small business websites – help google help you!

| July 31, 2011

Most small businesses have websites today.  The cost of development, hosting and maintenance have dropped to levels which make it affordable for small businesses to quickly and easily take their business to the web.  As a small business owner, you’ve provided the content, images and approved the design of your website now it’s live!  Congrats, the easy part is over.  Now you need make this asset work for YOU?

One way is by having a simple domain name (dot com address) that is easy to remember and displays well in your marketing material.  But what if people don’t remember what your domain name is, or they don’t know your business exists?   They will search for you or the product/service they want on a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo.  (FYI:  even if a person knows your domain address, a percentage of them will still use search engines to locate your website.  Surprising but true.)

For now, let’s focus on targeting the customers who don’t know your small business website exists.   They need to easily find it on a search engine.  To do that, YOU need to provide the search engines with enough information to know when they should display your pages as a relevant result to a keyword search.  You need to make your website “search engine friendly” and capture what is called “organic search traffic”.   These are the free results that Google and other search engines display based on user keyword search.   To start you need to first understand what information Google has on your website.  Which is easier than you think.  Then identify the areas on your site that require so simple fine tuning.  I’ll review a few local websites and point out a  components of these sites that all for small business owners should be aware of when launching or maintaining a website for their business.  Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on the geek speak : ).

For starters let’s see how Google sees your site.  Go to  Type in ““.  What you will get back is a listing of all the pages in the Google index for your website.  Let’s do a quick analysis on everyone’s favorite watering hole, The Bench Bar (formerly “The Park Bench”).  Go to Google and type:

(A) Google found 27 pages on the domain,  A good start, Google knows it exists.  

(B) The text with the underlining is called the “Title”, it basically defines the page for Google .  Titles should be unique for each page, if you navigate to page 2 of the Google results, you’ll begin to see a few duplicate page titles.  These should be renamed to be unique, and as descriptive as possible.

Under the Title (in the black text) is where the description (meta description) would appear.  This is a hidden field on a web page that search engines use to learn more about the contents of a page.  In this case there is no description on the page, and very little text for Google to read, so it found “2009 – The Bench All Rights Reserved. Designed by Robert J. Ostrem |” as text on the page so it’s using that in the absence of a provided description.   NOT GOOD, especially for a home page!

Also, search engines can read but can not see.  Meaning, information in a graphic is mostly unreadable to a search engine.  There are ways to get some information from a graphic, but generally if you can use text to accomplish what you want on the page, it will make the search engines happy.

(C)  Another piece of information Google uses is the URL or link (green text).  Using page names like “index14” is not giving Google  anything to work with to better understand why it should select this page to rank for relevant searches.  Make sure you use keywords in the URL that complement the title, and description.

The Rolling Pin Bakery of Setauket is doing a better job in telling Google about it’s site and pages.

(A) Google found 99 pages on the site.  A very good start.

(B) More importantly, these pages have unique descriptive titles “Occasion Cakes – Rolling Pin Bakery”.  Also, they repeat their company name in each title, but put the keywords first in the title.  Excellent, search engines read left to right and it is believed they put more relevancy on the first words in a title (or page for that matter).  Putting the keywords first then the company name is a good practice.

These pages are lacking a description field, bad but not horrible in this case because there is enough relevant text on the page to tell Google about the page.  In this case, Google will use the text from the page content and use it as the description.  So not perfect, but much better than a page of all graphics that gives the search engine nothing to read.

Lastly, The Rolling Pin website also uses keyword in their URL’s to re-enforce the what the page is about.  Excellent!  Love keyword URLs!!!  Great for customers, great for search engines.

If you have a small business website, maximize it’s potential by telling the search engines what your pages are about.  Think of the keywords customers would use to find your products or services, and build text content around them.  Don’t use only graphics or flash on your site.  Leverage the title, description and URL keywords to build the strength of the page.

Unfortunately, this alone is not going to rank your website atop of search rankings.  But it is a step in the right direction.  This is the first of a number of articles targeted to help small business owners better understand their websites and the ways to get their sites working to improve the business.

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Category: web & small business

richard m. fagan

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