First, congratulations on starting (or thinking about starting) a small business. No doubt, this is an exciting time. You might have dozens of ideas to grow and market your services. Naturally, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the first things you thought about was creating a website. If there's one thing the pandemic has taught us, it's that it's more important than ever to have a website. But it's not 1999 – simply putting up a website won't get you noticed.
I started my first "real" business in 2004. At the time, I leveraged my skill set and created one of the world's first web hosting companies. Naturally, I, too, needed a website. However, what worked back then is not what works today. According to a recent report, there are more than 1.5 billion active websites on the internet. (That's not even to mention the 85% of domains that are inactive.) So, how do you stand out among 1.5 billion other websites?
Business owners starting a website in 2021 need to wake up, because getting their website noticed requires a multipronged approach. Also, it doesn't matter what your business offers. For this article, I'll assume that you sell inground swimming pools, and you can substitute the niche for whichever business you're in. You'll discover methods I use for my blog, which focuses on how to become financially independent, and other small business owners' experiences in getting the word out. I'll also give you a bonus that you can use to get some viral attention. Each of these projects requires ongoing work, but you can accomplish each of them in under one hour a day.
Building up your SEO
Search engine optimization is by far the most crucial aspect small business owners need to focus on to get more website isitors. SEO is the process of optimizing a website so that search engines will find it. The goal is to get on the first page for your keyword, ideally in the top three results. SEO is a long-term investment that initially costs more than ads but pays off in the end.
Search engines love content and lots of it. The more content a website has, the higher the chances it'll rank for keywords. Use a blog as an opportunity to show off what you know. Start by breaking down your niche into subtopics, and write about them. For example, if you sell inground swimming pools, take an hour to write an article like one of these:
- "Things to Look Out for When Buying an Inground Swimming Pool"
- "How Big Should Your Swimming Pool Be?"
- "What to Look for in a Swimming Pool Contractor"
You can even expand and create an after-sale "maintenance" section. There, you could write articles such as these:
- "How to Clean Your Swimming Pool"
- "Ways to Keep Your Pool From Turning Green"
- "My Swimming Pool Filter Is Clogged – How Do I Fix It?"
The idea is to give people quick answers to the questions they're asking search engines. This builds trust in your brand. Then, they will call you if they want more.
Small businesses that serve a local market need to leverage local SEO. Continuing from the previous swimming pool example, if you type "inground swimming pools" in Google, you'll find national companies with multimillion-dollar budgets, all competing for clicks. Here's where local SEO comes to the rescue.
Instead of optimizing your website for "inground swimming pools," optimize it for the city or town where you do business. You'll find it far easier to get noticed on Google if your website is optimized for "inground swimming pools in Palm Springs." This will narrow the competition and give you a better chance of getting noticed in your community.
Small businesses looking to focus on local SEO need to set up a Google My Business account. It will collect information about your business to display to people looking for you. Further, it will show all your customer reviews (so keep this aspect in mind!).
Engaging your audience on social media
Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Tweets, snaps and IMs all play an ongoing role in your website's visibility. But how do you manage it all?
Setting up a Facebook business page takes minutes and packs a powerful punch. There, you can include your store hours, information about what you sell, and a call to action ("visit our website," "set up a call," etc.). You can also use the page to share your blog posts and before-and-after images of your inground swimming pools.
To keep your audience engaged, post consistently. A daily post takes just a few minutes and reminds potential customers what you offer.
Instagram is primarily about sharing images and popular with a younger audience. You can start an account and connect your Facebook page to share the same before-and-after images. If you share great content, you'll build a following and get noticed.
YouTube requires extra work but can make a world of difference to a small business. You don't need a Hollywood-style movie to make it on YouTube. You can take short videos using your smartphone, then stitch them together using an inexpensive video editor to demonstrate something to your viewer.
People on YouTube look for one of two things: entertainment or education. As a swimming pool installer, you could educate viewers looking to learn about pools.
In the pool example, here are some things you could create videos about:
- How the hole is dug
- How to maintain the pump
- Basic swimming pool maintenance
To supercharge your SEO strategy, you can add the videos to your blog posts and share them on your social channels.
Tell the world what you're doing – in 280 characters or less. Tweeting your latest blog posts, pictures, and videos takes just a minute and helps to grow your audience. It's also something you can easily do daily.
Online reviews are crucial. If someone is going to spend $25,000 on a swimming pool, they will ask around to make sure their chosen company will do the job correctly, on time and on budget. The same goes for pretty much any business. So, don't be afraid to ask your past customers to leave reviews on your social media, Google or your website.
Bonus: Running giveaways
One of the best ways to draw attention to a website is to host a giveaway. A viral giveaway can be one of the most effective tools to boost your SEO, grow your email list, gain more followers on social media, and, most importantly, land more clients and customers. The problem is that many small businesses fail to execute giveaways properly and only scratch the surface of what is possible.
Launching a giveaway campaign can be reasonably simple. You choose an item to give away, such as a product, gift card, or some cool swag. Then, you can let a third-party program handle the rest. Programs such as KingSumo Giveaways and SweepWidget not only host your giveaway, but also handle the logistics, legal fine print, and terms of service.
Over 200 sweepstakes websites list your giveaway to drive awareness for your business and the product you are giving away. By listing your sweepstakes on these sites, you not only get your campaign in front of thousands of people, but you are also building excellent links back to your website, boosting your short- and long-term SEO.
Small business owners looking to get their websites noticed need to do more to get visits. By spending just an hour a day on a marketing strategy that involves blogging and other content creation, and sharing that content to social media, just about any business owner can draw attention to their brand in 2021.