Member Tip Monday: How Do I Improve My Organic Search Listing As A Small Business?

Search engine optimization is like weather forecasting without models and data. You open up your window and look around. You make plans and try things and look for patterns.

There are people who are happy to give you tips, and there are best practices, but ultimately it’s something that’s always evolving as algorithms are anything but constant. However, optimizing your content and site to place well is essential to minimizing your marketing spend on getting found. Here are a few tips to make your small business competitive on a local level.

Improving-organic-search

Is It Harder for Small Businesses to Place Organically?

Google’s algorithm is aimed at showcasing “valuable” sites first. Since Google is not an expert in every field it looks for indicators of a quality site. These things include:

  • Decent load times (no one wants to wait even 2 minutes for content to load)
  • mobile friendly (according to Google, 82% of smart phone users use their device to find local businesses)
  • good content (as evidenced by shares, interactions, and links)
  • good outbound links (your site is not an island. Google expects you to link out to quality websites as well)

In non-organic search, large businesses have a distinct advantage over small businesses – money. From an organic listing standpoint, that advantage dwindles. What they do have over small are exposure and notoriety. People often think first of larger businesses and may share their content more readily because it comes to mind first.

Luckily, the advantage ends there. A small business can produce content that gets recognized and shared with the same ease (or difficulty, as the case may be) as a larger company. Yes, a larger company may have a larger audience and larger staff, but creating blog content and sharing it on social media requires the same effort from both groups.

Improving Local Search

The first thing you want to concentrate on if you have a physical business location is building out your business profile on Google and other directories. Ensuring you’re listed in local search is free and doesn’t require anything more than your time.

At a minimum, claim and build out your business listing on

When you visit these directories you may find your business is already listed. Verify the details and claim it, if applicable. Be sure to fill in anything that isn’t complete, including your business hours. Information from these sites feeds local search so don’t leave fields incomplete.

Next, check out other listings such as your local chamber, YellowPages, SuperPages, and industry-specific business listings such as TripAdvisor (if you offer food, entertainment, or lodging).

Here’s where things get a little tricky. There are data aggregators that pull information about businesses and feed them to other large companies (TripAdvisor included in that). Look at your business listing. Is the information about your business correct? If not, it can be cumbersome to change. Even if you go directly to TripAdvisor for instance, they may change it on their site, but that doesn’t fix a hundred others. In this case, Moz offers a yearly service where they will push out corrected information for you to the four main aggregators of business data.

Improve and Seek Out Reviews

There have been books written on this topic on how to create a referral mindset among your customers. But simply put, you need to make sure you focus on delighting your customers and making it easy for them to tell others about you. You must also ask them to do it. There’s a lot more detail in the implementation of these ideas but that’s how you’ll improve reviews on the most basic level.

Take the time to respond to reviews, good and bad. The good ones make you shine and the bad ones give you the opportunity to improve your offerings.

Think About SEO When Creating Content

You are writing for two distinct groups – search engines and people. People need good quality content (from their perspective) that addresses issues they care about, gives them the information they need, and entertains them. The content needn’t do all three at the same time but it should do one.

From an SEO perspective, you want your content to give your audience what they want because they’ll be more likely to share if you do. You also want to do everything you can to personalize it to your industry and local audience. Have you ever read a novel that is so rich in the setting and life it describes, that you feel like you’ve been there? On the other hand, have you read something that was so flat, that you didn’t even recognize it as a place you’ve been many times?

Place can be a character and you want people reading your website content to have a sense of the place you service. You can do this by mentioning surrounding areas, local events, and using insider language in your copy. These little things help customers identify with your site and tell Google that you are a local industry authority. You’re not a bot or a keyword stuffer.

A Final Word About Placing Well in Local Search

Finally, be smart about the keywords you want to rank for. There are some that are impossible. For instance, if you’re a local travel agency, ranking for “travel” will be Herculean task mainly because the first page is dominated by heavy hitters like Travelocity, Expedia, and CNN. Instead, focus on being a big fish in a small pond. Look to optimize your content by answering questions your ideal customer wants to know (or things they’d key into search, like the title of this article). Look for local opportunities like “best travel deals to Orlando from <your town>.” It’s a mouthful, but creating copy around long-tail keywords will help you achieve better local placement for free.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

*Post seen on Montgomery Chamber of Commerce website.

