Thursday, 8 November 2012

SEO... when you're a struggling, one person small business

Right, SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION, you've all heard the term and know roughly what it means. You know that it's all about keywords and rankings but that's about it. For some reason, most of us in small business are still a bit clueless about what it really entails, how much it costs for someone else to do it and why on earth we avoid it for so long. 

I've been running several small businesses for 2 years now and have happily had my head in the sand up until now. So what made me change my tune and start to research it? Well i guess for me it is all about taking things to that next level. I feel like i have done everything on my own for such a long time and have finally jumped off the cliff and started outsourcing a few things. I now have a cleaner once a week, an intern part time and business partner in our kids parties side of things. 

OK, i think to myself, time to get more serious and take this baby to "profitsville" before i end up bankrupt. SEO seems like just about the only thing i haven't tried so far so let's give that a crack and hopefully that will just magically make everything start selling better and life will be sweet. 

So my next step is to jump on google and find myself an SEO consultant. In my head i'm thinking maybe like AUD$2000 or something as a one off fee. Turns out, you can't really just do it once and then expect to stay high in the rankings of the almighty Google. Apparently  you also have to take out a "monthly plan" which starts from around $400 per month. Now that may not seem that exorbitant to you (or you may already be sheding in your pants), but my main business is in a VERY competitive industry, ie children's clothing, toys and gifts and there are around 2,000 products on my website. So for me to really have effective SEO management i'm looking at a set up fee of anywhere from $2000 to $8000 and a monthly plan of around $2000. 

....... cue crouching into the fetal position and rocking. 

Anyway, i could stay in that fetal position forever OR get off my butt and figure out a way to do it myself. Now i must admit, i am a bit of a techy geek so for me, as long as i teach myself how to do it and find an extra 12 hours up my sleeve every day for a month, this seems achievable. For  those of you that aren't quite so technically "elegant", i wanted to write some basic layman's tips on how to start implementing this into your everyday business life. 


Step One: Get yourself a free Google Analytic's account to track what your website traffic does. In a month or two, jump on it and have a look around, it can be overwhelming but it will soon start to make sense and provide you with some really interesting info. Even if you can't make sense of it right now, it is super important to set it up as early as possible. I always set mine up as soon as i make a new site. 

Step Two: Set up a free Google Webmaster Tools account and learn how to use it. This will help you TELL Google to look at your site. Any time you add new info or a new product, you want Google to go have a look to see if you rank a little higher now. To tell Google to crawl your site, you want to submit your "site map". All the info on how to use Google Webmaster is easily learnt just by using it and following prompts. 

Step Three: Now that you have had a little play around with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, you will have learnt a bit more about what keywords are sending people to your site. The next step is to ask yourself, what is the ultimate 1- 5 keywords or key phrases that i "want" people to type into Google and up bings my website in top spot? 

For me, the top keywords are:
Kids clothing
Kids Toys
Baby Clothing
Baby Toys

Then there is also a whole bunch of secondary keywords that i think should be getting them there like: Melbourne, maternity, artwork, bedding, dolls, newborn, gifts, stationery, hair accessories, party products, kids shoes, craft, nursery, cot, swimwear, pyjamas, play rugs, etc. I could go on forever with the amount of products we stock.

Now you have to figure out how to get more of these keywords into your website LEGITIMATELY. You can't just copy and paste them from your word document, it all has to make sense and be RELEVANT to your products. Basically, don't try and cheat, just think KEYWORDS before you enter your next product or service title, description, page details etc. 

A good starting point is to make sure that each of your main page addresses contain good keywords. If you use a templated online website building system, usually the address will just be what ever title you initially give it. For example some of my pages used to be called:

But a better way to name these pages using keywords for my industry is:

Step Four: Write a bloody blog! If you are that intelligent to start your own business then trust me, you are smart enough to write a blog. A blog is the second biggest tool for upping your ranking on google after keywords. Use a free platform like Google's blogger. Most people think "oh but who would want to hear what i have to say?" Forget about an audience, you can pretend your one and only audience member is the almighty Google and you write for his/her pleasure. The more you please him/her with keywords RELEVANT to your industry, the higher they will rank you on the leaderboard. 

The trick with a blog is not to hard sell. Just write about your work or your industry. If you're a plumber, write about funny plumbing stories or tips on keeping your plumbing in tip top condition. If you're a dance teacher, write about all the styles of dance. If you're a clothing retailer, write about what's hot in fashion. In all respects, pick something that you like, that way it's easier to write about.     

OK that's enough to make your head spin i know and there's plenty more to it than that. But before you reach for the phone and remortage your house to hire an SEO consultant, think about this... Why on earth would i pay someone to write words for my business (cause that's what SEO consultants do really) when no one knows my business better than me. 

Want to learn more? Google's own SEO GUIDE is straight from the horses mouth.

A very talented designer recently said to me "Race you to a million?" and we're talking profit per annum here..... My reply "Challenge accepted my friend, challenge accepted!"

Nicole Herrick
Head Honcho 
Kids Style Hub
KSH SHOP 436 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn, Melbourne

The Australian Alliance of Designer and Retailers