Basic SEO: Make Sure Your Web Site is Included in Search Engines’ Index

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization, in a nutshell, helps your web site be found online.

The very first step is to make sure search engines know your web site exists.  Or, more specifically . . .

CHECK WHETHER YOUR WEB SITE IS INDEXED

Search engines “crawl” the internet, reviewing each web page found, and then organize the content in their “index” to provide as future search results based on the relevancy to keywords searched.  If you’re not in the search engine’s index, you’re virtually invisible to searchers or, as applicable to us small businesses, potential customers.

Seeing whether your web site is in their index is easy.  From any search engine, search for “site:yourwebsite.com”.  (In our case, we search:  site:brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com.)

In our check, we found that most of our blog is a part of Google’s index.  Since Google performs the lion’s share of searches (see below), we’re going to focus on them.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR WEB SITE IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE INDEX?

According to Google, a few common reasons explain why a site might not appear in search results.  The most popular issues and some potential solutions are listed below for you.

  • PROBLEM:  Other web sites do not link to your site, and/or your web site is simply too new.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  You can create pages for your business in social media venues (like Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and include links to your web site. 
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Find popular web sites that could benefit from content on your web site.  Once you’ve identified some possible targets, send an email or letter to the appropriate person (usually a contact page will have the needed information) and explain why you believe their web site would benefit from linking to yours.  Be sure to follow up.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Get online reviews.  If applicable to your products or services, create a page for your business on popular review sites (google, yelp, etc.) and seek out reviews.  If you know of a particularly happy customer that has a web site or a strong social media following, ask for a plug to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION:  Think about business contacts that could help you promote your web site.  For instance, you may use intermediaries or suppliers that have an appropriate place on their web site to link to your business.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: And last but not least, post quality content and be patient.  “If you build it, they will come.”  Whether a baseball field or a web site that adds unique value to the digital world, people will eventually find you, and they will link to your web site.
  • PROBLEM: Google’s ability to crawl the site has been hindered by Flash, other specialized technology, or a lack of text.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: If your web site utilizes Flash or another specialized technology, you may want to consider a redesign in HTML.  While this could be a significant undertaking, you want your web site written in a language that search engines understand.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Review the image to text ratio on your web site.  Do you have enough words for search engines to fully understand the content for each page?  If not, you can either replace your images with text (try to use formatting to achieve that same visual appeal) or supplement the images with explanatory captions.  Remember that you’re communicating with your web site’s audience as well as search engines.
  • PROBLEM: Your web site generated an error when Google tried to crawl your web site.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: The most common reason for this problem is secured content.  If your web site requires a log-in to enter the site, Google won’t be able to enter either.  Consider restructuring your web site so that your more general pages are open to the public and only the pages truly requiring a log-in get that restriction.
  • POSSIBLE SOLUTION: You can also register your web site with Google’s Search Console, which can give you some more specific information about the errors generated.

Once you feel like you have sufficiently addressed your particular problem, ask Google to crawl and index your web site.

If you have any questions or comments about getting included in Google’s index, we’ve love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section. . . .

The next goal of course is to improve your web site’s search ranking, which will be the focus of a future post. 

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Branding Through Customer Service

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

Most business owners appreciate the importance of customer service, but far fewer recognize the connection between the service they provide and the brand they represent.  Your customers’ experience with your business should reflect and reinforce your brand (or the personality of your company). 

Let’s look at two extreme examples. 

Amazon

amazon-vision-statement-mission-statement

Amazon’s customer-centric focus is a part of their mission and vision statements.  They are known for free two-day shipping (now with same-day options sometimes available), one-click purchases, and their virtual assistant (i.e., Alexa; lovingly known as Lexie in our house . . . or dumba@#$!, depending on the day and how well she’s performing her virtual assistance role). 

While having to wait ten minutes to speak to another company’s customer service representative may be annoying, most people probably wouldn’t be surprised.  However, we have different expectations for Amazon.  We expect to communicate with someone right away when we have an issue, and we expect that individual to capably handle the problem . . . and that’s only for those situations in which we can’t fix the issue ourselves (for example, “returning” a product without ever even interacting with customer service).  Quick, tech-savvy, and capable are qualities associated with Amazon’s brand, so we expect their approach to customer service to embody those same characteristics. 

Amazon also uses service interactions as opportunities to reinforce their brand.  They thank you for shopping with Amazon over the phone or via chat.  Afterwards, you’ll receive an email message from customer service, asking for feedback on your experience.  In that email, you’ll see the company logo, an email layout consistent with the company’s style, and a reference to the company building “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.” 

Amazon’s brand is reflected and reinforced throughout the customer service experience.

On the flip side, sometimes customer service that isn’t customer focused or service focused is actually an important part of the brand, too.

Ferrari

This company’s product is associated with luxury, quality, and exclusivity.  For the most elusive Ferraris with very limited production, you don’t simply order one from the new flashy and convenient car vending machines.  You don’t simply order one at all.  You “request” to order one, and those requests are not fulfilled in the traditionally expected “first-come, first-serve” manner.  If you have money, fame, and an existing collection of Ferraris, you will probably make the cut; no guarantees though. 

Robert Herjavec, the businessman turned celebrity on ABC’s Shark Tank, spoke about ordering a Ferrari in Wired magazine, “The funny thing is, you never really know if you’re getting one until you’re actually getting one.”

(Note that most of the cost is required in advance of being guaranteed your requested Ferrari!)

“. . . You wait for a while, then you kind of get a date range, then you get a closer date, then you get the actual date. Then it’s definitely Christmas,” said Herjavec.

If you happen to request a paint color for your new car that Ferrari deems to be in poor taste, you can be denied said paint color. 

So, you make an order (with payment) without guarantee of getting the product, you wait an extraordinarily long time IF you are given the privilege of being promised the product, and customization choices aren’t always yours to make.  All of these customer service attributes reflect the exclusivity that is Ferrari’s brand and actually add to the allure of their products.

While I am not quite Ferrari’s target demographic and haven’t been involved in this process, I would expect that their brand is reinforced at each stage of the way – indirectly and directly portraying the characteristics that define them (luxury, quality, and exclusivity), including visual brand components as well whenever possible (for example, the prancing horse).

Customer Service Characteristics that Represent Your Brand

While the two brand examples highlighted are extreme ones, all aspects of your customer service do communicate qualities about your business.  Below is a list of some different customer service opportunities to consider.  The way your company handles each of these items contributes to a brand experience . . . one that hopefully reflects your perception of your brand. 

-The amount of time taken to answer phone calls/emails

-The way customers and potential customers are addressed in person as well as via phone/email

-The extent of information available to potential customers

-The level of assistance provided to a customer when experiencing an issue

-The way customer input and suggestions are handled

-The background information included with a product or service

-The amount of detail provided with any instructions included with a product or service

-The inclusion of contact information in promotional materials and product documentation

-The extent of customer follow-up provided post-purchase

-The inclusion of your logo and tag line in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents

-The adherence to your company’s style guide in all possible service interactions (e-mail, letters, etc.) and documents (If you haven’t developed a style guide for your business yet, read The Role of a Brand Style Guide.)

If upon looking at this list, you feel like your customer service experience is fully in synch with your brand, pat yourself on the back!  That is no small feat! 

Want an even stronger evaluation?  Ask a few of your customers to do the same review on your behalf. 

If one or more attributes could use some tweaking to either better represent your company or to better take advantage of the branding opportunities that exist, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can make important changes over time that can have a big impact on your business and your brand.