Step Up Your SEO Smarts

A whopping 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, according to Google. Given that reality, the importance of ranking high in online searches that relate to your business is paramount. So how can you power to the top of results? Improve your search engine optimization, or SEO, today and more prospects will find you online tomorrow.

1. LIST YOUR BUSINESS. Improved SEO starts with ensuring your business is listed on all of the major search engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing and so on. “Whether you have a website or not (and you should), you can still be found online with a simple listing,” says Jennifer Cox, president of Kent, OH-based National Network of Embroidery Professionals. Ensure your company is listed exactly the same way on each search tool, as inconsistency can hurt your ranking.

2. BUILD LINKS. Links with other sites remain the single most important factor in search engine rankings, but you have to be careful how you acquire them. “Paid links can actually hurt your rankings with Google,” says Jason DeMers, CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based online marketing firm. Good link acquisition tactics include getting satisfied customers to link to your site, being in local media’s online stories and videos and, most importantly, creating great content on your site and other sites connected to the apparel decorating industry, which encourages people to share.

3. CRAFT QUALITY CONTENT. Search engines give priority to business sites that provide information that’s helpful to audiences searching for the type of services the business provides. Populate your site with copy, images and videos that detail everything from how decorated apparel can help promote a business and customer success stories, to technical aspects of decorating and apparel care tips. It’s critical, Cox says, to frequently update this content and a blog can provide a great vehicle for doing so. Blog updates can be as simple as an image of a shirt you embellished with a couple brief explanatory sentences or a short captioned video.

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4. BE SOCIAL. Having an active presence on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ has become an important component of SEO. “Active” means interacting with others on social platforms and routinely posting content – pulled from your website when possible – that’s of interest to the market you serve. “Social media interaction creates social ‘signals’ that search engines use in the ranking algorithm,” DeMers says. “More social media interaction leads to better rankings in search engines.”

5. OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE FOR MOBILE. With the rollout of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, having a website that’s optimized to display properly on smartphones and tablets has become an influential factor in search result ranking. “Hummingbird prioritizes websites in search results that display well across mobile devices,” DeMers says. Consider engaging a tech pro who can construct your site with responsive Web design, a way of crafting a website that gives visitors the best viewing experience across a wide range of devices with minimal resizing, panning and scrolling.