Web and Search
No matter what your business is, you need some sort of web presence. And to make that web presence worthwhile, people had better be able to find your site when they search for you. Even just a few years ago, this may have been a daunting or expensive task. Fortunately, today anyone can build a website and do some basic search engine work without breaking a sweat.
It used to be that to have a website, you either paid someone a lot of money to make a beautiful custom site for you or amateurs hacked together something hideous on Geocities (R.I.P.). Fortunately, there are now a number of great tools so that anyone can make an attractive website that casts their business in a positive light.
For those who are not technically inclined (or maybe you are but would rather spend all your time perfecting your actual app), the easiest services are those like Wix, where you drag and drop various elements—no coding experience required. If you can use a program like Microsoft Word, rest assured you can make a decent-looking website.
For those feeling a little more ambitious, there’s WordPress. While once meant solely for running blogs, this tool has now grown much more powerful and lets users design all sorts of sites geared toward various types of businesses. Browse through the thousands of themes available and see if any look right for you. However you decide to build your site, make sure to add on Google Analytics, a free tool that lets you measure and understand your visitors’ behaviors.
Search Engine Optimization
Now that you’ve got a website, we need to make sure people can find you! In the early days of SEO, you could just get a few links from high-traffic sites, fill your own web page with a million terms you wanted people to associate with you, and watch the traffic roll in. Today, things are a bit more complex, but fortunately most site builders (such as those mentioned above) include some basic optimization tools.
There are a few key elements to make sure you grasp so that search engines understand what your site is about.
• Page title: Up to 70 characters of what you want to title your web page; this is what people will see when your page comes up on Google or Bing.
• Meta description: A slightly longer area where you get to explain in detail what will be found on the page.
• Keywords: No longer can you just list a bunch of words relevant to your business and hope they get slurped up by Google. But if you insert relevant words into the copy on your page (so if you’re a mechanic, words like auto repair, flat fix, engine rebuilding, etc), those may have some impact.
Additionally, it’s valuable to get links from other high-quality, well-trafficked websites. Tools like Moz Open Site Explorer can help you determine whether or not another site is valuable. If so, reach out to them when you have something worth linking to, such as unique content (to be discussed later).
Search Engine Marketing
SEO will only take you so far. To make sure you really come up when people search for you, you need to pay, and that’s where SEM, or search engine marketing, comes in. SEM is great, because if someone Googles “car repair,” you know they’re looking to get their car fixed. That is to say, search engine marketing comes with user intent, and that’s very valuable.
There are two major search engines worth noting, and their marketing arms are Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Both offer helpful tools to let you see what terms people are searching for that are relevant to your business, as well as how much you can expect to pay. Search marketing is PPC—pay per click—meaning you only pay when someone clicks the link (whereas old banner and text ads were usually PPM, meaning you paid simply to have them displayed). The higher your bid, the more likely your ad is to be shown at the top of a search result page and the more likely you are to drive traffic to your site.
What do you want to bid on? Well, while SEO might make it so that someone who searches “Sally’s Cupcakes” organically sees a link to your site, paying for keywords like “cupcakes Chicago” or “best dessert recipes” will give you more opportunities to get discovered.
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