Trying to get your small business off the ground can be as exciting as it can be nerve-racking. Here are some key actions to take while you are still in the earliest stages in order to protect your long-term growth and help your new business start out right:
Plan for the Unexpected
Take the time to create an in-depth business proposal that outlines a plan for your potential growth, accounting for turns that the industry might take. Many startups are so busy “treading water” that they don’t plan on having lasting, core strategies in place for major industry changes that could have been predicted. Companies that are quick to adapt will stand the test of time, and even well-established companies can lose out to smaller companies that learn to adapt quickly. Develop a balance of strong core services or products for your business, but also leave some flexibility in those plans.
Scope Out the Competition
Learning as much as you can about your competition is very smart in business. This can help you avoid pitfalls and also help you to find ways to polish your product or service offerings. By taking advantage of search engine ranking and keyword tools, business owners can check out what the competition is doing online. Their actions could inform your own strategies and help you explore new marketing tactics or even service and product offerings. There are several tools that can help:
- We developed a tool called SEOzio that provides an instant look at how a website performs from a search engine’s perspective for free. SEOzio compiles data from Google, various SEO analysis tools, and the website itself, making a comprehensive report. This tool can help you see if your recent SEO tactics are improving the site’s rankings at all. It’s especially useful to look at your site versus a competitor’s site to see if or in what areas they are ahead of you.
- Similarly, WooRank is a paid option that compiles data from external sources to create a detailed report for how to optimize your site. The tool then provides a prioritized task list based on the amount of positive impact each item will have on your site and the difficulty level of implementation. WooRank also provides contextual tips and videos for beginners.
- SEMrush is another paid tool that gives detailed reports on data trends, top ranking websites, traffic-driving keywords, search volume, competitiveness, etc. You can also track a competitor’s website progress alongside your own or take advantage of keyword comparison tools to see if there is any overlap. These insights are valuable when deciding which pages to optimize and which themes to develop content around.
Protect Your Online Brand
Claim your online listings by registering with your local and online directories, social media profiles, and domains. There are many directories that may already list your business. If you don’t claim the profile, someone else (maybe even a competitor) could claim it and change the listed information for their own purposes.
To avoid that, register your business with free, popular local listings: Google Places, Google+, Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo, and Bing so you secure your business name on those platforms. After you claim the listing, you can also optimize it with background information, service or product offerings, pictures, and more to give users a better idea of what your business is. Oftentimes these profiles will appear first in local searches for your brand name or industry. Keep an eye out for competitors trying to use your business name to steal traffic from your brand through fake or illegally claimed listings.
Secure Your Website
The more traffic you get, the bigger a target you are for hackers. Protect your website and your users by takings steps to prevent viruses and hacker infiltration. Set up creative login usernames and password (your password shouldn’t be “password”).
You can also be proactive by using tools like Sucuri SiteCheck to scan for malware, spam, blacklisting and other security issues on your website. This particular tool monitors your site and sends you alerts if it detects a security threat. Attacks on websites are common, so it's important to have some type of monitoring in place to make sure you're not being affected. Sometimes, by the time you realize you've been hacked or infected, your search engine rankings will already be suffering. It’s much easier to prevent hacking than to recover from an attack.
With these tips, you can stay on top of movement within your industry as well as protect your brand during a vulnerable time of growth. Now it's your turn. What strategies have helped your small business take off?
Phil Laboon has been involved in the internet marketing space since 2001 where he started as a one-man consulting shop and has now consulted for everything from start-ups to Fortune 500’s, developing clients’ online presences and authority. Clear Sky SEO is his latest project designed specifically for small businesses.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.