Times are tough for a lot of companies here in Northern Colorado.  I’ve been commenting lately on the causes of the situation we’re in, but regardless of the reasons, the reality is that a lot of small businesses in Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland are struggling.

Maybe your business is experiencing the crunch too.  Maybe you’re thinking about pulling out of the yellow pages next year?  Or maybe you’re trimming your newspaper ads back.  While the knee-jerk reaction is to pull back on your advertising in tough times, that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing.  Think about this, when do you need to do marketing?  When you need sales, right?  So when sales slow down, is that the time to cut your marketing too?  That’s a plan to further drive sales into the ground.  You need to increase marketing when times are tough.  When things are booming, that’s when you can slow your marketing efforts.

But if the reality of the situation is that you simply don’t have the money to spend on marketing and advertising right now, then you need to get the most bang for your buck.  You need to market smarter and find ways to stretch the money you do have.  That’s what I hope to do for you over the next couple weeks.

Enough of my soap box.  Here’s another tip for how you can market your Northern Colorado business on a limited budget…

SEO has continued to provide the highest return on investment  of any marketing tactic available today.  Why?  Because with a little effort, you can promote your site to the world.  Imagine the cost of taking out a full-page ad in every phone book in every major city in the world.  The cost would be mind-boggling.  But with the Internet, you have the ability to place your most important marketing vehicle in front of your prospects right when they are searching for you.  It’s literally better than advertising in every city around the globe.   That kind of exposure is extraordinary.

So how can you get your site to appear at the top of Google’s search results?  Well, there are two ways: optimize your site so that Google likes it and ranks it naturally; or pay to be in the sponsored listings.  Tomorrow we’ll discuss the paid listings or pay-per-click ads, but for today, let’s just stick to the free listings.  They’re better anyway, because they’re free.

Now there are literally dozens of ways that you can help to raise your site in the Google search results pages (SERPs) but we’ll just focus on a couple of the big ones here today.  We use our 106-point SEO checklist every time we develop a site, just to make sure that none of the crucial factors are overlooked.  Here are three of the most important things we pay special attention to.

Big SEO Tip #1: Link Building.

You have to get a lot of other sites to link to yours.  It used to be that you could fill your site with the phrase that you wanted to be found for and that would shoot your site to the top of the listings.  But that technique was abused, particularly by the adult industry.

SIDE NOTE: I’m not mentioning that industry name specifically (P_rn) because that word alone can get your site kicked off of Google’s listings.  If I were to innocently mention the industry in this posting, Google might assume that this site offers that type of material and could potentially kick us out of their results pages.

Anyway, in an effort to stay ahead of the [P_rn] industry, Google has been forced to tighten up their controls.  In many ways, they have stripped the webmaster of their power to rank their own site.  They have handed a lot of that control over to the voting public.  Look at it this way.  If you can get 1000 sites to link to your site, Google figures you must have a legitimate site.  It would be pretty tough to convince 1000 other sites to link to your [P_rn] site if they were legitimate sites themselves.  But here’s an important tip to remember when you’re getting other sites to link to your site.  Ask them to link to your site using your most popular keyword phrase.  Here are a couple examples:

GOOD:

Click here to see our portfolio of  website designs in Northern Colorado

BAD:

Click here to see our portfolio of website designs in Northern Colorado

BAD:

Click here to see our portfolio of website designs in Northern Colorado

Notice that we don’t care to be found for terms like “click here” or “see our portfolio” so those are bad choices for anchor text.  On the other hand, we like being found for “website designs in Northern Colorado” so that’s a great choice for anchor text.  Unfortunately, most people trade links with other sites with little concern for the anchor text and it results in little if any positive impact on their search rankings.

For more information on choosing good anchor text, please view my recent blog post on the topic.

Big SEO TIP #2: Content is King

While linking is very important, building a great site with great content is still important.  Think about your site as a repository of all of the phrases that you want to be found for.  If those phrases don’t appear within your site, then Google’s gonna assume that your site isn’t really all about that phrase.   In fact they may even punish you for it by lowering your ranking.  Seems fair enough that the site that mentions a keyword phrase several times would rank better than one that doesn’t mention that phrase at all.  Sure this seem obvious but I see all the time where people hide keywords in their code, but neglect to put the same phrases into their visible content.  That’s cheating in Google’s mind.  If you site contains a long list of keywords in your code, but you don’t bother to mention them on that page, it looks like you’re trying to cheat the system.  Google will penalize your site and potentially even ban it from their listings all together.  The adult industry did this for years until Google clamped down.  Remember when Google first came online, you’d be innocently searching for something like restaurants in Northern Colorado only to find nasty sites in the first 5 positions on Google.  Those sites were able to cheat the system and sneak into those positions by hiding phrases like “restaurants in Northern Colorado” in their code.   Since Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant search results, they couldn’t let that happen.  They had to eliminate that kind of thing.  And one way they did that was by forcing sites to use the same words within the visible text on their page as they used in the code.  Hiding keywords in the code that aren’t mentioned on the page is a no-no and will eventually get your site banned.

So stick with good content.  When you add an article, make sure you list the same phrases found in the article in your meta keywords or else you may wind up doing more harm than good.

Big SEO Tip #3: Internal Linking

It’s hard to say what the very most important SEO things are because there are so many but internal linking is up there at the top.  We already talked about choosing good anchor text when you have other sites link to your site, but it’s also important to choose good anchor text when you are linking to other pages within your site.  The same rules apply. Every time you create a link to a page within your site, you’re telling Google that that page is important enough to link to it.  This helps the page that’s being linked to, to rank better.  But it only helps if you choose good anchor text.  Don’t even bother with links if you’re going to make them say “click here.”  All that does is raise your site’s ranking on Google when someone searches for “click here.”  I seriously doubt if that kind of search will benefit your business at all.

I hope that helps!

Chadd Bryant

More in Marketing in Northern Colorado
Blogging: Another Low-Cost Marketing Tip From Your Web Design Company

As your web design company, we've probably already told you by now that the word blog is a contraction for web log.  I remember the first time I saw the word.  I was over at Barnes and Noble reading.  My wife and I love to stop in there just to browse.  Here in Northern Colorado […]

Close