By Sarah Blanchard

A stable online presence will help almost any business acquire new customers, and the fact that customer acquisition via the web costs literally nothing, should be of particular interest to small business owners. To that end, the largest advertising platform in the history of mankind, Google, provides nearly free exposure for your products and services. All your business has to do to improve your online presence is enact a few simple strategies to effectively increase your search rankings, bury negative reviews, and increase organic search traffic.

Start Writing

Most search engines, especially Google, reward quality content. The exact definition of “quality” is often debated by search engine experts but a few general guidelines are clear. Content needs to be well researched and reach a certain word count, usually between 400 and 800 words. Each piece of content should link to other pieces of content that provide factual basis for your information. Topics for your website or blog content should focus on your business area or industry. If you sell water purifiers, articles with titles such as “3 Ways You Can Instantly Improve Your Home’s Water Quality” helps with your site’s “keyword focus” while potentially yielding social media traffic and links from other websites. Content on your site that ends up being linked by others is a signal to Google of the quality of your article. This results in higher search engine rankings and more organic traffic.

Write for Others

Even if you write amazing articles, it can be difficult to get attention to your specific content. Over time, with consistency and quality, this work should be noticed but marketers can jump start the process. Google’s guidelines expressly forbid the purchase of links on another website. Despite severe penalties, the practice remains quite widespread. It is in the best interest of website operators to avoid selling or buying links. There are other options available that will not result in the removal of your site from search results.

Guest posts are one of the most common way to get links to your site on other sites. To put it simply, you write a piece of content for another website. Of course, this content also contains a link back to your website (this is why these types of links are called “linkbacks”) which improves your search engine rankings. The rules for quality content in guest posts are the same for content on your own website. The key to securing guest post agreements is to offer topics that appeal to the host website, comply with their publishing guidelines, and generally attempt to minimize the work required by the publisher.

Keep an Eye on Reviews

Review websites, like Yelp and Google Reviews, can rank significantly higher in search results than your own website. This means that users are more likely to click on those sites than yours. Whether or not this is a positive depends on the reviews your business has on those sites. A large volume of enthusiastic reviews will almost certainly generate traffic to your site and increase sales.

Like with backlinks above, avoid the temptation to pay directly for reviews. Instead, incentivize existing customers to write reviews for you. Rebates and discounts for reviews is a common industry practice but a bit of gamble. A business will have to trust that customers participating in this program are satisfied with their experience.

Improve Your Website

By maintaining an updated website that complies with the latest search engine requirements, you ensure that your website will appear higher than most competitors who do not. While this may seem a daunting task, with free content management systems like WordPress available, this is something most business owners can do on their own in a few hours a week. However, if you lack the necessary tech expertise, a web developer is going to be a great asset and should not cost too much. Ensuring that a website’s code is optimized for search engines is essential for online marketing success.

Improving your small business’ online presence is essential to thriving in the digital age. Thankfully, that has, in recent years become something that most small business owners can handle on their own without a lot of technical expertise. By producing quality content, writing content for publication on third-party websites, managing customer reviews, and ensuring that your website is up to the latest standards you will undoubtedly improve the quality and quantity of the traffic you receive from search engines.