We are in the business of helping small businesses with their internet marketing efforts. As we talk to people day in and day out there seem to be a few consistent themes and questions. First, most small business owners don’t really trust “internet people”. Most of our clients have tried someone else, paid a ton of money and failed. They come to us feeling like they have been lied to by some computer person who used a lot of big words, acronyms and definitions of things they don’t understand in order to charge huge amounts of money for a real pretty website that just doesn’t rank. Second, the people we talk to just want someone to explain to them in normal terms what they need to do to be successful on the web and to compete in their market. We are proud to have the clients we do, and that they trust us to be honest and upfront in our relationships with them. That being said these are the top 10 most common questions small business owners ask us:
QUESTION 1: Should I redo my current site or create a brand new one?
This cannot be answered with a simple nod of the head. There has to be research on the current domain name before anyone can answer this correctly. Questions like how old is the domain, how many links does it have coming and going, where and for what words does it currently rank, what is the ultimate vision of a ‘new’ website?
Recently someone came to us with this question after they hired a new company who said they needed a whole new domain because their old one was burned. Turns out, creating a brand new site on a new domain merely gave this company a built in excuse for the site not ranking and reason for them to charge large monthly fees for their ‘efforts.’
If the vision and ultimate purpose of the site remains the same and there are no penalties or issues with it, we generally like to keep it. Often times there is email associated with it and some form of branding already established. However, there are times when starting with a new domain name may be necessary – but there better be a solid, verifiable reason for the swap.
QUESTION 2: I want to rank for _______ – how do I do that?
ANSWER: There are several codependent things that can be done to rank for money words.
When a client asks us this, which happens frequently, the first thing we do is see if that word or phrase is even worth the effort. Often times people want to rank for words that they think will bring them traffic or sales without doing much research of their site or their competitors site. With some keyword research we can find additional or higher searched terms that may be more worthwhile.
Once we determine the actual money word then we determine if that word or phrase is on the site. Content is king when it comes to ranking and high quality content is the be-all-end-all of SEO. Therefore the next step to ranking is writing a worthy post or page with a great call to action. After good content is on the site there are social signals that can be sent to that page to increase engagement and link building efforts to increase visibility. All of these components, along with good on site SEO efforts will lead to good rankings for money words, and this makes for happy clients.
QUESTION 3: What does mobile responsive mean and why should I care?
ANSWER: Google as we know it will come to and end on April 21st because of this very question. (just kidding!)
Mobile responsive means that your website is designed to work on a smart phone or other mobile device without pinching or scrolling. This is different than a mobile compatible site that works on a mobile device, but is not ultimately optimized for mobile usability.
Why should you care is a far more important question. Google has announced that on April 21, 2015 there will be a major change in their search algorithm that focuses on websites that are mobile responsive. And this announcement has the internet world on fire with speculation about how far reaching and devastating this apocalyptic shift is going to be. However, word on the street is – it’s gonna be huge. So mobile is here and mobile is now so test your site to make sure you are ready, if not you may want to contact your web guy ASAP – or us(shameless plug we know).
QUESTION 4: Should I really use social media?
ANSWER: Hell yes!
Do you know anyone besides your great-grandparents that don’t use one social media site? Everyone is doing it, and in this case, so should you. If you are not using social media your are missing a HUGE piece of the marketing puzzle, as well as excellent customer relationship building and the new form of customer support. Social media is not going a way, though Google+ might. Facebook has forever changed the way we interact and almost weekly there is a new hip way of marketing to a tailored set of buyers predisposed to your brand. Beyond that there is rampant speculation that the search engines use the ‘social signals’ from your social media marketing efforts to rank your own website. While there is concrete confirmation of this, the tangential connection between social media users interacting with links on your profile or post and going to your website have been confirmed through testing. So the number of likes you have or +1’s doesn’t necessarily mean your website will rank higher, but it absolutely means your site and your business will benefit, even if it is indirectly.
QUESTION 5: How do I tell if my social media efforts are paying off?
