A quick checklist for any small business that doesn’t know how to get found online.

1. Start with Google My Business


Google My Business is the service that Google allows business owners to create or change a business listing on the search engine.  It allows you to add pictures, edit the hours that you are open, your address, and any number of important things.  This will also display your business on Google Maps, which could be helpful for people that are using that app to get to your location.  If you have not done so yet, log in and claim your business.


2. Spy on the competition

how-to-spy-on-peopleSearch for your services on Google and see who comes up in the top spots; it’s not that hard to reverse-engineer how they got there in the first place. Here we’ll share a few tools that will be helpful in getting you started, along with our own experiences with each one.

Links from other sites are one of the main factors in getting a website to rank highly on Google.  If you’re interested in finding out who is backlinking to your competitors, we find that Ahrefs and Majestic do the best job of indexing backlinks to websites.  Both will prove  valuable in finding sites that would be willing to link to you too.

If you’re interested in seeing what content seems to be doing well on social media, Buzzsumo or Ninjareach can both help you.  These tools will let you know what content is getting shared on social media,which can be helpful in deciding what content your site should be creating.  As with the backlink tools, it is often better to use more than one tool since no tool is going to get 100% of the links or social media shares out there.

Lastly, is the competition doing paid search?  Spyfu does an excellent job of indexing ads that competitors are running, but be warned: the “estimated ad budgets” that the site displays are way off.

3. Do social media the right way

fb_icon_325x325Academic studies have shown that social media works best for brands that use it to have a dialogue with customers.  You should be using it to listen to what customers are saying and have a discussion with them.  Share things that interest them.  Like their posts.  If you are limited in the time that you can spend on social media, pick one channel and do it right.  Simply being on a social media platform will do nothing for you if you are not interacting with customers in an authentic, meaningful way.

Social media advertising can work for many niches, but note that blatant social media ads tend to do very poorly.  The sort of “ads” that do well on social media are the ones that talk about topics of interest that relate to your business.

“What do you mean, topics of interest?

A restaurant wishing to boost its Facebook presence would do better by promoting a post on “how to prepare one of their delicious appetizers” than by promoting a “reserve your table now!” post.  Such content is much more likely to get noticed—and maybe even shared—by customers.  It also shows what your brand is about; sharing a recipe shows that the restaurant is about getting people to eat good food, while a “come visit us today” post could be interpreted as your brand just caring about getting people in the door.

 4. Do display ads the Right Way

display-ads-246x300Are you trying to build awareness of your brand?  Display ads can help with that. 

Are you trying to get people that visited your site to come back and possibly buy something this time?  They can help with that too.

Are you trying to drive people that have never heard of your brand to come to your site and make a purchase?  You may or may not get that with display ads.

A remarkably low percentage of people click on display ads.  Studies have shown that they work most effectively when used to get visitors to return to a site when they have demonstrated interest in a product (otherwise known as retargeting) or when a brand is trying to create some recognition for itself. Either way, it’s important that you use your display ads for what they do best.

5. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly

viewportMore people are searching on mobile phones than desktops.  As Google penalizes websites that are not mobile-friendly and it’s a pain to visit a non mobile-optimized website, you are going to lose out on business if you don’t have one.

Another thing that we see websites ignore is the mobile speed.  Check your site on PageSpeed Insights. This will tell you if your site is painfully slow on mobile and how to fix it.  If your site isn’t loading in under 2 seconds, you’re probably missing out on business.

5. Look into paid search

imagesIf you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to execute a solid SEO plan, paid search may be your ticket.  If you are in an industry that people search for online, paid search will probably be attract customers.

The costs can vary significantly depending on how competitive a keyword is, but Google allows us to get an idea of what keywords should cost with its Keyword Planner Tool. This tool will let you know how many people are searching for words related to your business and how much it would cost for you to reach them.

*pro tip: If you decide to try a paid search campaign, be sure to run at least two ads at a time to see which one draws more customers,  swapping out the underperformer.