Before you hire someone to do SEO for your small business

This is a pretty common scenario: Small companies that either just open up shop or are just now taking things online will at some point think they need SEO help. From there they:

  1. Search for a how-to guide and get overwhelmed. 
  2. Email or call a few places and if they even get an answer, are told it’s going to cost thousands. 
  3. Ask a friend or family member who could give some really bad advice.
  4. Usually they settle for some bargain basement option that often gets them nowhere.

Personally, we’re in the 2nd camp. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help, but our employees are paid decently and the work takes hours and hours. It’s tough to make the numbers work.

But the thing is, there’s a ton of stuff you *can* do yourself. So before your cousins or neighbors, take a look at this guide.

Obligatory note if you’ve read this far and haven’t gotten the idea – this is not meant for people learning SEO as a career or who already think they know it. This is for the person running a dentist or landscaping company or whatever it may be that is currently invisible online and wants to know where to start. 

Start with your website

Part of this is that you don’t want to send anyone to a website that doesn’t help anyone. But it’s also the basic foundation of everything going forward.

Do I need a fancy, expensive site?

Maybe? For some folks, your website is going to be representative of you as a company and it needs to impress people. For most of you, there are two critical things your site needs to accomplish:

  1. Be something you can edit/update yourself (at least the basic text and whatnot)
  2. Be something that is usable on all devices (phones, tablets, desktops)

Cover those two things and when you grow, you can upgrade if needed. That means places like Wix or Squarespace are just fine for now. Maybe forever. 

Make sure people know how, where and when to reach you

This ultimately matters for SEO, but if someone lands on ANY page of your site, they shouldn’t have to navigate anywhere else to find your contact info, address and hours. 

Don’t have a physical office you want people walking in to? List your city/state/zip. 

Don’t have set hours? Do you want people calling at 4AM on a Saturday? Pick hours.

Describe what you do. Like, actually describe it.

The purpose of your website is to try and turn people who visit into customers. To do this, a major part of the process is to explain four major points about your company.

  1. What you do
  2. How you do it
  3. Who you do it for
  4. Why you are the one to do it

On your home page, explain that in a broad sense. Eg.

Transistor is a digital marketing agency focused on search engine marketing. We combine technical expertise, creative vision and experience growing big websites to more efficiently grow web traffic for medium sized businesses. We offer enterprise class solutions and put you directly in touch with the professionals to provide an experience unlike most agencies.

That’s a short version, but it answers all four questions. Ideally you’re going to write a few sentences on each. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

You probably don’t do one single thing, right? Once you follow that exercise for your business as a whole, make pages for your individual services/products.

Get as detailed as you can without having things overlap too much (where you’re writing the exact same thing on multiple pages). 

For most businesses, this should be fairly easy. If you’re a dentist, maybe you do general dentistry, cosmetic, emergency, orthodontics and oral surgery. That should be five different pages. You could take it a step further and have individual pages about cleanings, crowns, braces, etc. But at least start with the five categories of service.

Writing all that down is going to help people who come to your site realize that you can help them with whatever they need. It also gives Google much of the information it needs to match you with the people searching for your services.

Outside of your website

Another big part of being found is sending your information out into the world. There are a ton of options, but here’s the ones you absolutely should do.

Google Business

https://www.google.com/intl/en_us/business/

Go there, sign up, fill everything out it asks you to. Everything! That will help you show up when people do searches like this:

The Rest

All of these matter, but to varying degrees depending on who your customers are. But they ultimately all feed into Google, which is where everyone goes. So sign up and create a profile.

The important thing is that while you can give money to all these sites, you don’t have to. Just stay free for now.

Facebook. There’s a “local business” option when you create a page. That lets you put in an address and all that.

Yelp. It’s not just for restaurants. All kinds of companies are on there.

Apple Maps. https://mapsconnect.apple.com/ 

Manta.

Those are the big ones.

There’s going to be industry-specific sites out there. Search for your competitors by name and see what sites they come up on. See which of those sites you can get on. For contractors, that’s places like Angie’s List. 

Also, for all of these sites, make sure your contact info matches what is on your website.

Give it a minute

This won’t happen overnight. Give it time and keep checking back. At a very basic level, you can google the services you made pages for and see if you come up. That’s imperfect because you’ve already been to your own site and Google knows that and will put you higher for yourself as a result. But it’s something! If you are a little savvier, you can sign up for Google Search Console and monitor how you’re growing for real.

But this at least will get you started. And while you certainly can pay people to do this for you, it’s probably not worth thousands of dollars for most companies. Usually a better use of resources is to get that foundation and pay someone to help you take that next step of growth. That also allows you to pay people for more strategic work and less grunt stuff. 

Good luck!

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