Boost the online presence of your business
Jim Martin explains how to get your business listed in both Google and online business directories
First up, this isn’t an article explaining every last detail about search engine optimisation (SEO). There are entire books on the subject, and it is well worth reading up on SEO to more fully understand it. Here, we’ll explain the basic principles of how to ensure your website gets found by more customers.
Most search engines will automatically pick up your site, so there’s no need to manually add it using their online forms. But if you want to be listed at the top of the search rankings, it’s most important to ensure that your site meets the current requirements. For example, Google recently started penalising sites that don’t work properly on mobile devices. So if you haven’t checked how your site looks on a phone, you should.
If it doesn’t work, you’ll need to put things right. The website builder tools included with most hosting packages should be up to date and will make your site compatible with all screen sizes, but if yours doesn’t it could be time to change hosting providers or change the settings in your provider’s online dashboard.
Yet another important factor is having lots of links to your site from other websites. If there are none, you may have to submit your site to Google manually.
For some types of business, attracting local custom is your top priority. There’s little point in a London-based driving instructor being found by someone searching for driving lessons in Edinburgh. That’s where business directories come in, as well as Google’s local listings. You can submit or correct details held about your business by going to google.co.uk/business. When you profile on Google is complete your business will show up on Google Maps as well as in search results.
It’s also good to get listed on the big directories including Thomson Local and Yell. Both sites offer free listings – tinyurl. com/q2zf5o7 and tinyurl.com/ob2edan, respectively. However, you can pay for a more prominent listing in Yell’s listings. The cost will depend on the prominence you want and the local areas you want to reach. It’s possible to haggle on price, so you may be able to save on the figure you’re quoted online.
One way to ensure your listing is always up to date across multiple directories is 1&1’s List Local service (tinyurl.com/qgvnejx). The basic £9.99 per month package doesn’t include Thomsonlocal and the Pro version isn’t cheap at £29.99 per month. You’ll also need the Pro package if you have more than one business location.
Given that many small businesses have no website at all, it’s worth having even a basic site with your contact information, a photo of your office, unit or shop front, opening hours and any other relevant details. It isn’t hard to produce a modern-looking site using the site-building tools we mentioned earlier. Some, including 1&1 MyWebsite 8 (tinyurl.com/ph3y3tj), will even pre-fill a lot of the text for you, so it won’t take long to make it specific to your business.
Even more important than the site looking good is to make sure you give each page a title that describes the page properly. This will help to improve your Google ranking. Look for an option or setting somewhere in your site builder dashboard for title and meta descriptions: this is the information which will be shown in Google listings, which is why the description is also important.