The Internet has leveled the playing field for scores of small business owners, enabling them to get their products and services out to the masses easily and at a fraction of the cost. However, it has also created a crowded marketplace where standing out is harder than ever before. With fewer winners, the way a business markets itself online becomes the determining factor for success. Do it right and the small business can become the next all-American success story. Do it wrong, and it can end up in the heap with other third tier players.
When it comes to brand building online, search engine optimization is everything. Marketers use it to draw more traffic to a company’s website and keep them there. Take a dry cleaner for one example. The higher the business appears in local search results the better off it is. How many people do you know are going to scroll through multiple search result pages to find a florist or dentist? Landing higher on Google search results has become a science, even spawning an entire industry whereby agencies offer search engine optimization to businesses of all sizes.
Not surprising, SEO can be applied in all aspects of brand building, whether by using keywords or blogging. If you’re looking for a way to build your business, check out this list of six key brand building tips for small business owners.
Leading search engines like Google and Bing are vital to building your brand as a small business owner. However, if you’re like most, hiring a marketing firm to get your business to show up on the first page of a search result is out of the question. For DIYers, that’s where keywords come in. Keywords can be an invaluable way to land higher up in search engine results — and it’s not going to cost you anything. Think about what people search for in your industry and then include those words and phrases in your website and in your online content. The more your website uses keywords that are typical search words, the easier it will be for customers to find it online.
Let’s say you sell custom business cards. If your website mentions “custom,” “business cards” and other variations of those words throughout its content, it will show up more in search results.
When it comes to moving higher in search engine results, you want to make sure you are using keywords everywhere. That means on your website, your social media pages, and via email. Finding your business, particularly for ones just starting out, is the goal. Emblazing your brand on everything can help to achieve that.
Remember to have your address, email, and phone number prominently displayed in your branding material. The last thing you want is a potential customer finding your website via a Google search and then be unable to find your contact information.
Blogging has become a popular way for small business owners to communicate with existing customers and potential ones. It can also be a way to boost traffic to a website without spending a dime. You don’t have to be a celebrity to create a buzz or provide valuable analysis to customers and prospects. Publishing an article each week, for example, will increase your chances of being found on search engines.
Guest blogging is becoming a popular way to boost traffic and build awareness about a company or brand. With this marketing strategy a small business’ owner pens blog posts for other websites and even online news publications. The more that executive or company shows up in stories and blog posts on the Internet, the higher it appears in search results. These guests post usually include linkbacks which means more traffic to its website.
Social media is now a mainstay of a small businesses marketing plan. It simply can’t be ignored. Facebook alone has more than 2 billion active monthly users. Add the other popular social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to the mix and it’s clear a business has to be on social.
When it comes to brand building on social media, where you spend your time depends on the type of business you operate. For some businesses being on top of the news and posting a lot of content will work, while for others, customers only care about deals and discounts.
If your business lends itself to images, then having an active Instagram page is going to matter more than tweeting on trends in the industry. The key to building your brand on social media is maintaining it on a daily basis. Using the same keywords in your social media posts that are on your website can also boost your search results.
A powerful and free brand building tool that is growing in popularity is the link back. That happens when another website shares a link to your website, in essence giving your business a referral. Link backs can be achieved by penning an article for another website or appearing as a guest during a live Q&A.
You can also share links with other local businesses or write blogs you post on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to drive more business online. Getting social media influencers and other prominent people to follow you online can result in a huge boost in traffic for your website. Make sure you are including keywords in that material as well.
A quick way to stand out from competitors is to be the expert everyone turns to for advice and analysis. One way to achieve that is to pick a niche and excel at it. By doing that you’ll become the go-to source for information about a specific aspect of your business. That should drive more brand awareness and make it easier to expand into other areas of your industry. After all, you will have already established yourself as an expert.
Becoming the expert in a niche can also help your SEO efforts greatly. Search engine results favor well-known brands, so the more content you create on a specific topic the more you will become the destination for it. If you write about one aspect of your industry one day and a completely different one the next, it will be hard to become an expert.
Brand building on the Internet has become more important than running ads in the newspaper for scores of small businesses. But how you go about promoting yourself can determine your success or failure. SEO is the key to a successful brand building campaign. That means making sure you are using the proper keywords in all of your marketing material and taking the steps to establish your brand as the expert.
What brand building tips have worked for you?
Mary Phillips is a freelance writer and small business owner. She draws on her experiences to contribute to various digital platforms. She lives in New York.