It's no secret that I work with an amazing community of creative, boss-like biz ladies and entrepreneurs. And also, it's no secret that my community is local to Southwest Montana.
(Hi, Boss Ladies! It's so nice to see you on the internet).
And yet, so many people who start their businesses in a local community, from photographers to wedding planners to stationery designers, want to "get found online."
Because it's important to be Google-able. And if no one can find you how can they hire you?
The reality is, getting found online is not some sort of magic alchemy. But it takes intense commitment, dedication, and a whole lot of work and research. If you're not willing to WORK to get found online, if you don't like playing around in the back end of your website, if you don't have time to blog, or Pin, or schedule Tweets, or engage in online chatter...then that's fine! But you won't get found online.
(And PS in a small market like Montana or Bozeman, there are far fewer barriers to entry when it comes to getting found online. But you do still have to put in the work. If you're not committed to doing that and focusing your marketing strategy to get found online, you're better off going through other levels of promotion like attending events where your target market is and doing other, non-online things).
How to Do at SEO in 2016
People talk about SEO like it's the desert oasis to their thirst.
"I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to increase my SEO."
"But what about SEO?"
"Have you optimized my site for SEO?"
A long time ago, SEO was the KEY to having a really great internet presence. You just throw a TON of keywords that you thought people were looking for onto your website and you call it a day. People don't actually read websites anyway! All they need to do is Google you and find you! Who cares if your website reads "If you're looking for a Bozeman, Montana graphic designer in Bozeman, MT, then I would love to work with Bozeman, Montana graphic design clients."?
Well, now? Everyone. Everyone cares about that sentence. Can you imagine reading that sentence? If I were a potential client who knew nothing about internet marketing and at least a tiny something about...well, reading, I'd be like "Why does this person have no grammatical skills?"
(However, I would think you were INSANELY inexpensive, so I'd contact you if I were looking for someone whose prices are bargain basement. Probably not what we're all going for, amiright?)
But now, SEO is a little bit more complicated. Sure, it still relies on keywords, but Google has gotten smarter and it understands when people are trying to game it. So while it's important to research your keywords (you can do that here, just make sure to create a free adwords planner account), it's also important to use your keywords and key phrases the exact amount. Which is about 1% of your entire post (so if your post is 1000 words long, you want to use it 10 times).
PLEASE NOTE (and this is big, so listen up): SEO is not a quick game. It can take MONTHS for Google to crawl all over your site and make sure it has worked it's magic. If you change all your headings and alt text and don't see results in, like 2 weeks, please be patient. In general, if you're consistent for 6 months or more, you'll start seeing results.
If you aren't? Well, sister friend, you might want to reconsider your commitment to the online world (see all of the yelling I did above about this).
Another thing that Google likes is NEWNESS! Which means if you've had a site for 15 years, haven't updated it and aren't publishing new content? Girl, get on it because you're about to be left in the business dust.
Blogging is a good way to add lots of new text and photos (and SEO-richness...see below) to your site. Adding new portfolios? Also awesome. Swapping photos, changing text, or adding a ton of blog posts every week lets Google know that you're an active contributing member to the internet, which means more reasons for it to crawl and index your site.
If you're not active, you're not relevant.
Lots of businesses start as blogs. Which means these people who really wanted to get it on with blogging found that their consistency and their relevancy led to huge audiences, which led to lots of people like "how did you do this cool thing? I'd pay to learn how you did that." which led to a business or at least a way to monetize these people's online homes.
If that's not you're thing, that's totally cool! But know that creating multiple income streams (which means other ways to make money instead of just doing your craft...like coaching, consulting, teaching, having real estate, selling products, or running events...hint, hint, hint) by growing your audience as far and wide as you could possibly reach is awesome.
Alt text for your photos
Your photos are an important part of SEO, so be sure to name them according to your keywords. You can do this in Squarespace by adding your Alt Text to a caption when you upload a photo and then click "Do Not Display Caption." Wordpress has a special section on their blog posts to add alt text. If you don't know how to add alt text to your website's images, Google it!
Adding page titles and descriptions
Each of your pages need to have page titles and descriptions that are also keyword rich. These are things that actually show up in the Google Search though, so make sure the page titles and descriptions are things that are readable and cohesive instead of a bunch of keywords mashed together.
The final thing that is important to Google SEO is having links that track back to your site. If someone else posts a link from somewhere else, like their site or blog, it lends your site credibility, and Google's crawlers take note of that, which bumps up your site.
What are some other ways, other than SEO + blogging to get found?
Twitter can be a really great way to push out and promote content, but it takes a LOT of time out of your day. You need to be consistently pushing out tweets, @tweeting other people, and thinking that Twitter is the bees knees. To be honest, Twitter seems challenging for B2C clients (like wedding planners, graphic designers, etc.), BUT it can be a really great place to make business friends who have larger audiences that may pave the way for opportunities like collaborations, guest posts, or even referral work.
Example: I @tweeted Erika Madden from Olyvia.co about a year ago, and we've somewhat kept in touch ever since. I got to guest post on her blog last week and it brought a bunch of traffic to my site, which was really exciting.
Facebook pages to me seem a little dead, but it really depends on your audience and where they like to engage. However, the power of Facebook occurs in FACEBOOK GROUPS. Facebook groups are a really great place to make connections or find potential clients.
For example, signing up in a wedding planning Facebook group could be a good way to get referrals, but you have to add value, answer questions, engage with people, and start by being helpful BEFORE you go all "If anyone has questions about wedding planning, please contact me!"
Don't be selfish with your information on Facebook (or really, in business). 99% of the information you have in your head can be found elsewhere online, no matter how secret you think it is. Do people a favor and show your expertise and help them before you ask them for their money (or time, or whatever). People have a hard time trusting salesy business-ladies, but they have an easy time trusting people.
I'm a Pinterest newbie, but we were talking about it in the Facebook group this week (want in? Click here to join and get access to the group). Pinterest just surpassed Facebook for the most amount of referral traffic of all social media platforms, which is INSANE when you think about how people use Pinterest.
If you're using Pinterest to show people your "style", that's awesome, but you also want them clicking over to your website, so if you aren't optimizing your Pins to get people to do that? Well, then, you're wasting a lot of valuable social media time.
Since I don't Pin that often (but I'm going to this weekend!), check out Caitlin's AWESOME post (and e-book and, well, the rest of her dang blog) about how you can be strategic about Pinning. And if pinning is your thing and you genuinely like it? Then this may be your go-to platform, even if you're not a visual brand (bloggers aren't always visual brands, but they can pin like madwomen).
Phew! That was a lot, and I barely scratched the surface, but hopefully I've given you some good ideas about how to start growing your online presence. Remember, it's a slow process but if you're committed to your business, then it's definitely achievable.