Social networks, review sites, deal sites, and mobile applications can be some of your best strengths if you utilize them to your advantage.
For any small business today, it can be a tough task to get ranking in the search engines, even for your own business name. That fact can be extremely frustrating when business owners think that they deserve to rank for their business name, yet don't own a website for their business. Or, worse yet, they own a website but it's never updated due to lack of time, skill, or loss of their webmaster. So what do you do?
You know that saying, "If you can't beat them, join them"? Well, that's what small businesses need to do. Harness the power of social media and review sites and use them to their own advantage.
Social, Review, and Deal Sites Are Always Generating New Content
What do search engines love? New, relevant, up-to-date content! What do social networks and review sites offer? New, relevant, up-to-date content…at least for the most part they try to. If you have a tough time managing a website, utilizing social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, more mobile-based sites like Foursquare and Urbanspoon, and deal sites like LivingSocial or Get City Dealz are ways that merchants can enhance and exert control over rankings in the search engines.
Some of these sites allow you one-stop, easy-to-update options. Others allow you to add photos, specials, and media. What they all allow you to do is connect with your customers in ways that most "brochure"-type websites don't. This interaction is what creates the new, relevant content that is pertinent to your business.
Example of a claimed Foursquare profile
Claiming Your Profile Is the First Step
Whether you're a restaurant, bakery, dry cleaner, or contractor there are social networks, review sites, and even mobile apps out there that your business can be part of and you can claim your profile on. Claiming these profiles puts you more in charge of what appears in the search rankings because you have the opportunity to add your own business-related content to the site and also insure that all the information is correct.
Some of these sites might have multiple listings for your business. By claiming your profile on these sites, it gives you the opportunity to correct any erroneous information that might actually affect your rankings in the search engines. Not only should you be claiming your profiles on these social, review, and mobile application sites, but with the "local" areas of the search engines such as Bing Local, Yahoo, and Google (which is now primarily Google+). All of these affect what searchers see and what they click on as well as what they share.
Promote Your Participation by Engaging With Your Customers Directly
The key to making your efforts succeed is actually having conversations with your customers. Small businesses have that unique opportunity of face-to-face engagement through their one-on-one interaction with their customers. When employees take the time to interact and ask customers about their experience with your business, it starts a conversation, and that conversation can then be taken to sites that encourage further interaction such as a Facebook fan page, Pinterest, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. Make sure your employees know what social media sites or review sites you want that conversation to continue on and make it easy for them to relate that information to your customers.
Don't just say "We have a Facebook page." Hand them a card that has the URL or a QR code on it. Make sure somewhere in your business it's easy for customers to see how to engage with you. A sign around your cash registers, a window cling on your door, or a message on their receipt are all easy ways to let customers know they can continue the conversation with you. Make sure to point it out and say, "We would appreciate your feedback," or "Post a picture of how you used our product on our fan page," or if your wait staff sees customers taking photos of their food, encourage them to say, "Since you loved your entrée so much would you mind sharing that photo on Yelp?"
By engaging with your customers you are also going to find out where to spend the majority of your efforts after you claim your profiles. These profiles then will become your strongest allies in the search engine rankings. The important thing to keep in mind is that the social networks, review sites, deal sites, and mobile applications aren't the "enemy" per se in the search engine rankings. They can actually be some of your best strengths if you utilize them to your advantage!
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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