Your business’ online presence isn’t just your website or social media profiles; founders need to think about how they appear in Google, too. Petia Abdul-Razzaq, marketing entrepreneur and Google-supported trainer, joined our small business webinar series to share insight on how small business owners can use some of Google’s free tools to boost their companies.
When you enter a word or phrase into Google, the search engine populates the center of the page with organic search results using over 200 signals. You want your business to appear on the first page of results when someone searches for your product or service.
While you can’t pay Google to put you on the first page of organic search results, you can edit your site’s content in ways to let Google know it is important, through a process called search engine optimization (SEO). A simple way for founders to make their websites more attractive to Google is by using search keywords in site content. For example, if your business is a law firm in a particular city, you might add a heading to your About Us page that says “top-ranked law firm in Anywhere, USA” in order to appear to people searching for lawyers in your area. You may also consider using related keywords, like your specialties, to get visitors who are seeking those as well. Use the free tool Google Trends to find the relative popularity of a search term, and try to target words or phrases that many people search for but for which fewer websites compete. If you’re an independent organic grocer, for instance, you wouldn’t include “whole foods” in your SEO review because a small business simply can’t compete with a giant chain.
SEO keywords are great, but balance is important, too. “Use the keywords in a way that it’s not obvious that your copy is just loaded with keywords,” explained Abdur-Razzaq.
“You should be testing your campaigns for at least three to six months to really understand what’s happening.”
Build and use your profile.
Google Business lets small business owners claim a free profile that shows users key information at a glance on the right side of the search page on a desktop computer. “Think of the business profile as sort of the digital front window for your business, because it allows you to showcase valuable current information that will help customers plan their visit,” said Abdur-Razzaq. That information includes hours of service, your website, menus and more. Use your profile to share pictures and videos of your space or products. Google pulls these profiles into Maps as another way to serve up search results. Be sure to keep this profile updated.
“Think of the business profile as sort of the digital front window for your business.”
While many Google tools are useful for all kinds of companies, Google Business profiles are only for those with brick and mortar locations or that do business in a particular area. For example, if you don’t have a storefront but you consistently sell your goods at a particular market, you can claim a Google Business profile. However, if your business is online only and you never have face-to-face contact with customers, you can’t use these profiles. Those businesses can still leverage other Google tools.
Your business profile is also a great way to showcase reviews, which can in turn build credibility, both for customers and in search. “Reviews are definitely one of the key things that can help your profile to surface higher in organic results.”
Get Smart about ads.
Google makes it incredibly easy for business owners to advertise. There are no contracts or fees for starting a Smart campaign. However, they are pay-per-click, meaning you pay nothing until a user clicks on your ads. Based on your goals, your ads can either appear in search or be part of Google’s display network, which places ads on partner websites, helping you connect with users at different parts of the buying cycle.
Abdur-Razzaq offered tips for making the most of your Smart campaign:
- See what words your competitors are using to drive users to their website and consider using them or reworking them for your business’ needs
- Get specific with your ad. Don’t just drive users to your business’ homepage–take them to a specific page where they can convert or to your business profile (a great idea for driving foot traffic).
- When writing your ad, consider what you’re offering, what you want to accomplish and who your intended audience is. Thinking about these things will help you write compelling copy that gets clicks.
Set your budget at the beginning of the campaign, the length of time you want it to run and launch. However, don’t expect results overnight. “A lot of small business owners give up after the first week or a month; that’s not the way it works,” said Abdur-Razzaq. “You should be testing your campaigns for at least three to six months to really understand what’s happening, how the audience is responding and what kinds of campaigns are giving the results you’re looking for.”
Use what you already have.
Many site hosting or email marketing platforms have existing integrations that leverage Google services. Those can be a big help when it comes to directing people to your online shop. For example, Shopify features a Google Merchant integration, a service that lists your website’s products in the search engine’s Shopping feature. “I usually recommend that you maximize the possibilities of all of the other free tools that exist, right, because if you’re using them correctly, you begin to enjoy the benefits,” she explained.