Want to build a site for your small business, with the potential to get ranked and all the social media trimmings, in just one day? It’s possible! I did it myself not long ago – aside from a few tweaks along the way, it’s all worked out nicely – and it’s all SEO friendly. I’m going to share how I did it with you.
Grab a brew. Strap yourself in. This is going to be one heck of a day…
Getting up and running in one day is pushing it. This guide is more or less a minimum commitment to get good results – but you’d be surprised what it can do! To get your business online in one day, we’ll assume you have a logo, brand name, physical shop location (not to mention all the legal mumbo jumbo) sorted already. This isn’t “start your business in one day” – this is the web bit only! ;) So without further ado, let’s crack on with the plan for the day.
The first steps on this journey may be the hardest, but you can make it easy on yourself by getting an off the shelf, readymade website. This is not as cheap and nasty as it sounds! There are some excellent readymade solutions out there, like Weebly and Squarespace, which offer good looking, fast and reliable DIY websites. Pros and cons weighed up; there really isn’t a better place to start than one of these.
Squarespace has the advantage that you get a domain thrown in when you sign up – but it’s more expensive from the off and a little more restrictive in the site types and usage it offers. It does however offer responsive design on all templates.
Weebly allows you to attach a domain of your own and is very cheap in comparison. It doesn’t look quite as pretty, but some of the new templates are really starting to match Squarespace in terms of beauty. A fully featured mobile version of your site is also created automatically.
Either one you choose is going to bode well for you. I decided to go with Weebly, because all things considered, it was the best one for me – I’ve been really happy with it and would recommend it as a great place to start. The social buttons are clear on every page too with most templates, making it easier to follow, like and plus.
If you’ve got your domain already, transferring it to your site is a fairly simple task – your DNS settings will need a little tweak, but you can consult your domain registrar, new CMS provider or just Google how to do it! If you don’t have a domain or want to use a new one, try to follow these rules:
Whois can pick up how long a domain is secured for – one year may be the cheapest, but it can indicate a lack of commitment to search engines, or that the site/business probably won’t exist after that time, so that extra investment now can pay off.
Once you’ve secured your domain, follow the CMS provider’s instructions for attaching it to your site. It shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes, but some say it takes up to 24 hours – there’s plenty to do in the meantime though!
This isn’t all of them – probably the biggest one missing from here is Pinterest. But these are the universal ones that everyone should get on to, regardless of what they do – the Big Three, if you will. You can add your domain URL where links are allowed, but remember there’s nothing there yet. Either leave it blank for now or be sure to say “site coming soon” in preparation for the big reveal!
This may seem like more of an afterthought than a top priority, but this is what will get you noticed fast – search results will come later, and it can take a couple of weeks for Google to even acknowledge your existence anyway. If you’re on Facebook, set up a Facebook page for your company. Add everything you can, fill out all of the boxes and make sure you’ve got images for your profile picture and cover photo.
You’ll need an active Facebook account to get going, so if you don’t have one yet it will prompt you to make one. Once you’ve made the page, invite all your friends and family to like it and share it. Hopefully, they’re all supportive of you and your business and will be happy to help you out! Be sure to send out a thank you from your page to all your new fans.
Next, get yourself to Twitter and set up a company account. Fill out all the boxes as much as you can and try your best to get your company name as the handle (like @companyname or @Company_Name). This can be harder than it sounds – there’s a strict limit on characters and popular names are snapped up quickly. With any luck, your company name will be available without a host of numbers before or after it! If you get stuck, try @Name_UK, @Name_Official or variants without underscores, different capital letter placements and so on. What’s important is that you have the same name across all of your social media accounts.
There’s sure to be something that you can use that looks good and conveys your brand. Again, tap up your friends and family on Twitter to help you promote your new profile – it’s this social boost that’s going to get you noticed for the first few weeks of your online life!
For more tips on getting started with Twitter check out our free whitepaper.
Last but not least, it’s time to set up a Google account. This will be the centre of your Googleverse, so make this one count! This is where it all starts. If you’re not signed up already, or you’re kind of doing it but half-heartedly, then now is the time to straighten up and fly right. It doesn’t take long to set up – but make this personal. Make this all about you – it will pay off in the future.
Add a nice picture of yourself, what you’re all about and what you’re into. Basically treat this as you would your personal Facebook profile, but be prepared to mingle. Not all of your friends will be there, so you’ll have to make some new ones! Luckily, Google+ is where business owners and online experts like to trade ideas, so get involved in some communities and state a name for yourself in your own areas of expertise. It will be welcomed.
We also have a free whitepaper on Google+ for Business.
