So you've launched your brand new shiny website and you're really proud of what it says about your business. But what happens now? How will people find your website and discover all that's great about what you do and sell?
To give you a helping hand, we've put together a clever little list of all the FREE things that small businesses can do, to put their website firmly on the search engine map. We're not including on-page SEO or keyword analysis here, as this is normally part of your website setup and generally done before your site is launched (if you're looking for advice in these areas, check out our digital marketing services).
1. Create a sitemap
A sitemap is a fast and easy way of having your new site indexed by search engines, so web users will find you more quickly. It's created as a .xml file and there are several online sites available that will create one for you as long as it's under a certain number of pages. Once created, you can upload the file to search engines using one of the Webmaster accounts, such as for Google and Bing (see tip 4 for how to do this).
It's also a good idea to set up a robots.txt file too, as this will stop search engines from indexing unwanted parts of your website. This may be pages in your content management systems or your shopping cart pages.
2. List your business on free online directories
There are a number of free online business directories which are worth you being listed on. This increases the chances of your business being found and provides valuable and genuine backlinks to your site. Some worth looking at are Thomson Local, Yell, Tradefinder, Business Magnet and Business Directory UK.
3. Sign up for Google Analytics
This a bit of a no-brainer and many of you with successful, functioning websites will already be using Google Analytics as a vital tool in your marketing strategy. At Clever Business, we automatically sign up all new-build sites to GA and provide customers either with their own access or send them regular monthly reports.
Google Analytics is a completely free service and will give you masses of information on your site's usage and visitor tracking. To sign up, all you need is a gmail address to open an account. You’re then given a unique analytics code to place within your site - and you're then good to go!
4. Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools
Using the same Google account login for signing up to Analytics, you can also sign up for Google Webmaster Tools. As described in tip 1, this is where you submit your sitemap file and it has many other insight functionalities such as tracking your backlinks, what your average page load time is and if the site has any HTML errors. Once your Google Webmaster account I set up and your website verified, you might want to do the same with Bing's webmaster services.
5. Start blogging...
If you've got the type of business which provides you with lots of varied case studies, project stories or visual inspiration, you might want to think about blogging. It's a great way to engage with your wider audience and community. It's one of the best ways of giving your site free organic SEO ratings and building quality backlinks. Blogging is free and you can set one up easily on a platform such as Wordpress or Blogger. Here at Clever Business, we build blogs into websites as a matter of course.
6. Get tweeting (or posting on Facebook..)
Much like blogging, social media can be something you think you need to be doing. It seems as though everyone's on Twitter and Facebook and you don’t want to miss out. The right platform can be great for business, giving you the chance to be heard and build credibility within your industry. It's easy and free to set up accounts, you just need to use your judgement as to whether you have the time and resources to keep them active and content relevant. Better to choose just one and commit to it properly!
7. Bookmark your pages
This is another good way of improving traffic to your site and acquiring backlinks. Using social bookmarking, although not as authoritative as other sources, can get a site indexed more quickly. Major players in this field include Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious and others. You can spend a lot of time on these sites, so if your resources are limited, stick to a couple and actively participate.
8. Set up Google Alerts
Part of running a successful business is keeping a close eye on your competitors, and a simple way of doing this is to set up a Google Alert. This will notify you instantly of rival brand activity if it’s included in any newly indexed pages. It's a good way of monitoring not only other brands but yours too. It's free, easy to use and doesn't even require a Google account.
9. Sign up for Google Places
If you're a business with a bricks and mortar office as a well a website, you'll want to be claiming and verifying your local search pages. This is the first step to gaining additional local traffic. Google Places is the main one to aim for, and you just need to verify your business via your location through your Google account. Bing Local, Yelp, Yahoo Local are other local search pages to register with too.
10. Tell all your contacts about your new website
It might seem obvious, but once your new website is launched, shout it from the rooftops! Use your existing contacts database to email, mailshot, call or text them about your shiny new online presence. And don’t forget to put your website address on your email signature and any new promotional material.