THE WELL-ESTABLISHED BUSINESS
Years and years ago, back when Google was just in its infancy, before I ever got into SEO or internet marketing, I was having a conversation with a local florist who seemed baffled by the results that she was seeing regularly in the search engines for the keywords for which she wanted to rank. She couldn’t understand why all of these irrelevant sites, or sites belonging to other, much less relevant local florists, were ranking so well. Her argument to me was simple: I deserve to rank #1. I’m the most important, largest, most well-known and respected florist in the entire area. At the time, without any knowledge of internet marketing, although I agreed with her sentiment, it seemed like an almost naïve attitude. How was Google supposed to know that you’re so important? Why do they care? Nonetheless, the conversation has stuck with me ever since, and today, with search engines like Google being much more refined, and generating much more relevant search results than what we were seeing 10-15 years ago from early search engines like Alta Vista & Lycos, that notion of Do you DESERVE to rank #1 is more relevant than ever.
While some people still espouse the sentiment put forward by this florist, others have an opinion which is the proverbial 180.
Recently I had a real estate agent in Burlington contact me who had just become licensed, didn’t have any homes listed yet, and didn’t have any clients. Yet, he wanted us to build him a website, and he wanted that website to rank #1 organically for the phrase real estate agents Burlington relatively quickly.
A lot of clients (or maybe I should say, prospective clients) think that SEO is this very technical discipline that involves ‘hiding’ keywords in all the right spots on your website, and understanding Google’s ‘magic formula’, so that as SEOs, we can manipulate a site to ‘game’ Google’s algorithm. When someone like this real estate agent approaches us, we first need to educate them on the types of factors that search engines do consider in their algorithms. Some of Google’s more recent algorithm changes including Panda, Penguin, and more recently, Venice, have made a significant impact on how small businesses rank in the search engines, and they’ve also made many of the black-hat SEO techniques that in the past, tried to game the system, obsolete.
It’s interesting to compare both of the anecdotes that I’ve outlined here. The reality is that the notion of I deserve to rank #1 is actually somewhat valuable (depending on your definition of the word ‘deserve’).
Why Links Matter for SEO
If you’re reading this post, hopefully this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that links matter for SEO. Think of links in the following way… When Site A links onto Site B, search engines view that link as a ‘vote’ of sorts for site B. But not all ‘votes’ are equal in this sense. Quality links matter much more so than just a high quantity of links, and Google’s Penguin update, in part, addresses this issue of quality over quantity of links. I don’t want to turn this into a post about link building, but rather, show how businesses that deserve to rank well can improve their ranking. Acquiring or earning, legitimate links is a crucial part of this.
What Makes a Small Business IMPORTANT?
First, let’s get an idea of what makes a business ‘important’ enough (in the real world) to theoretically deserve to rank well.
– Large Customer Base/High Sales
– Thought-Leader in your Industry
– You’re well-connected in your Community
– You’re active, or donate to Charities
– You’ve won Awards
When I hear from clients ‘I deserve to rank #1’ it’s generally because of these types of factors.
Rest assured, if all of these criteria do apply to your business, Google wants to rank you highly. Going back to my real estate agent example, Google doesn’t want to rank that guy #1 because users will not get a lot of value out of a site like his that doesn’t even have any listings on it. Users would be very critical of a search engine that ranked a whole bunch of no-name, unknown real estate agents on the first page for the aforementioned real estate agents Burlington search query. Google wants users of their search engine to have a good experience and find the information that they’re looking for.
So as a legitimately well-known, established business, your mission is to show Google, on the internet, why you are who you say you are, and why you ‘deserve’ to rank well.
Taking your OFFLINE presence, and putting in ONLINE
So let’s take the criteria we looked at above – the ones that the average person would use to determine if a business is actually a ‘big deal’ – and see how we can show the search engines that you are who you say you are.
Large Customer Base
- If you have a large base of loyal customers/clients, you should be able to get a number of them to write reviews for you online, particularly on your Google+ local page, which is a key ranking factor within the ‘local’ search results
You’re a Thought-Leader in your Industry
- In short, write a blog! So many business owners that we deal with have an absolute wealth of knowledge in their brains, so get some of that knowledge onto the internet and ‘show Google’ that you are indeed the thought-leader you profess to be
You’re well-connected in your community
- You can demonstrate to Google that you’re well connected by receiving links from the other businesses or organizations with whom you have some type of relationship. One way to earn a link from another business that you either do business with, or with whom you have some type of mutual relationship is to write them a testimonial that’s designed to go on their website. As far as organizations, this can be things like the local chamber of commerce, or Better Business Bureau. Links from these types of sites can be quite valuable from an SEO standpoint
You donate to, or are involved in charities
- Charitable organizations will usually have a list of donors on their website. At times, they simply have a text-based list, or list of logos of their supporters/donors, and it can sometimes be as simple as contacting them and asking them to include a link to your site
You’ve won awards
- Oftentimes if you’ve won a legitimate award, the organization that gave out the award will not only mention you on their website, but will also link onto your website. If they don’t link to the website, again, ask for it. Another option that most small business owners probably wouldn’t think of is using a press release service like PR Web to announce this award to the masses. When you have something truly newsworthy, it can get picked up by traditional media outlets who can use it as a story which will then result in a very high quality link to your website