Now, you’ve got to tell Google that you exist. With your new Google+ profile, you can set up Google Places – this will make a Google+ page for your company with your location information, contact details, opening hours, street view images and more. This is your foot in the door for local SEO, so set this up in full. We also have lots more local SEO tips here.
To confirm your location is where you say it is and that you are the business owner, Google will send you a good old fashioned postcard with a PIN code to enter within your Google+ Places profile. This can take a long time to come through… But it will! Once confirmed, you’ll be eligible for local listings, Google Reviews and to show up on Google Maps. We’ll come back to your new Google account later on in the day – there’s an amazing bunch of stuff it can do for you once the site’s up and running.
You’ve gone from having no company social profiles at all to having three in the space of a morning. How are you going to keep tabs on all of this? How are you going to find the time to keep them all updated? Sign up for Hootsuite! You can add up to 5 separate profiles at once, read all your messages and manage what you send out, including post scheduling! It’s a massive timesaver and well worth getting to know. It makes social a lot easier and a LOT less stressful, so if you’re strapped for time and resources, this is your way in.
Sprout Social is another (awesome) option for social management, but it’s paid only. Paid for good reason – it really is the bee’s knees of social media management. If you find yourself investing more time in social (which you really should be doing as a small business), I’d strongly consider going with Sprout. It provides great reports, works very smoothly and their customer service is excellent. Can’t be faulted!
Whatever happens, keep on top of all of your social profiles. They are your initial kick start, but they’ll have a considerable role to play in your online visibility for the foreseeable future. Treat them as you would your shop window. Don’t let them get stale, don’t let things gather dust. They’ll be many people’s first impression of you for years to come.
The next bits are going to take some doing – lots of writing that is. You’ll be glad you did it though! So to set yourself up for the task ahead, take a hearty lunch of beef and pastry – the road ahead is long.
Now all the background stuff is done – it’s time to populate your site! Using a site builder like Weebly or Squarespace, all of the technical stuff is done for you already – and almost always, they are done really well. From a technical standpoint, they leave little to be desired and implement all the things you need for strong SEO. All you have to do is pick a template you like and fill it with content. It’s as easy as clicking “add page”, then tweaking the finer details. But you need to be smart about how you do it. You need the site to make sense and to be set out in the best possible way, so that people can find what they need easily.
As I’m a bit of a Weebly power user now, I’ll use it to demonstrate how you can set things up. As an example, we’ll make a site for a made up local bakery – and call it Fake n’ Bake. Fake n’ Bake has three core products: cakes for weddings, birthdays and custom speciality cakes. First off, let’s think about what you need:
Each page should have your contact details and social media links on – usually in the footer, but you can be creative. Think ‘small site, big content’ – less pages, but more details to each one. This will be the backbone of the site’s search visibility, backed up with other on-page elements – so focus on the content, not having lots of pages to land on. Keeping your site small but very concise is good for your users, and so will eventually be good for search too. Let’s look at an example layout and how to populate it:
This is arguably your most important page. Make it reflect your company. Fake ‘n Bake would have a title like – “Fake n’ Bake – Handmade Wedding Cakes, Birthday Cakes and Cakes that Show Off!”
They would have a tagline to draw users in and all of the content on this page will be about what they do, which is bake cakes. They’ll tell you why theirs are so special – that they taste great, they use natural ingredients, each cake is made to order, that they can make any shape and size – things that set them apart from a supermarket bought cake.
This content needs to be on point and written from the heart – this is your business and you’re there to promote it and make a brand for yourself. It does not need to be filled with keywords and place names. Google knows what you’re about if you’ve written your copy well and Google Places knows where you are – so there’s no need to try to spin your copy for gain.
Write naturally. If you make “Wedding and Birthday Cakes Shropshire”, by all means put that in your copy – but chances are, you don’t. Anyone reading that term is going to be wise to the motive, including Google! If it’s not comfortable to read, then don’t write it. If you are an expert in your field, you should be able to fill a page with ease. If you’re struggling to find the words, remember why you do what you do and write what you feel when you do it.
Yes I know – it’s all very “touchy, feely” – but you’re more likely to hook a user with your character and passion than you are with 2 paragraphs of wooden, standard issue text.
Our fake little business, Fake n’ Bake, is all about one thing: CAKE! They don’t do much, but they do it well. They do three kinds of cake, each with different options and requirements, so there will be plenty to write about. They should have a main products page that gives an overview of the way these cakes are made and has small “preview” snippets of each sub page:
The images and titles of these overview snippets should link to the corresponding product page and each one should be detailed. Fake ‘n Bake would write unique descriptions and options for each – with links to gallery/blog post images, on-page videos of each kind of cake being constructed and lots more. There’s more to be done that can be achieved in a day – but they are likely to have lots of documented cake stories to help start them off!
