The Internet is the source for a lot of fun (Pinterest, Facebook, eBay, Etsy, Buzzfeed, etc.) but if you are a salon owner with a website, it can be a scary place too. Sure, clients can find you by Googling (which accounts for sending 91% of traffic to a particular site according to Moz.com), but they can also find your competitors or DIY tutorials as well. You’ve spent the time and resources on running a salon and building a website, so here’s how to make sure your business gets found and not lost in the shuffle.
Start Your (Search) Engines!
We may think of Google as a verb, but the truth is that Google is an example of a search engine. Search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo! scour the web to produce results for a query as fast as possible. These engines then rank the results in order of perceived usefulness. The term SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” meaning improving the relevance and importance of your site’s searchability. Think of search engines as the new Yellow Pages. According to Moz.com, 67% of Internet users employed search engines to find information in the last 30 days while 23% used social networks.
If you are currently outsourcing your social media, don’t assume that understanding SEO is another task to be delegated. While it can be efficient to have someone else run your salon’s social networks and website, it is still important for you to understand the basics. Bryan Durocher of Durocher Enterprises (www.durocherenterprises.com) explains why it is so vital to understand SEO. “It’s always a good idea for business owners to at least understand the basics of marketing—and that includes SEO. They know their business better than anyone and if they have basic knowledge of SEO, they are able to work in partnership with the site manager to ensure the best results,” he says.
It's A Popularity Contest
Currently, online importance is determined by popularity. And popularity is determined by algorithms. Algorithms are comprised of hundreds of components. The factors that make up algorithms can be complex, so rather than trying to understand everything that goes into an algorithm, use these guidelines to make your page as SEO-friendly as possible.
> Create user-friendly pages. Be clear when describing your content and use accurate and descriptive titles. Think like a client and not like a salon owner or web master. Remember, you are ultimately building your web page for users, not for search engines.
> Use keywords that you want people to search for. For example, if you want your site to come up when someone searches “Los Angeles nail salons” make sure you mention that you are in fact a nail salon and that you are located in Los Angeles.
> Produce fresh content regularly. Make sure your site is updated to reflect any price increases, added services, or new contact information.
> Don’t rely on images to carry your text. Sure, you should include your logo and watermarked pictures on your site if you so desire, but don’t let these images be the only places that state your salon name, location, phone number, etc.
Social media can contribute to your search engine ranking. This Google search shows our site first, then some of our social media accounts.
> Your site’s most important content should be in HTML text format so search engines can read it. If you have images, videos, or search boxes on your site, make sure they have an accompanying transcript in HTML so a search engine can see a description of the visual content. If you have hired a web designer to build your page make sure she is aware of this before inserting too much media rich content.
> Stay away from submission-required forms or log-ins. These prevent access to search engines.
> Search engines will only explore so many links on a given page, so any web page with hundreds of links won’t get indexed. Strike a fine balance between linking to other pages and not overdoing it.
> Feature the keyword at least once near the top of the page and at least two to three times in the body copy of the page. Also make sure a keyword is used in the URL and at least once in the meta description tag.
> Be mindful of your title’s length. Search engines only display the first 65-75 characters of a title tag. Place keywords closer to the front of a title.
> Make sure URLs are descriptive and minimal.
> “Salon owners should also focus on local SEO, which will allow them to geo-target their efforts to focus on the areas where their business comes from, a 5-10 mile radius around their location,” suggests Durocher.
Getting Linked In
Getting links to your page can be challenging, but it can also be helpful. There are three different types of links: natural/editorial, manual/outreach, and self-created/non-editorial. Editorial links happen naturally and create awareness. For example, NAILS Magazine profiles salons and we always link back to their websites online. Another way to get people to link to your site is by doing outreach. Some companies ask bloggers to link to them while others pay for listings. This type of manual link building depends on your budget and what you are willing to pay for or what services you are willing to give away in exchange for these links. Self-created links can be created through guest book signings, blog comments, and user profiles. These links offer the lowest value and are considered spam, so it is best to avoid overdoing these.
Social media is a great tool for sharing links. In the past, social media links have not weighed as much in the algorithm, but with more and more usage, links from social media sites can add up. “SEO used to be dependent upon fresh, well-written, original content, but there is a big shift toward video content now with all of the major search engines giving more attention to sites that feature good video content,” says Durocher. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you are active on social media means that you don’t need a website. Tiffani Douglas, author of “Social Media Marketing: A Guide for Beauty Professionals,” reminds us, “All your marketing efforts via social media should drive potential clients to your salon’s website.” Whether it’s on your profile page or on every single post, it is worth it to include your website name and URL so that it makes it easier for other people to link back to you.
In order to not blow all your money on SEO results and to avoid spamming people, consider the following:
> Get clients to link to you. Just like with social media, ask your regulars to link your site via their social media, blogs, and maybe even their own websites.
> Create “link bait.” Link bait is content that inspires sharing and natural linking (think humor, usefulness, and information). With a plethora of memes and YouTube videos, sharing something funny is easier than ever. Consider posting information on your site that will help clients as well as help your business, such as information on UV lamps, safe gel-polish removal, the differences between polish and gel-polish, sanitation procedures, etc.
> Be newsworthy. Include information on your salon’s charity partnerships and events, promotions, and any giveaways you do. These newsworthy items can garner attention from the press and bloggers alike.