When you own a small business, competing with the top dogs in the market can be a financial and time-consuming challenge. How do you get the word out about your business without spending a fortune? Being in the graphic design world, we all know the easy answer to this question: a company website. In a world where Google is king, a strong website is all that is needed. Of course, if your portfolio work sucks, I can't help you. The big question is, how does a small company get ranked on page one or two of Google with so much competition?
I have recently been working on my Google rankings for a second company my partner and I opened. The first company website, while totally awesome, was a complete waste of time and money. It's an entire flash website, which we know Apple hates and search engines hate. So, my first piece of advice to you don't use flash, even if it's just for your portfolio images. Google will not recognize the images, and your portfolio won't show up on the iPad or iPhone. Many designers create hybrid websites with the text in HTML and portfolio images in flash. That's all fine and good, but with so many people using tablets and phones to find information, you have probably just lost yourself a potential client, and Google will avoid your flash pages like the plague. Your portfolio is the most important aspect of your website, and if it's done in flash go ahead and write it off as a big fat waste of time. Why can't Adobe and Apple just kiss and make up?
The key ingredient to a highly ranked website is blogging, and I don't mean having an external blog. The blog needs to be on your website. Google absolutely loves a good blog. I can just see Google sitting down to have his morning coffee and searching the Internet for the latest and greatest information. If you haven't changed anything on your website in a while then Google gets bored, but if you have a blog, then Google gets to see new information. Google is absolutely thrilled by this and immediately bumps you to page one. I like to think of Google as a robot god, holding my company's future in his hands; I prefer to think of Google as a man because a woman would be nicer. The theory behind the blog is "more is better". The more new info you have on the Internet for Google to search, the better your ranking. A blog is the best way to accomplish this. That being said, Google does not want to be bored while reading your blog, only publish high-quality content. Google does not care how many times you washed your hair last night. Publish info that Google users might search. It's true that the more pages you have indexed for a given search term the better your ranking, but if your content is poor your ranking might actually get worse. In this case, a blog could be your worst enemy.
Once you have your own blog under control and are moderately successful, delve into the world of guest blogging. You can either invite people to guest blog on your site, or you can guest blog on someone else's site. Of course, if you find a high profile blog with a lot of page views, then being someone else's guest blogger will be much more beneficial. You can contact the blogger and request to write something for them, or you can step out on a limb and submit an article already written to see if they will post it. Either way, if you are informed and engaging, it will most likely be published. Always review the content on the blogger's site to make sure you are writing something that fits with the style of the blogger. There are tons of blogs out there getting 40,000 or more hits a day. If you guest blog on one of these sites and the readers like your content, then you have just found 40,000 new followers. Google is now your best friend.
Let's say your website is new and you can't get traffic to your blog, or maybe you can't afford to build a blog yet. How do you get traffic to your website when your company is on page 20 of Google and the market is saturated with your specific business? We all know that most people won't search past page one or two of Google. When you launch your website, instead of instructing friends, family or clients to visit your website directly, have them do a Google search for the description of your company's services. For example, if you are a designer they could search for "Northwest Arkansas graphic design". You should go ahead and find out what your company page ranking is first. If you are on page 20, they aren't likely to search 20 pages, but they can go directly to the 20th page. The more times people search for your company and then click on your company, the higher your Google ranking. Once they click on your company, they should stay on the site for at least 10 seconds so Google doesn't count it as a "bounce". Google interprets this as their users finding the desired result once they click on your website. You will not be able to keep this up for long, but it should help you get ranked high enough to start generating your own traffic. In order to keep your page rank high, you will need to blog or keep people engaged somehow.
You may have noticed that I didn't mention standard social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter. That's mainly because there isn't much data out there on how much these social networks actually help your Google ranking. That's not to say you can't get new clients from social networking, it's just not the most effective way to improve Google ranking of your website. If you could take one thing away from this article, it should be to make sure your website content and your blog content is useful and engaging. The competition out there is great, and if you are the most boring person that has every walked the planet with only useless things to say, then Google will bury you in no man's land.