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No. 46
November 8th, 2007

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Don’t Be Content with Your *Content* — 10 Tips for Small Business Owners

With all of the buzz surrounding meta tags, social media, and reciprocal links floating around the small business web community today, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff. Small business search engine optimization still boils down to two things:

A) Great content
B) Some links pointing to that content

With that in mind, here are some strategies to help you with Component A!

0 – If you have the money, hire a professional SEO copywriter like Miriam Ellis, Carolyn Shelby, or Paul Robb to help you brainstorm or to refine your content for the search engines.

1 – Do some keyword research and brainstorming to know what people are searching for & what are potentially lucrative content areas for your business. You’ll want your content to include (and be linked to with) some of these keywords.

2 – Think about your key messaging–what kinds of content are going to amplify & enhance your “value proposition”? I.e. why people should hire you or buy from you as opposed to someone else?

3 – Use your competitors to brainstorm content areas. If there are areas of their sites that you like, develop something similar, or better yet, use it as a stepping stone to develop a newer, better version. This doesn’t work for all industries, but it’s important to know what the basic “must-haves”� are for your industry.

4 – Use checklists to compare yourself to, and differentiate yourself from, competitors. These can be really effective at condensing your value proposition into an easily digestible format.

5 – Consider as many customer preferences as you can. A certain set of visitors will be looking for top-line summaries. Another set of visitors is looking for as many minutiae as they can find before they make a decision to give you a call or send you an email. Use bold & bullet points to capture the former, and longer copy about each of these bullet points for the latter.

6 – Use a voice transcript service to transcribe your thoughts on each of the major areas of content, once you’ve determined the major areas you want to include. It’ll make the development process a lot easier, and a conversational tone, as opposed to a formal written one, often converts online visitors at a higher rate.

7 – Think about how you can engage your users/visitors/customers directly. Incorporating a blog or forum for user-generated content can really help, particularly with long-tail searches and business credibility. Use email marketing to encourage participation (& also for G & Yelp Reviews). Matt McGee gave a great presentation on UGC for small businesses which I’d highly recommend checking out.

8 – Have an idea of the type and depth of content you want BEFORE you hire a designer. Even if it’s not good at “marketing” your business, it’ll give you a place to start with respect to a site outline and areas you need to improve.

9 – Don’t stop developing content once you’ve launched your site. Search engines and visitors are always looking for fresh thoughts and information — make the time to blog!

  • These are some nice tips. I would like to reinforce that linking is a of great importance for good Google rankings. Google researchers revealed back in June that getting links from local area businesses helps improve a web site’s local rankings. So where you get your links from can get you higher rankings locally than just getting links from anywhere. Using local directories with SEO related anchor text will get help a lot.

  • People have websites with static, boring, forever unchanging content and wonder why people don’t visit it. Well for one changing content helps a lot w/ SEO, and 2, why would anyone who has ever seen it want to come back? Even just a normal blog helps out, but most people arn’t willing to put in that kind of effort.

  • Hi David!
    Thanks for the link. How nice of you. I appreciate it.

    You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever read someone recommending using a voice transcript service. What a cool idea. This would be super for anyone who rambles a bit and needs to be able to listen to what they’ve said to hear if there are themes, strong ideas, good topics in what they are thinking about/saying. Neat suggestion!

  • Great tips. Knowing keywords, especially on a local level is the key to a successful local and small business campaign. If you can get a strong hold on the top local searches, business will be great and continue to pour in leads.

  • Nice meeting you in Seattle yesterday David. And these are good tips.

    We encourage our clients to leverage their employees for content creation. Most of the time companies focus on a “Blog” as part of a site. We like the idea of “Blogs” with keyword titles and populated by content from your employees.

    Generally, employees are smart, they like their jobs, like the customer, like and understand the product or service and think they are doing important work. Free them. Richard Edelman has a study called the Trust Barometer that says employee bloggers are 5 times more credible than a CEO blog.

    Leveraging employees for content is a strategy that we’ve seen work on businesses of all levels of sophistication.

    Chris Baggott
    Compendium Blogware