If you have a small business and haven’t put up a website, it’s understandable. Even drag and drop web builders can be difficult to use and might not have all the features you’re expecting, leaving you frustrated that you can’t create the look you want.
It may also seem like you’ll be lost in the depths of the over 1.1 billion websites currently on the web. But it’s not as bleak as it looks. With the right knowledge and preparation, even a one-man operation can be the number one choice from search engines with a good site.
Would the most visited website in the world really care about a local business? They’re trying to. Google is constantly updating their algorithms to connect businesses and potential clients so that everyone can find what they’re looking for. Hard to believe? A basic search for “sub sandwich Portland” today (December 29, 2016) brings up two one-of-a-kind local sandwich shops in the maps and one franchise, and then articles about quality sandwiches in the area that talk about small sub shops. A major franchise doesn’t show up until the 10th spot on the list, even though they must have sold hundreds of times more sandwiches than the places ranking above.
Many modern consumers like to check their options before deciding on which business to choose. The easiest way to quickly compare businesses in the same industry is to do an internet search. Results are instant, and it’s easy to check reviews from third-party sites and compare websites of places that seem like they’re a good fit. Some potential customers won’t bother with a business they can’t find information on, meaning you miss out on this group of clients by not having a website.
With so many websites out there, how can you help yours get found? The secret lies in SEO. No, that’s not a misspelling of a lovable creature or the body of water where they live. It stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it helps Google find a specific page when a specific term is typed in. For example, “sub sandwich Portland” is the term from above, and the web pages that popped up on Google used that term or variations of it and included information that tells Google that they’re located in Portland.
While a good website can help give your business visibility, a poorly-made one can actually hurt worse than not having one at all. This is because a consumer could assume that the owner doesn’t know much about technology, but that assumption is better than displaying mediocre quality. A bad website gives off a poor impression and makes you look sloppy. If it doesn’t seem like you put much effort into promoting your brand, why would your customers think you put any more effort into the work itself? If you’ve never heard of SEO, hosting, or think the word “server” only refers to wait staff, you may want to look into having someone build you a website instead.
Large, well-known corporations have a steady fan base. People can recognize them from TV commercials, online ads, billboards, and so on. Some chains have stores in every state, and sometimes more than one on a single street. While it may seem like this impossible to overcome, the fact that they’re so large can also work to their disadvantage.
Google’s current algorithm takes into account location data. Because of this, an enormous corporation has to deal with data for many regions while your business may only service a couple of cities or areas. For instance, if you want to let the world know that you have the best burgers in all of Tumwater, Washington, you can focus all of your efforts into targeting that one area and put up multiple pages that all tell Google where you do business. One of the mega burger joints, in contrast, might make a quick single page to that shows they have a location in Tumwater and maybe give the hours, but that’s it. To them, business in Tumwater doesn’t make much of a difference, but to you, it’s all that matters.
This is how Google’s current model helps small businesses compete. Small businesses that put the time and effort into telling search engines what their business does and where it’s located have the advantage, especially with some good reviews on popular reviewing sites! But success like this isn’t limited to smaller towns; the same goes for large cities as well. However, just like there are likely more small business competitors in Seattle than Vader, WA, there are also more companies actively creating an online presence. This doesn’t mean it’s hopeless! Some smaller businesses that invest more into their websites can dominate the results for their industry for several search terms for even large cities by focusing on their web presence.