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How a small fry can dominate Google

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At some point, many small businesses feel stuck – stuck behind a larger competitor with resources that far outstrips their own. All is not lost though because, according to the Undercover Strategist’s Fiona Mackenzie (www.undercoverstrategist.com/), these businesses are prime candidates to turn to the Internet which offers a level playing field and where a small one-man band can be bigger than Goliath. Start with thinking small, she tells Anthill.

For many small businesses, it’s all about being local. They generate their revenue from a local catchment area. Who drives across town for a supermarket or doctor? If you live in Melbourne, you don’t look for a plumber from Sydney or Geelong.

One of the most common mistakes small businesses make is trying to compete for popular generic keywords with high search traffic numbers.

People are like rabbits blinded by the headlights. They see huge traffic numbers in the search data research and start chasing the traffic. Everyone is doing the same – which makes the keywords harder to rank for and drives up the cost of pay-per-click advertising. I find this is the Number One mistake made by businesses online.

High numbers typically indicate generic traffic and that means it’s not qualified and it doesn’t convert. While targeting local search is much smaller in terms of traffic, it is cheaper, better qualified and more likely to result in a sale.

Chasing keywords that are not properly targeted means you don’t get the benefit of conversion. If you’re selling something, you need this conversion to earn your revenue.

So if you’re a David tackling Goliath, what does this Undercover Strategist suggest you do? The answer is simple. You follow this 10-step plan.

How small business competes online

Step 1: Identify Local Search Traffic.

Go to Google’s External Keyword Tool and enter your product or service and your location to identify local search. (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal)

For example, “Doctor, North Melbourne”. (Make sure you preset the research tool to display Australia so you are looking at relevant results.)

Step 2: Do A Competitive Analysis.

Go to Google Australia (www.google.com.au/). See who is ranking already, have a look at their source code to see how net savvy they are and do a backlink analysis to see who is linking into them.

Step 3: Optimise Your WebPages.

Add your keywords and location to your Title, Meta Description, body copy and Image Alt Text. Don’t include your domain name in these fields; you’ll be found for your domain name regardless of what you enter for the search engines.

Step 4: Get Listings in Local Directories.

There are very good international directories such as DMOZ (free), BOTW (paid) and Yahoo! (paid). There are also great local Australian directories such as Hotfrog, TrueLocal and free online listings in Yellow Pages.

Make sure you include your keywords and location. Some directories offer backlink value, while others generate traffic to your website. If you have enough different listings, you may find that when someone does a search for your type of business in your location, they are presented with multiple results all about you – not your competitors.

Step 5: Link Strategies for Local Businesses.

Apart from relevant industry links, add local councils, business associations and local media. Check your local competitor’s backlinks for more ideas about who to approach for a backlink.

Building your backlinks is something you do over a period of time. Don’t forget to continue plugging away at it but avoid link schemes (cheap price charged for hundreds of links). These schemes breach Google’s quality guidelines and your rank in the search engine could be penalised. A few good quality links is much better than hundreds of low-grade ones.

Step 6: Submit Your Website to the Search Engines.

Submission via Google Webmaster or Bing Toolkit is much faster, but you can still submit manually. Use the Google “submit URL” for the addresses for both Bing and Google. (Bing handles Yahoo! search now.) Don’t use automated submission software; it’s in breach of Google guidelines.

Step 7: Do Online PR.

Look to get yourself in Google News and get coverage in local papers. Submit your press releases via online media distribution services.

Local papers are interested in local events and what’s not yet discovered in their neighbourhoods (and that might be your business). Many local newspapers are now online. Ask for a link from their website to yours.

Links that enable bots to follow will offer you link advantage. Regardless of link value, media coverage should result in traffic to your site and help build your profile.

Step 8: Pay-Per-Click Advertising.

If you add your location to your PPC keyword, you’ll find the price of the ad drops dramatically as per the example below.

Don’t forget to create a suitable landing page for your ad that includes a reference to your location. So, if your keyword is “Doctor, North Melbourne” repeat the phrase in your ads title (that improves its relevancy) and create a landing page in your website that includes it as a headline.

For example, “Looking for a doctor in North Melbourne?” By doing these things, you can help improve your Google quality score. The higher your score, the higher your ad ranks and the less it costs per click.

Step 9: Use Social Media.

By and large, social media is a B2C channel.

Facebook is great for retailers. You can showcase your new range of product or announce upcoming events.

Twitter is great for businesses that are on the move (such as mobile businesses) or those that often release snap special pricing (such as airlines).

In the B2B world, you might consider taking social media profiles as protection against trademark infringement. Once your brand name is off the market, no-one else can pretend to be you.

Step 10: Try These Additional Traffic Strategies.

There is a broad mix of additional activities a small business can do such as email marketing (make sure you have permission to email to avoid breaching anti-spam laws).

  • A really great way to generate traffic is by blogging, which search engines love, but also requires resourcing and effort to keep finding unique, interesting content to publish. If you do blog, make sure you include bookmark or share options so that readers of your content can spread the good word about your topic.
  • Article marketing is a well known traffic generation strategy and there are free directories about, such as www.ezinearticles.com, where you can upload content that others can replicate providing they credit it to you.
  • There have been some wonderful successes using video which has turned viral. Load tips and advice orientated video to www.youtube.com and embed it into your site to get traffic from YouTube to your website. YouTube videos often appear front page in Google results, so you can afford to give them competitive keyword names. It’s a good way to appear for competitive words without paying for it.

In summary, think local and avoid chasing after overused and overpriced keywords in your advertising. After you follow these ten steps, your business will be ready to outgun your online competitors and win on the web.

Fiona Mackenzie is the founder of Undercover Strategist. Her Internet experience includes online retailers, business-to-business service providers, telecommunication businesses and a long gig in web design for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Image by Danard Vincente

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