Laundry’s Greatest Love (and Hate) Affair
There are few things in business that are constant. Prices change, markets are always in flux, and each year it seems there are new innovations that attempt to shake up the way we all do our jobs. You might even say that the only constant these days is change.
As a result, today’s self-service laundry businesses have been riding that new wave and adapting their business models – and for good reason.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes of the last two decades is the lightning-bolt success of the internet and the search engines that enable quick access to the world around us. It doesn’t seem so quick to today’s youth, but the world really does look different. A relevant (and sometimes vexing) example is how most business owners have had at least one run-in with a character offering “search engine optimization” or “SEO” for their business. If you don’t know what SEO is or why it’s important, you could be missing out on the greatest potential your business has seen to date.
Here’s what I mean: SEO is the process of getting your company to the top of a search engine’s results page. Being on top means more website visits. More visits mean more potential customers. If everything is in place, being at or close to the top of a search engine has the potential to land you new customers daily. Sounds pretty good, right?
An SEO Breakdown that Makes Sense
I teased Yelp in the title, but before I bring that issue into the conversation I want to make SEO simple for you. It’s a somewhat technical and strategic idea, but the concept is easier than you’ve probably been led to believe.
To begin with, you have to break the entire subject down into two categories: Onsite SEO and Offsite SEO. Onsite focuses on what you can do to your website to help search engines see it, and Offsite attempts to strategize about how you can utilize other websites to boost your chances. There are pretty significant ins and outs to each, which I’ll break down even further.
The simplest place to start with onsite SEO is with keywords. Take a minute to think about the words and phrases that describe your company. Then think about what your potential customers might type into a search bar when looking for a product or service like the one you offer. Write down all of your ideas – and you’ve just started your keyword research for onsite SEO.
Don’t stop with your own ideas though. Your next step is to get onto a service like Google AdWords and use its Keyword Planner tool. The beauty of this tool is that you input suggestions and receive suggested results that include helpful metrics detailing how much competition you’ll have for certain words on a search engine. Once you have a list, you want to make sure those keywords are on your site. Keywords should be in titles, descriptions and any bodies of text throughout your site for best results.
A word of warning: Be careful to avoid stuffing keywords everywhere. Google in particular is very big on keyword recognition with regard to content, which means you also need to make sure the words and images on the page make sense and provide value to your customers. A top-notch content writer will know the ins and outs of onsite SEO and be able to conduct the research necessary to craft content that fits your needs and those of a search engine’s algorithms. Quality is what you need, so considering a writer would be wise.
After you figure out your keywords and have some high-quality content in place, the last big ticket item is to make sure that the URL and meta tags of your site are well established and full of keywords. If you’re not sure how to check these things, my recommendation is to find a web developer who can help you out. Fiddling around with the foundations of your website can go awry very quickly. As with the services of a content writer, paying for quality website development is always a wise decision.
The optimization that occurs outside of your website is much more difficult. In many ways, this aspect is out of your control. Lack of control is scary at times, but there are still actions laundry owners can take to help increase their chances of offsite optimization. Above all, keep one thing in mind: offsite SEO is continual. It never ends, and you should never rest when it comes to making sure you’re doing all you can to increase your odds.
Typically, there are two main ways that offsite SEO works: backlinks and social media. Arguments could be made for additional methods, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll focus on those two for now.
Backlinks are when other websites put links to your website on their own. The most common example of this is when one blog references another, or when a news article links to its source. It’s essentially a vote of confidence from one website to another – and search engines like that. The more backlinks you have from trustworthy sites, the higher Google will rank you. The best (and most ethical) way to get backlinks is to simply have good content and to network.
The other aspect of offsite SEO – social media – actually encompasses much more than just the traditional lineup. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important, but you also have to consider any site where you can be social as a potential platform for your company. (We’re getting closer to Yelp – but we’re not quite there yet.)
Let me just come out and say it: you need a social media strategy. Posting pictures or updates every now and then simply isn’t the type of engagement you need to help search engines see your website. Constant, high-quality activity on social media is seen as a sign of a healthy and respected business, and most search engines have begun to factor social media into their rankings. If your social media is struggling, your offsite SEO is struggling right along with it.
You can’t control every aspect of your offsite SEO, but the goal isn’t control. The goal is optimization. Always keep that in mind.
Love It or Hate It – You Still Need It
Now for the hot-button issue. Yelp is a site that owners of laundry businesses either love or hate – and, for some, the latter is understandable. Yelp falls into the category of offsite SEO, and if you’ve subscribed to the idea that offsite SEO is largely something you cannot control, chances are it’s been a thorn in your side. You neglect it at your own peril.
The fantastic side of Yelp is its versatility and honesty. It allows you to provide potential customers with constant, unprecedented access into your business. While that may seem like a scary concept, it shouldn’t be. You can put out all of your company’s information, post pictures, update prices and even interact with customers who leave reviews. Essentially, it’s a social media platform designed and curated around your business, which means putting time and effort into it can actually increase your search engine rankings.
Yelp offers a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of a site that wants to help your business and your customers simultaneously. The fact that search engines utilize the site as a marker for good and bad websites and businesses means you need to do everything you can to optimize your appearance there. Can you control all of the reviews? Arguably not. However, you can control how you represent yourself, which is half the battle. The secret is to be constant and consistent – or to at least find someone to help you do those things.
These are the individuals who I earlier referred to as “characters,” and the truth is that they can revolutionize your business. Hiring a manager for SEO is highly valuable for many reasons. Since SEO is a constant process, you need all hands on deck.
Google constantly changes. Social media will continue to evolve in unimaginable ways. What was relevant in 2006 or 2010 isn’t relevant today – and what’s relevant today won’t be in 2020. Keeping up can prove difficult. SEO is a constant effort, both onsite and off. You have a business to run, and running in circles online will only hurt you.
I’ve tried to break down SEO, and I hope at least some of my explanations (as well as my defense of Yelp) have stuck. If not, I hope my final recommendation will: look into hiring a SEO manager for your company. A good one will know everything about search engine optimization and then some, and the best ones will always do it with a smile. That’s one thing about good, successful business practices that will never change.