Few businesses even knew about them, and even fewer cared. 90% of the population searched for services and products via catalog, or phone book, and not their PC’s. Today over 68% of those searching for the products and services your company provides, do so via smart phone. But when you take a look at how many small businesses STILL do not have (adequate by today’s standards) websites that are not only responsive to mobile, but good marketing pieces, you understand why so many fail, in that first year.
So what are the things that will help you and your business create separation from competing businesses? In terms of level of importance, there are six that stand out in my mind as MOST important.
1) Listing and verifying your small business, or practice on numerous FREE business directories.
This first item is about as important an item as they come. Picture yourself in a crowd of a thousand people. Everyone in the crowd is shouting to get the attention of those listening. One guy has a red hoodie, and a megaphone. Who do you think will be noticed first? That is the level of importance of being listed on the many free business directories. Interestingly enough, Aeon will walk you through the setup of these listings, at no charge. So why wouldn’t you do it? This is a question I often ponder. It doesn’t require “out of pocket” cash, so why do some many businesses ignore this point? I don’t have the answer, but maybe now, since I brought it to your attention, you’ll jump in and get started.
2) Proper setup of all relevant social media account channels. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
Think of your social media channels as four or five guys in red hoodies who walk among those seeking your products and services with a megaphone, handing out flyers. They are essentially the voice of your small business. The more relevant content (photos and text) you post, the more Google considers you are a valid source for the products and services your business provides. There is a lot more to it, but that’s the basic idea. Trouble is, most businesses don’t take advantage of social media. They use excuses like: “I don’t have the time!” or “I don’t know anything about social media”, as if these are valid justifications for doing nothing. I’m here to tell you that there really isn’t a valid excuse. If you’re in business today, and you’re not competing with any other business for the services and products you offer, you have time. If there is competition, it behooves you to get involved quickly. Aeon offers a walk-through of social media channel setup, at no cost to the small business owner. We’ll also cover how to work these channels properly, and how to maintain and promote your business on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, for no out of pocket cost. Now you REALLY don’t have any excuse! ; )
3) Reviews (reputation management).
As far as reviews are concerned, when was the last time you tried a restaurant before checking their reviews? When was the last time you went to dinner at a place that you were unfamiliar with, prior to checking to see what others had to say about the food and service? Better yet, how many businesses have you patronized prior to checking reviews, period? Were you pleasantly surprised, or disappointed?
Be honest! I’ll bet that at best, the results were 50/50. The truth is, reviews are as important as where your booth is located in a trade show. It’s true. Once again Aeon offers a walkthrough of how to have reviews appear naturally, where to have your patrons post them (so that they have the most impact), and the best times for them to appear across numerous business listings on the web. This is a science. If you understand the formula you can build the reputation of your business within months, not years. Again, this is a free service, and all you need to do is reach out to us for instruction. No smoke and mirrors, no sales copy, or expectation.
4) Custom, hand coded, responsive website.
I consider this one the most important items. But why custom? Well, when you consider that Google prefers custom to template, it’s a no-brainer. But why? Why does Google show bias to custom? Remember that Google is always working toward making their search engine the best on the web. They are constantly evolving and looking for ways to improve “user experience”. So if a template based site (One where the framework for your website is already done for you) takes longer to load than a custom website (Which they do), who do you think Google would be more inclined to reward in the form of better rankings? Custom websites rank consistently higher than template websites because they aren’t bloated with extraneous code, in comparison to templates that require a ton of code in order to give you that super simple drag and drop builder interface (that is actually quite unnecessary if you’re paying a professional to build your website for you).
Additionally, template based sites all look basically the same. Think of template site as a cookie cutter house that has all the framework done already. All that is needed are the walls, plumbing and electrical work. The house next to it, is identical, and so on. Custom websites are tailor made for each business, and like a house built from the ground up, special attention is put toward things that will make that home unique, highly functional, and aesthetically pleasing. With templates you’re utilizing framework that has been used hundreds, even thousands, of times by people who wanted that website done as quickly, and inexpensively as possible. Templates make you look like everyone else on the block, and they are certainly nothing special. Custom websites are the next level, in terms of functionality, usability, and efficiency.
Think of custom web design and development as a 2017 S Class Mercedes, with a few extra coats of paint, and think of a template as a 99 Chevy Geo with 3 year old tires and original paint. The two just don’t compare. It’s night and day, actually. So you have to ask yourself if you want performance, highly functional, and sexy, or just something to barely get you by (and will cost you, not too far down the road, more than the car is actually worth). Again, it’s a pretty easy choice, and it’s not as expensive in the long run, as you might think. Many Aeon clients have stated that the website we built for them paid for itself in no time. We still hear stories of those that stayed with their outdated, free website that wound up costing them more money in the end, because their sites were NOT converting visitors to customers. When you consider that the websites didn’t perform, or convert visitors to new business, did they really save money? Many agree that they made a poor choice.
5) Geo coding of all images posted on website, or social media channels.
What is Geo Coding? ArcGIS Pro, defines geocoding as: “the process of transforming a description of a location—such as a pair of coordinates, an address, or a name of a place—to a location on the earth’s surface”. To put it in even simpler terms, it tells the search engines where the images are located so that they line up geographically with your business address. It’s a way to improve your SEO without spending any money. Aeon will direct and instruct on this process for no cost, and it’s as simple as making fudge brownies……from a box, I promise!
It’s hard to gauge the level of importance of this one, though it does sit quite high on the scale. Many experts would agree that it might be number two on the list. For me, it’s hard to argue the fact that it isn’t a tie for second place, with reviews.
Blogging (as it applies to your business) is the process of writing relevant content that provides information to those searching for that particular subject matter on the web. WordPress.org defines “Blog” as: “An abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects. Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites, while others are more like personal journals, presenting the author’s daily life and thoughts”.
All in all, blogs add value to the search engines. Sadly, many businesses do not blog, and again we hear the excuses. Whatever the excuse is for not blogging, there is no denying that doing so adds value to SEO. If you’re unfamiliar with how to blog, we’re happy to help. We can do a walk-through type instruct, or you can simply visit our blog section for some written examples.
I hope this article has inspired you to start creating separation, if in fact that is a desire. I can personally guarantee that if you utilize these tools, you will see marked improvement in your rankings as a small business. There are many examples of Aeon clients who followed our advice and found themselves climbing the ladder toward that number one spot on Google. They were just like you, prior to utilizing the tools provided above. Many were skeptical, but they gave it a shot. I hope you will, also.
We love seeing small business owners do well, and we’re passionate about helping. So don’t hesitate to reach out. You won’t get the fluff, sales copy, and pushy sales rep you might find elsewhere. Just honest advice, with no strings attached.
That’s it for now. Until next time, I hope you flourish beyond your dreams. As always, I am here to help, day, or night. Take Care!