Developing a Search Engine Approach

Helping Your Micro-business be Found When Searching

Many micro-business owners view getting to the top of Google as a sort of Holy Grail. They think that if this can be achieved, everything will be fine. Whilst getting this coveted position can certainly help, it shouldn’t always be the ultimate aim.

First of all, being found is useless if no-one clicks through to your site. Then, after clicking through, you want them to either purchase or get in touch with you. So put search in its proper place and understand the role it plays in the overall buying process, which you can read more about in Customer Purchasing Processes.

You also have to ensure that any listings in search engines are likely to encourage visitors to want to visit your site. You can read more about the approach of using Meta details for this in Search Engine Optimisation.

So having decided on the role of search in the overall marketing approach of your micro-business, you can start to create a search strategy.

Choosing the Right Keywords

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine what you would search on if you were looking for a supplier of your product or service. As a marketing consultant, I might think that people would search on ‘marketing consultants’, but I might be wrong. Instead they might search on ‘marketing advice’ because they don’t necessarily want a consultant, they want to know how to do marketing, and that means they want advice. So my search strategy would need to focus on ensuring I am found for ‘marketing advice’.

Google has a useful tool for helping you identify potential keywords, which you can find at Google Keyword Estimator. If you type in the keyword you are thinking of optimising for, it will suggest other potential words and also give the relative volume of searches performed on those phrases.

Working the ‘long-tail’

The long-tail is the vast number of keywords that people might use when searching for something. It’s a bit like the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule) that you might have heard of, where 20% of something is delivered by 80% of something else, such as 20% of your customers delivering 80% of your profit. There will be a small number of keywords that deliver most searches (20% of phrases giving 80% of visitors), but then a massive number of phrases which fewer people key, but where there is much less competition.

This is an opportunity for a micro-business. As these long-tail keywords have less competition, i.e. not as many businesses trying to be found for them, if you optimise well for them you have a higher chance of ranking well in Google for those terms.

They can also be cheaper for pay-per-click advertising, meaning that you get more return on investment for your advertising expenditure.

Rather than paying a lot for competitive keywords, you could pay less for each individual keyword but have more words and phrases, increasing the number of times your advert is displayed overall. You can read more about how to use Google Adwords and other sponsored links in Pay-per-Click Advertising.

Use a Local Approach

Depending on the nature of the product or service your micro-business sells, there can be opportunities to optimise well on a local basis, rather than nationally or globally. So rather than chasing a high ranking for ‘Marketing Consultants’, I might concentrate on ‘Marketing Consultants in Cheshire’. Then, if anyone is searching for a marketing consultant in my area, I come near the top of the list. As there are fewer consultants the phrase is less competitive, so I stand a greater chance of ranking highly. There are, of course, less searches on this term, but there may still be sufficient for my needs.

There are two broad approaches to use for optimising in this way, which are:

  • Build the website content so that it clearly reflects a local nature. So the words would be things like; ‘looking for a Marketing Consultant in Cheshire?’ or, ‘for top marketing consultants in Cheshire’. You will probably also have seen sites with panels of content saying ‘Areas we cover’. This helps to emphasise the local nature of the organisation.
  • Register with Google Places. This is linked to the Google Maps service and will show the location of your micro-business on a map together with the products and services you provide. If a searcher enters geographic data in their searches, such as a place name, the Google Places listings are shown at the top of the search rankings, after the pay-per-click links. This is also useful to use in conjunction with mobile devices, as searches via smartphones often have a local element to them.

However, this isn’t an either-or approach, use both of them.

Other Search Engines

In the UK, we tend to focus on Google as it is the most well-known search engine. But it isn’t the only one. Following the 80/20 principle, there are others that should be considered, such as Ask, Bing and Yahoo. All of them have slightly different requirements which can be allowed for in your website, giving your micro-business access to a wider range of potential customers.

If you trade internationally there will be additional search engines to consider, depending on exactly which countries you want to trade in.