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'There are a lot of SEO experts and social media management gurus out there to help mom-and-pop business owners.'

If there's one thing I hear all the time while I'm out in the field talking to business owners, it's this: "I don't know how to improve my online presence, appear higher in Google or handle social media."

If this sounds like you, rest assured you are not the only one struggling to create and manage a digital brand.

I'm a millennial, which, in part, means I grew up in a generation that pioneered the latest technology trends. My cohorts and I were guinea pigs for Apple, Microsoft, Google and many others to roll out and test their devices.

But, guess what? I am still no expert when it comes to social media management, online marketing or web development. That's why when I heard the owners of Monarch Marketing — a new startup out of Sandpoint, Idaho — speak at a Portland-area chamber event a couple of months ago, I knew their wealth of information had to be shared. I'd be remiss if I didn't pass on some of the highlights they shared to help bolster the pro tips Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific already has to offer our accredited businesses.

First — did you know that in late 2018, Google made major changes to its algorithm, altering the way it crawls and ranks websites? Google makes hundreds of algorithmic changes per year, but this one changed the game significantly.

This is especially important for small business owners whose websites are out of date. Things on the website such as broken back links, buttons that don't work, maps issues and lack of tagged keywords or keyphrases will result in lower ranking on Google's search. So, if you're a small business owner with a loyal customer base and good reviews, but your website isn't strong, you're going to be pushed toward the bottom of Google's search results.

To address this, the guys at Monarch suggested working with a third-party firm to do a website audit. This is a sort of "health check" for small business owners and their online presence before they can move on to social media marketing.

Also important to your search engine optimization is website originality and consistency. Creating your own brand as a business owner includes populating your website with your own content that fits your image. Yes, this means getting rid of all those stock photos. Taking original pictures helps your ranking, and Google tracks it.

It's also critical to have a company-wide agreement on the tone and language your business will use across all mediums — your website, your social media and your advertising. This will make up your business' "personality."

Another quick tip: Your profile image should match across all mediums and platforms. So, if that's your company logo, make sure it's the same one on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as Yelp and, of course, BBB.

And, as you would assume, the presenters discussed having mobile-friendly websites, noting the importance of mirroring all the same tactics from your desktop. Ease-of-use on mobile cannot be overstated.

For business owners who feel their website is ready to go, social media management might be the hurdle. How do you get noticed? How do you keep up? One easy trick to help improve marketing efforts on Facebook and Instagram: Always respond to comments, and respond fast. Even if you set up automated responses, this is still better than leaving a comment unanswered.

Not surprisingly, this also matters in your Google ranking. Today's algorithms look at whether you're being responsive on social media and how long it takes you to get back to your customers. For example, if you post a picture to the company Instagram and get comments and questions — the faster you respond, the more likely that photo is to make it on Instagram's Explore page, thus increasing visibility and adding exposure.

I know, it's a lot. And that's just a quick overview. But luckily, there are a lot of SEO experts and social media management gurus out there to help mom-and-pop business owners. I'd encourage you, small business owner, to head to bbb.org and start to dig around for pre-vetted, highly rated firms that might work for your business.

Danielle Kane is Portland marketplace manager for Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific, covering Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.


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