4 Tips to Setting up a Solid SEO Foundation


BY DANIELLE WILLIAMS /
CHIEF DESIGN OFFICER

At cheers, we work with everyone from startup businesses ready to craft an identity to solid brands who want to keep communicating with their customers and expand their reach by being modern and forward thinking. In order to build brand experiences that leave impressions, we rely upon the combination of consulting, designing, and developing to gain the best results.

But wherever you are in your journey, here are some suggestions you can do yourself to start building a solid foundation for your digital brand.

Taking these simple steps now will start your business on the path to gaining search real estate sooner than later. That means when you are ready to make some great brand and marketing efforts, you have already positioned your business to be searchable and rising.


cheers-studios-digital-branding-studio-columbus-ohio-Google-Businesses-example.png

1) Add your business to Google Maps by setting up your Google Business account.

We see this time and time again whether it is a new businesses looking to get their foot in the search engine door or shops that have been around for decades. Every business needs to set up or claim their Google location. Google My Business has a website setup and ready to walk you through the process, but here are some pointers notes:

1. Go to Google's Add your business page and fill out all your business's info (business name, address, phone number, category, and website - make sure to always include this or come back later and update your info when you do get a url). We suggest the more detailed the better. You know when you type into Google and that nifty sidebar pops up with your destination's info and images? Well this is what you are setting up, so make it helpful to your future customers!

2. Verify your information. After you fill out this little form your will be asked to verify this information in order to manage your business on Google. Double check that you typed in the correct address, check authorize, and click "Continue."

3. Next, follow the process to set up your Google Plus page for the business. This is the page where you can add photos of the store or products. If you have a beautiful space or gorgeous products make sure to upload some images and show them off to customers. This will help convince people who are exploring your online presence that you are worth the trip and of course the click. 

Your Google Business page is also where you can reply to Google reviews. When we asked our SEO partners, LASANAN, for tips to building a solid digital presence they said, "encourage your customers to leave you a review, and then reply. Every review helps your SEO." We know it can be hard to get someone to take that extra step of leaving a review for your business, so make it more enticing for them by offering a discount if they show you the review. This can work great for retail and restaurant brands. Being more service based, we actually ask our clients to fill out a short questionnaire of our time together and leave a review of their experience.

4. In order to completely "verify" your location and the fact that you are the business owner, Google will physically mail you a PIN. It's kind of funny to think that the last step to setting up your online space would come in the form of a piece of paper, but make sure to keep an eye out for it in the mail. You will need to take that PIN and follow the directions that come with it to finish the process. It could take 2 weeks to get the letter, so we suggest starting this process sooner than later.


2) Save and label ALL your images in an SEO friendly way.

Every single image you put on the internet (and ideally social media as well) should be named in a way that let's search engines pick up on it and lift you up in rankings. This is something that many businesses with stores don't do, and it can really hurt them.

Shopify has some great resources on best practices for making your products stand out on the internet, but proper file naming is important for every business from design firms to insurance companies. Every website has images on it, so by naming your files in a distinct and consistent way you are helping people find you, even if they aren't looking for your business specifically.

Your files should follow a similar naming structure: 
business-name-location-definer-descrioptionofimage.jpg

11070347darktan-main_1.jpg

So for example, the image above should be named something like: 
cheers-boutique-columbus-ohio-dark-tan-filson-excursion-bag-outside.jpg

This naming structure strategically ties your business name, location, and industry to the images you post on the internet and because Google takes file name into account for SEO you will have a better chance of having your products and website show up in general searches instead of being hidden on the 20th page. Plus, when people are searching on your site, you are helping to make sure they find what they want instead of missing it because it wasn't labeled correctly.


3) Make sure your images aren't saved too big.

Obviously we all agree your site is going to have images on it, whether it is of your products, your staff, or your awesome workspace. And of course they will be beautiful because you take clear and well lit images that speak to your brand. So if only makes sense that you will want your potential customers to see this amazing images. But if you don't save them in an optimized way then they might not load in time for people to actually see them.

Load time should be a really big concern for every website, especially ecommerce. Here are some facts just in case you didn't know: 

Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again. 

And around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online. Source

Not only do visitors enjoy a speedy website, but search engines can use site performance to help promote websites with a better experience overall. To make sure your images are loading quickly, we suggest that you save each image for web in Photoshop and individually adjust the settings for the best results. It may sound like a bummer to save each image individually instead of in a batch, but this process ensures that you are shaving off the most amount of loading time possible while making sure the image quality doesn't compromise your brand. When you batch save images you are assuming that every base image is shot on the same camera with the same settings, orientation and dimensions, and is being used for the same purpose (as a banner image or a thumbnail for example). So if you are saving all your product images at once and they fit that bill, then go for the batch. But if you are setting up a new page of your site, or saving images for multiple purposes, go for the individual save.

Here is the general Photoshop saving process configuration we use for our clients:

Open each image in Photoshop. Click File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy) > then choose jpg, optimized (not progressive), and check Convert to sRGB.

From here play with your dimensions and image quality (I normally start at High/Quality: 60 and adjust from there). I've found that in most of cases if an image is going to be your page's hero image and spans the page, it can have a width of 1300px (height will adjust automatically) and as long as the image size is less than 150k you are in a good spot. Of course, if it is an extremely important image you can make it a little higher quality (and in turn a larger file size), but try really hard to not go over 200k.

For smaller images like thumbnails and other supporting graphics you can go down to a general width of 500px and aim for a file size under 100k. Because the quality on individual product pages is important to the customer experience, I normally let the dimensions get closer to 900px, but still try to keep the size under 100k or very close to it so loading isn't unreasonable.

Here are the Photoshop settings I used for the image above.

Here are the Photoshop settings I used for the image above.


Squarespace has beautiful cover pages that are so easy to use it's frightening.

Squarespace has beautiful cover pages that are so easy to use it's frightening.

4) Don't hide your business. Put up a cover page, like yesterday.

Let's say you aren't quite ready to launch a full site yet. You may still be building the interior of your restaurant and taking pictures of all your delicious dishes, but just because your doors aren't open doesn't mean people aren't going to Google you and try to get some information in the mean time!

Believe it or not, this is the moment you are making your first impression, not 3 months from now when you finally open your doors and start taking reservations. So make sure to be prepared by having a professional sign of life online. A brief cover page coupled with posts on social media is a manageable way build credibility that you're a real place that is going to be doing really great things.

This "interim site" doesn't have to be robust, but it can do a lot of passive good for you. So choose your best image or an amazing element of your brand and put up a cover page that starts giving people a chance to learn about what you do. You can keep it short and sweet for now, but this the perfect place to list your opening date or current hours, contact information, and of course gather emails and notify clients when you finally are ready for customers.

Many businesses struggle with creating a solid email base. But having your customers' email lets you directly contact them and give updates on your business, such as cool new sales and products, and of course reminds them that you are there to add value to their lives. We suggest giving a little incentive to let them know they will "receive something special" when they signup and your business opens. That could be a discount or even better, a chance to be a part of an exclusive experience like an "invite only soft opening" before you officially open.

Once you figure out what your appropriate hook will be, simply embed your MailChimp form and collect those emails. Bonus points if you also post on your social media that your site is coming soon, stay up-to-date and get a special promo code when you sign up at yourbusiness.com. This is a two pronged approach to get people excited to give you their emails while also giving them something in return.


Think of these suggestions as a launchpad for getting your site established on search engines. For your next step we would suggest working with us to continue elevating your digital branding, crafting a clean and engaging user experience, and making sure you're business is leaving the best impression possible for your customers, now that they can find you online!