When speaking with SMBs and companies that sell marketing services to SMBs, I hear over and over again how a business wants to rank #1 for important local keywords.

Then, I look at their website and have visions of money being poured down the drain, horses being led to water sans drinking, Sisyphus rolling a boulder up that damn hill, and a variety of other cliches.

Damn, That Website Sucks

While SEO is an important channel, the ROI that can come from improving customer conversion rates on your website can’t be beat — assuming you actually have people coming to your website in the first place.

Most SMB websites start from such a low bar that simple upgrades can have a dramatic impact on conversion with considerably less risk than competitive marketing programs like SEO and SEM.

So, if you are one of the lucky millions with a crappy Web presence, here are some things you can do to de-crapify your site.

1.  Put Your Phone Number At The Top Of Every Page In Big Font

Sounds obvious, right? But, millions of sites don’t do this. According to a report by VSplash, “six out of ten SMB websites in the U.S. are missing either a local or toll-free telephone number on the home page to contact the business.”

Small business owners are always talking about how they want “calls not clicks.” Put your phone number in people’s faces. That might help.

2.  Understand Your Customer’s Objectives

Many small and local business websites are a home page with some kind of “welcome” message and/or marketing text, an image or two, and a couple of tabs — usually Services, About, Contact, etc.

Your business likely has a variety of different types of customers who are looking for different things, and when they land on any page of your website, it should be crystal clear how to find what they are looking for immediately.

This is no easy task, particularly for large websites with lots of content. A recent example I looked at was a veterinarian site that just had Services, Contact and Events tabs.

While it’s not rocket science for a visitor to click on the Services tab to find that the vet provides services for horses, providing navigation that prominently identifies the animal types the vet works with would help. Navigation links like Dogs, Cats, Horses, Duckbill Platypus, etc. are much more likely to be of interest to people with sick pets than your next street fair appearance.

3.  Create Content That Focuses On Your Customers’ Needs

You’ll find this one repeated everywhere there is a search marketing guru, but it’s perhaps one of the most effective things you can do to bring qualified leads to your website with the hopes of converting them.

Offline, when you are selling a customer, you do it by answering common questions, telling them how you do things, providing them with pricing and timing information, etc. It’s no different with your website.

In our above Vet example, perhaps the site could explain how they deal with the typical Duckbill Platypus maladies. If you’re at a loss for content ideas for your site, consult How To Create Content When You’d Rather Be Doing Something Else.

4.  Don’t Use Clip Art!

You’re a cheap guy, right? That’s how you’ve become overlord of your vast SMB empire. But, just because you are cheap doesn’t mean your website has to look cheap (unless, of course, that is what your brand is all about, such as, Cheap Harry’s Auto Repair).

Use of clip art is a serious offense. There are plenty of inexpensive design services that can supply you with decent-looking artwork for your site. Try ODesk, Elance, 99Designs or better yet, the local high school art class.

You can always upload a nice photo, too. Show your company vehicles and your location. Maybe show yourself or your employees at work. People want to do business with people, not clip-art models, and definitely not with that chick sitting on the floor with a laptop raising both arms in triumph. Can we please just retire her?

5.  Add Testimonials

Potential customers want to see that other human beings find your services valuable. Adding a few quotes from happy customers can do a lot to help sell people on your service. Just make sure they are real quotes. If you don’t have any, grab some from a third-party review site like Yelp, which leads us to the need for trust.

6.  Add Trust Marks

Just like testimonials, trust marks — logos from services that provide some kind of validation of how good or trustworthy a business is — can go a long way toward helping someone, who has never heard of you before, feel good about making a purchase on your site, sending you an email or picking up the phone.

Logos from organizations like the BBB, the local business association, or even the local soccer league will do the trick.

7.  Add Conversion Messages To Your Landing Pages (And All Your Pages)

For each page on your site, you would ideally craft conversion messages relevant to the content (e.g., “Is Your Duckbill Platypus Sick? Call Us Now!”). You may even want to test putting a “contact us for a free estimate” message in front of visitors that request the content using a lightbox type pop-up approach. One client increased inbound leads by 300% just using this simple technique.

8.  Qualify Your Visitors

I love sites that take visitors through a simple set of questions designed to segment them (e.g., budget, nature of their problem, timing, size of their company, title, location, etc.). This method can help you push the visitor to the right content, product, salesperson, etc.

While it could also reduce the number of inbound leads, those leads that come in should be of much higher quality because they’ve been qualified.

9.  Keep Your Address, Hours & Event Calendars Up To Date

Goes without saying right? You’d be surprised. Or maybe you wouldn’t…

10.  Improving Conversion Tends To Have a Faster ROI Than Improving SEO

Let’s say you make $100 every time someone fills out a form on your website. If your site converts 1% of all visitors, you make $1 for every visitor that shows up. Double that to 2% and you make $2. If it costs you $1,000 to get to 2%, the improvements will pay for themselves after 500 visitors. Everything after that is gravy.

If you had invested that same $1,000 in SEO instead and conversion stayed at 1%, you would need to get 1,000 additional visitors from SEO to break even. And while good SEO can last for a while, inevitably you would have to keep reinvesting in it over time to maintain the traffic.

You’ll want to keep reinvesting in improving conversion optimization too; but like I said, the ROI will be much more immediate. And, who doesn’t like that? Now, go fix that crappy site already. It’s just embarrassing.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    BTW, the original title was “Why Should SMBs Invest in SEO When Their Websites Suck?” Apparently the “10 Simple Things” thing has more viral potential than “Suck”… #editors

  • http://twitter.com/jennyhalasz Jenny Halasz

    Sage words from a search marketing sage. Thanks, Andrew!