Fake ‘n Bake don’t have a set pricing structure, they work on quotes, emails and phone calls – so the next step they want a customer to take is to get in touch – so a big, clear link or button needs to be placed on the product pages for users to follow.
Ideally, you’ll have your address, phone number, email address and social media links on every page of your site. But you need a main page where stuff gets done. Fake ‘n Bake (our fabulous purveyors of imaginary baked things) work on a quotation basis. They need to make this fast and easy!
The main contact page should have everything users need to get in touch and expand upon basic address and contact information. Opening hours, a Google Maps plugin and a direct link to email are all helpful – but Fake n’ Bake need to send out quotes efficiently. To do this, they could use a contact form. They need a phone number and email address to reply to the query, details of the type of cake, when it needs to be ready for collection and what special bits and pieces it requires (like wording, pictures and so on). Fake ‘n Bake will likely follow this up with a phone call before confirming – but they will have got all the details they need from the customer first – great! Weebly has a contact form plug in that is really easy to use and lets you get top level information fast:
This page can contain terms and conditions, vital information customers need to know about getting in touch and even Twitter and Facebook feeds – everything a user needs to know when getting in contact. If this amounts to a huge amount of messy looking content, split off a separate terms and conditions page – but only link to it where it’s relevant.
Mind how you space this page out. Put the most important stuff first; the contact form and submit button, the location text and so on to guide users to their destination. Try not to bury the things you want them to take action on below pretty header images and the like. If they’ve come this far, they’re probably sold on you already so guide them to the finishing line. No distractions…
A Thank You page can be added after a form is completed and submitted – you can hide pages from web crawlers with a robots.txt file, but most off the shelf CMS packages will have this as an option and just means hitting a switch to “hide” the page from search robots. Simple! This page can be tracked as a goal completion in Google Analytics too. Just keep a note of the URL for later.
This is the only empty page left. If Fake ‘n Bake write up each of their unique bakes with some nice photographs (or even embed videos of the moment of creation), they are going to have a very attractive and vibrant blog in no time flat. They can share how-to guides and flavour experiments for people to try. Food fans up and down the country are going to be taking a look at their creations, commenting on their blog posts and sharing these fantastical feats of feasting on all of their favourite social sites. All they need to do is share their awesome content out among their legions of fans (built up using Hootsuite while building up all their content). Over time, this will become one of the site’s biggest assets.
Using Authorship and Publisher mark-up (another neat trick courtesy of your new Google accounts) will help stamp a very pleasant mark in search results too – Mike’s video will show you how to set it up.
Everything is set up and ready to roll – your site is live, your content is killer and you’ve got some contact form inquiries from all that social sharing. Awesome! But how did these users get there? Did they come via social media links? Did they Google you? Did they stick around or leave right after? What was your most popular page? So many questions – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. All can be answered with Google Analytics. Well, almost all.
To track visits with Google Analytics, all you need is a little slice of code to pop into your site’s header. Off the shelf packages will invariably have an option to embed it on every page as standard, which is exactly what you want. Weebly certainly has this – but it suggests that you add it to the footer, contrary to what Google recommends. Pop it into the header of each page and you’re good to go. So how do you set it up? Check out this Koozai blog post from the days of yore to get it up and running – easy peasy (lemon squeezing optional, but recommended).
The last thing to do today is set up Google Webmaster Tools. If you’ve set up your Google Analytics code properly, you can confirm your account and site owner status with it – just select the option after clicking “Add Site” to verify your site via Google Analytics. This is the easiest way to do it, so make sure you’ve got Google Analytics sorted first and foremost!
Your readymade website package should have supplied you with another “hidden” page: /sitemap.xml – this tells Google where all the pages of your site are located, to help it search them out. You can submit it easily via Google Webmaster Tools to get the ball rolling on your SEO – but this is by no means the end of it:
Google Webmaster Tools is a treasure trove of information for your site. It can show you errors, broken links, missing or duplicated Meta, who links to your site and so much more. Now that you’re a webmaster, it would be a good idea to learn more about the ins and outs of the trade – Dean’s awesome post will show you all you need to know.
But for now – it’s been one heck of a day! Grab another brew, kick back and relax – it’s all SEO from here on out. It’s a long road to the top if you wanna rock and roll, so don’t let setbacks frustrate you! Once you’ve rested up and you’re ready to kick butt again, sit back and watch Andy’s Complete Guide to Local SEO and go from zero to local hero faster than a speeding web crawler!
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