ANSWER: That’s tricky, but there is a way
Most of the major social media platforms offer some form of analytics. Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ have some good insights to how your profiles are working out. Instagram is the tough one. If you are a heavy Instagram user and need or want to track traffic, our suggestion is to create an Instagram landing page to use as your link in your profile. Something simple like www.website.com/IG. You can also segment out your analytics by mobile and direct traffic, though not 100% accurate, it can give you a good idea.
The easiest way to know if your social media efforts are paying off is to interact with your profiles. These are not set-and-forget things. Log on or download the apps and follow what people are saying, which posts they like, which images they favorite and engage with your users. It’s amazing what you can learn.
QUESTION 6: What is link building and why is it so important?
ANSWER: The simple answer is link building is the process by which you get other websites to link with yours and it is important because it helps your website rank.
Link building IS NOT buying links, paying for links or creating link farms to try to trick the search engines.
Link building is a tedious, time consuming process of researching good sites to get inbound links from, writing good content that they would want to link to and contacting them repeatedly to try to get the link. This is why link building services are often very costly. If someone contacts you to swap links, be open, but leery. If someone offers to give you a link out of the blue for nothing, beware. If someone offers to get 100 links for $100, be scared.
QUESTION 7: Should I run paid ads on Google, Bing or social media sites?
ANSWER: Sure if you want to, but be cautious.
Running paid ads on the search engines or on social media like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest is a great way to put your small business out there with your competitors. Just make sure that you have someone who knows what they are doing so you don’t go broke. We have managed over $15 million dollars in paid advertising and one click on Google can go over $100 – for one click.
There are very competitive markets out there and very, very expensive keywords. Knowing how to post the ads, when to run them and how much to bid is critical. No one wants to throw money away so having someone who knows what they are doing is very important. If you do hire someone, make sure they can provide you with your spending reports so you can see exactly what you are spending money on. Also, make sure you have an in-house process in place to find out where your leads are coming from. Ultimately, it’s your money; make sure it is spent wisely.
QUESTION 8: Is this email solicitation a scam?
ANSWER: Go with your gut on these, it’s probably right.
Website design, internet and SEO companies are usually excellent marketers (one would hope) this means they know what to say to pique your interest. There are quite literally thousands of email solicitations going around selling one’s expertise. Some of these are legitimate, good people just trying to earn your business. Others are bull$hit. Having read and written many of these, the saying that comes to mind is “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
QUESTION 9: Why don’t I just build my own site for a $1.00?
ANSWER: Would you sell your product or service for $1.00?
Probably not, that is unless you’re a candy store. The rise of the DIY $1.00 website is an interesting phenomenon to us. If it only cost a $1.00 to have a successful website why on earth would any one pay any more to rank on Google? For a buck we can all be #1. Having reviewed a number of the buck sites, it is obvious there is not a lot of emphasis on ranking. There are lots of ways to put lots of pretty pictures and title and colors without one thought of how the search engines will see the site. So yes, you can create a buck site, but cheap is not always good, and good is not always cheap. So keep that in mind when you have a real pretty site that is nowhere to be found in the search engine results.
QUESTION 10 – AND THIS IS THE MOST COMMON QUESTION ANY WEBSITE COMPANY GETS – Why isn’t my website ranking?
ANSWER: Well first we would check to make sure it is visible to the search engines. However, chances are it’s not that easy.
Yes, that has actually been a problem. We recently reviewed a beautiful website that was completely blind to the search engines for months because it was set to not be indexed. Then another person reached out to us and they had hundreds of 404 errors for pages that could not be found but were indexed by Google. It turns out, they had recently redone their website (at a huge expense) and none of the redirects were entered. There are other less obvious reasons of course. Some of the less obvious issues could be penalties, page speed, SEO issues, bad links, SSL and a variety of other things that can be checked with a few diagnostics. Just like your car, you can hook your website up to the machines and see what’s going on. There is not usually a fix all for getting a website to rank. However, the obvious stuff helps, the tedious stuff makes the difference.
If you have any questions you would like us to answer or other common questions you get asked a lot we would love to hear from you. Knowledge is wealth, especially in this industry and for small business owners – and we love to share the wealth!