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    My buddy @jonahstein reminded me to also include maps & directions

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Great points Andrew!

    Wanted to bring up a problem I often see on SMB sites and it pertains to #1. Yes. put number at top of page and you should also have name, address, phone in footer of every page.

    HOWEVER, in addition to customer calls the reason this is important for SEO, is to help Google match up the site and G+ Local page so you can rank in local.

    So the phone # must be in a format Google can read and understand. She often does not interpret 555-222-1234 or 555.222.1234 correctly in maps. And she certainly does not interpret 555-for-DEALS as a phone #. Plug #s in those formats into Google maps and she chokes. She either says “do not understand that location” or shows you weird results from Israel. So always list your number on your site in standard phone format. (555) 222-1234.

    Phone is one of the most important parts of NAP, so you do not want to risk having her not be able to read your NAP correctly.

    I always say the local algo is like a kindergartener playing a match game. ;-) She often gets confused, so you need to feed her really clean data – to help ensure she matches things up right.

  • Sharon Oakley

    I think I like the original title better! And #9, doesn’t seem like rocket science, but apparently is. So many 2010 copyrights running around out there.

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    one of these days it will be a law that all websites will come with automatic copyright updating

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    Great points Linda. I tried to stay away from SEO recommendations in this post, but might as well bake it in right.

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    I always say the local algo is like an advanced pre-K kid – it does some amazing things that seem genius, but it’s also prone to dropping its diapers and ruining your carpet, puking up the strained peas on your new clothes, etc.

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    ROFL good one Andrew! I added your original post to the Local Search Forum but going there now to add your analogy. All my regulars that read my kindergartener comments all the time will really appreciate it!

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Ya I know. But it’s a pet peeve of mine so I had to throw it in there.

    I’m troubleshooting trying to help folks with local all day. Copy phone off the site to try to find their listing and Google replies back with “Bleep stupid, can’t find that phone #” so then I have to strip out the dashes or periods and reformat.

  • http://www.radicalmustache.com/ Mikel Zaremba

    I’d like to add to the phone number thing. Most local biz websites are viewed from a mobile device and many times these numbers are not encoded to compensate for the “click to call” function, so the user is left with either copy and pasting, trying to memorize, or writing it down.

  • http://www.radicalmustache.com/ Mikel Zaremba

    If you built on WordPress (I’m a WP junkie) than just make sure this is in your footer:

    Copyright © 20013 –

    It’s the closet we can get until Kurt Russ… err, I mean Wyatt Earp establishes LAW!

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Another great point Mikel.

  • http://www.radicalmustache.com/ Mikel Zaremba

    ah dang i didn’t do it right and the code didn’t show. sorry guys.

  • http://www.erbeckercompany.com/ Ellie Becker

    This is a fabulous tip. And I love that you characterized Google as ‘she’! I’d love to subscribe to your blog.

  • http://twitter.com/i_praveensharma Praveen Sharma

    “chick sitting on the floor with a laptop raising both arms in triumph” … most annoying thing you could see on any website. It simply convey one message to the visitor – ‘The website is fake, so the owner’.

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    I only call the Google LOCAL algo a she. That’s because she’s unpredictable, fickle and oh so hard to please! LOL.

    FYI I don’t publish much on my blog any more. My forum RSS feed is the one to grab because it has best content from the local search community.

  • http://www.touchpointdigital.net/ David Deering

    I agree with all 10 things, especially numbers 3 and 4. Your site should focus on creating content for your readers, which means sharing and teaching, not selling. The sales will come after you’ve given your visitors solid reasons to trust you. And stock images on websites have to go. Of course, we all might have to use one from time to time, but 99% of our images should be original. Stock photos just send the message that you’re fake and you’re just attempting to look real and professional. Because everybody knows that the group of 4 very good-looking, well-dressed people at the office smiling at the camera in the perfectly-taken picture do not really work for you.

  • 4u2discuss

    Well this is so true, but most people are very forgetful about policies and policy guidelines, which in the case of search engines regarding phone numbers , is that phone numbers should always be typed in digits as as you would dial them.

    International numbers for sites out side the USA should always quote both local numbers and the international number with a + sign in front of their complete international number. examples is +27725055111 (international number) and 0725055111 (South African local number)

    As you say avoid dashes, dots and any separators in online phone numbers as this can cause confusion in phones as they try to interpret your number.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    All the SEO in the world can’t save a terrible website. What good is sending quality traffic to your site if your site isn’t ready for them? You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a decent website either.

  • Justin Sous

    Awesome list, Andrew.

    I’d also like to suggest that if it’s a storefront business, include a photo of the building/store/restaurant! I’m finding this makes it easier for Google’s outsourced team to match listings with the right authoritative document (aka the website). They’ll know for sure you have a legit business where customers can visit your office to do business with you. It can’t hurt!

  • http://twitter.com/CXthecloud CX

    Really great post, Andrew! It’s easy to forget the basics sometimes when you’re worried about other things–the points in here are great reminders of what to include!

  • http://www.baldydog.com/ Adam Donkus

    Great advice Andrew..I especially love number 10. I have too many SEO clients that don’t do squat to their sites, but continue to spend monthly.

  • http://twitter.com/Kenjisano Kenji 建治

    What is an SMB?

  • http://twitter.com/localseoguide Andrew Shotland

    Small/Medium-Sized Business

  • Lolita Sheriow

    Yeap I like the original title better as well : )

 

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