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4 BEGINNING TWITTER TIPS FOR BUSINESS

Twitter-art

From 2014-2015 the number of Twitter users grew by 50 million, and it’s estimated that close to 1/5 of Internet users have Twitter accounts. The average Twitter user follows 5 businesses so if you’re not trying to reach your customers on Twitter you’re missing an opportunity.

Twitter is easy enough to understand, just share something 140 characters or less. You can share links, images, or videos. Here are a few other tips for businesses just starting out on Twitter:

Use Hashtags

Twitter is as hard to follow as the ticker tape on a stock page. It’s a constant barrage of messaging, particularly for those accounts that follow a lot of people. Hashtags, or pound signs (#), help people search for the information they want.

Using an appropriate hashtag can expand your business’ reach and help potential customers find what they’re looking for. Employ one specific to your business and use hashtags that are relevant. For instance, Jake’s Jewelry Store might use all, or any, of the following hashtags in tweets with images of gifts for mom: #jakes, #mothersday, #gift.

You can also use popular hashtags of trending topics, when applicable, like #marchmadness or #50shadesofgrey.

Share Images

This tip applies to most of social media but Twitter will display images prominently in the stream so it’s a good way to get your followers’ attention.

Rise Above the Noise

Find ways to stand out from others who are merely posting articles they’ve written. Ask questions. Have conversations. Thank people for sharing your content.

One of the easiest ways to create loyal followers, at least initially, is through commenting on what they share – either by providing your own opinions or asking them follow-up questions.

Avoid sending out automated thank you messages to new followers. While the concept seems nice – thanking them for following you – they come off as exactly what they are, robotic. Plus many Twitter users don’t check their messages box because of a large number of these they receive.

In addition to finding customers and potential customers on Twitter, it’s good to connect with influencers in your industry or audience such as mommy bloggers or niche bloggers.

Follow the Golden Rule

To follow back or not to follow back. That is the question and the answer for business is follow back, or do unto others as you would like them to do to you.

There are exceptions to this rule.

Twitter will cap you at 5,000 following (people you follow) if your followers (number of people who follow you) are not fairly equal. For instance, if you followed 2,000 people but only 500 followed you, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until those numbers get within (about) 200 of each other. Twitter won’t tell you the exact number that it takes but you will be limited until those follower numbers rise.

You also don’t want your followers and following number too far off of one another because:

  • If you are following too many people, and a relatively equal number is not following you back, it looks like you’re not sharing worthwhile information.

On the other hand,

  • If a lot of people are following you and you’re only following a handful, you look like a bit of a jerk. That’s okay for reality TV stars but people who are using Twitter for business should be a little more congenial.

You can manage your Twitter followers through tools like ManageFlitter, Followerwonk (a Moz app) or Friend or Follow. Many of these tools can help you tell which accounts are spambots or fake accounts or inactive accounts. (You don’t want to spend time engaging those.) They also help you isolate influencers in your area.

There are pages and pages of tips written on topics like Twitter for business but the best thing to keep in mind is your humanity. Don’t make it all about your business and be gracious. Find ways to connect with people on a more personal level and imagine every tweet you’re sending could be seen by your grandmother, unless you’re in the type of business you don’t want your grandmother to know about.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and Memberclicks.

Member Tip Monday: HOW TO FIND TIME FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Build Your Visibility

Small business owners, especially those businesses with under 10 employees, find it extremely difficult to justify the time on social media because it doesn’t lead to predictable, measurable cost savings or revenue.

Social media and content marketing is about becoming an engaging resource for your customers. What’s the yield of a relationship? If you can figure out what a relationship is worth in revenue dollars, you should be blogging about it.

The truth is, we can’t. Not exactly at least. But we know people buy from people they know, like, and trust and that’s why it’s important to invest time in building these connections and affections.

Finding that time is easier said than done. Still here are a couple of suggestions on how to carve out some time to increase your efforts on social media.

Keep Content Handy

The first thing you’ll need is a place to keep content you find. Not all content will be applicable for sharing the moment you come across it. We’ve all seen people on Twitter who post 10 tweets at a time and figure they are done for the day. It is better to deal out your posts at multiple times than all at once. Often you’ll find content that you’ll want to share later so select a system in which you can easily access your content gems in the future.

Upload content to DropBox, use Evernote or keep a notepad handy (paper or electronic). Doesn’t matter if you keep fortune cookie messages in a shoe box. Never let what you deem to be a valuable piece of content escape. Keep it somewhere handy and build a cache of it.

Find a Scheduler You Like

There are many options to help you pre-schedule posts. Scheduling is important because you can’t spend your whole day posting, nor do you want to be that person who bombards others with a firehose worth of content once a day.

Find a scheduler you’re comfortable with. Many systems allow you to control when you post and often give you the ability to do it several days out. One of the most basic is Buffer. It allows you to schedule across multiple platforms. It offers a free and paid version, but even the paid is only about $10 a month.

The most popular is Hootsuite, and while I use it occasionally because it offers greater capabilities than Buffer, I do prefer Buffer’s minimalist design. Hootsuite’s interface is busy but allows you to monitor in real time. If you’re developing relationships, this is a powerful ability to have.

Multi-task

I’m not telling you to turn off the TV when you get home, but there is no reason if you’re “vegging out” that you can’t use that time to schedule a few posts for the next day. Don’t let mindless tasks, like television watching, steal your productivity.

“Steal” Time

We all have moments where we’re waiting – before doctor’s appointments, before meetings, on the phone, while the kids finish up with practice, you get the idea. Many of us fill this time with other mindless tasks like scanning pictures of our friends’ pets on Facebook. Instead, use this time to be productive by finding content, scheduling it, or responding to people on social media.

I am a firm believer in scheduling posts but the interacting cannot be scheduled, so use this stolen time to reach out and connect with people.

Look for Content Everywhere

Content ideas are everywhere – airplane magazines, overheard conversations, commercials, popular TV shows, as well as all over social media. Use the many messages that bombard you daily to find gems you’d like to share. Retweets are only the beginning.

Take Pictures

Along that line, take pictures of everything that moves you and some ordinary things that don’t. Pictures you take can be used in blogs, memes, and image quotes without concern over cost or copyright. Links with pics are more likely to get shared and clicked. Encourage staff to do the same.

You don’t need huge chunks of time to make connections on social media. The key to success in this area is the same in most business- or relationship-building. Give people what they want/find valuable; do so without expectation. Become a resource for them and help them. Be consistent in your efforts so they know they can count on you. This takes minutes a day. Schedule good content and steal time for interacting. Then watch your relationships grow as people share your resources with others.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog. She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

LEAP to Louisville: a Recent Inter-County Visit with Local Leaders

Bridge 1In late-September, 35 community leaders traveled to Louisville, Kentucky as part of the Leadership Expedition to Accelerate Progress (LEAP). The trip, hosted by The Chamber’s Sarasota Tomorrow Initiative in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, serves as an opportunity for area leadership to learn more about the successes of peer and aspirational communities that might be emulated locally. As in years past, the Sarasota delegation included elected officials, City/County staff, local for-profit and non-profit CEOs, key education leadership, and other key civic and business stakeholders.

Insights gained from past trips have helped local groups collaborate to create the successful Precision Machining program at Suncoast Technical College, explore new public art efforts, launch the Talent4Tomorrow initiative to improve our region’s educational attainment and workforce development outcomes and create the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 effort to maximize that key area of our community.

In the sixth iteration of the inter-city best practice visit concept, Louisville was selected for the strides made in education & workforce development, waterfront reimagining, targeted cluster incubation and acceleration, place making, and tourism branding. While its economic output, unique assets, and population make the area more of an aspirational city, as opposed to a peer community, these types of areas still offer insight to numerous themes that could be adjusted to fit Sarasota’s local scale. Continue reading “LEAP to Louisville: a Recent Inter-County Visit with Local Leaders”