The Small Business Owner Guide to SEO
Is what comes first always the most relevant? I know this is almost always the case when it comes to search engine marketing, specifically SEO. There is a fierce competition to be on top, how can your business step up to the game?
SEO is what distinguishes your website from being buried on page 3 on Google to getting to the top positions on the first page. From first-hand experience with a dental client I have seen how being on top positions radically increases the amount of traffic and attention your site, thus your business gets.
In order to do SEO, you need to optimize your website in terms of design, content, and code. This way, search engines such as Google or Bing rank the pages of your website as high as possible. Below I will share some of the best practices and common concerns small business owners face when it comes to SEO.
Why Should I Care About SEO?
Search engines have become great at understanding how we think and at analyzing our preferences as users. I personally think they can be so accurate it’s almost scary.
If you don’t optimize your website properly, search engines will never be able to review the content of your website. Therefore, you will be invisible to search engines and your potential customers will have a tough time finding you on Google (unless you pay for PPC ads). If this doesn’t sound convincing enough, check this out:
Increase Traffic to Your Site
Traffic is to SEO what location is to real estate, if you can’t get a good location, then you will simply not make a sale. Whenever you make a search on Google, you tend to deem the first results as the most relevant ones to your search, this is why SEO plays such an instrumental part in increasing traffic.
The best part of it is that when it comes to search engines, you are appearing first to people who are already in the need of your product or service. By ranking higher on search engines you will not only be able to increase traffic to your site, but also increase the amount of qualified visitors.
Improve Your User Experience
Since SEO was “invented”, it has changed from being a purely technical task. Over the years, SEO has been more focused on the importance of providing the best user experience for your users. The premise is that user experience is valuable to search engines because that way they can make sure that they are providing the best results to their searchers, thus they will come back and search again on their engine.
Many SEO best practices are also best practices for building websites. So in other words, by search engine optimizing your website, you also improve the user experience.
Having a good user experience ensures:
That your visitors stay longer
Makes you more likely to make a sale
You will rank higher in search engines thereby increase your business potential to get new qualified customers with every search
Increase Your Sales
SEO can increase your sales while not dramatically increasing your marketing costs – Users searching on Search engines play an important role in the customer research process. If you rank well within a range of keywords you will be able to rank well for a long time and thereby get continuous returns on your initial SEO effort.
By allowing your clients to find you easier you will boost your credibility increase the chances of potential customers hiring you.
Complement Your Online Marketing Efforts
SEO is of great help building credibility and trust with current and potential clients. For this reason, it is a great compliment to your other online marketing efforts. Take PPC, for instance, engaging in SEO while also running a PPC campaign can help boost both these efforts in many ways such as:
Share keyword data and test organic keywords in your PPC campaigns.
Integrate your best performing keyword data into your SEO content strategy.
Improve your loading speed and thereby improve other important metrics such as quality score.
Common SEO Best Practices
Target Your Visitors with Keyword Research
Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of diving into the world of SEO. In simple terms, you should perform keyword research to be aware of the keywords (or simply words) your audience is typing into the search bar to find your business or businesses like yours.
I think the greatest part about finding the right keywords is the ability to not only fuel your search engine marketing efforts but also being able to learn about your own business. You can also gain deeper insights about your market and buyer’s intent.
So how do you go about performing your keyword research?
- Make a list of the possible search terms you think people use to find you
- Use resources like Google AdWords Keyword Planner to find out search volume (amount of times people search for that specific search term) and the potential cost of running those keywords in a search campaign.
- Do a bit of competitor research using tools like Spyfu or SEMRush to see which keywords you could add or exclude.
- Analyze the keywords you have chosen: will visitors be happy if the visit your website after they performed their search? Do you think this keywords is aligned with my business goals? Will I get a financial return on this keyword?
Pro Tip: Pay special attention and make sure you add long tail keywords. As mentioned in Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO section on keyword research:
“ Long tail keywords often convert better, because they catch people later in the buying/conversion cycle. A person searching for “shoes” is probably browsing, and not ready to buy. On the other hand, someone searching for “best price on Air Jordan Size 12” practically has their wallet out! “
Content Implementation is King
As I previously stated, search engines strive to provide the best user experience, and this has to do a lot with the content of a website. The two main aspects you need to keep in mind are content quality, originality, and freshness.
Make sure you provide your website with content that is direct and in matching common queries. On top of that, your content needs to be of the highest quality possible, by providing a unique value that cannot be found elsewhere.
It’s not just about the content itself, it’s about how you structure and present it. You need to ensure that this content is of the right length, for instance, if you want to attract links through blog posts the ideal number is over 1,000 words. But if on the other hand are looking to make your content easily accessible to mobile users, fit your content to that purpose.
Some other tips include:
Double check your grammar and spell check.
Supplement your text with pictures, videos or other types of media
Write with your end ‘reader’ in mind
Highlight or format the most important text
Your content should be of your authorship, so don’t try to copy content from around the web at least without providing proper credit. You should also make sure your content is easy to index through HTML text format:
Make sure all of your images have alt text (a short description of what your image is about)
Supplement flash or java plug-ins with text on the page
Provide transcripts for video or audio content
Freshness refers to constantly updating your site with new content. This ensures search engines that you are often providing valuable, timely information. Remember to match this ‘fresh’ content to the real time occurrences in the industry.
Make it a Breeze for Visitors to Navigate Through Your Site With User Friendly Design
A user-friendly design is about organizing your website in a way that not only your users will be able to find what they are looking for fast, but also that search engines can understand and navigate through your website with ease.
So in other words, your website should be consistent with its layout, design, and labeling. Consequently, make sure all your links and buttons are text based.
The Best Tip for Improving Your SEO Traffic: Title Tag and Meta Description Implementation
Title tags and Meta Descriptions are usually the first words you see when performing a search. The accuracy and relevance of this information can cause significant traffic fluctuation. When writing them you should:
- Identify your unique selling point: You should be able to pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors.
- Write a call to action: Test different word combinations to send the same message and keep the one that performs the best.
- Write engaging content: Combine your unique value proposition and call to actions to create your meta titles and meta descriptions.
- Consider optimal length: 65 to 75 for Titles, and 150 to 165 for Descriptions.
- Keyword insertion: As a best practice, try inserting your Keyword at the beginning of your Meta Title, so when the SERP truncates titles that exceed a certain length, your title will display its most relevant part.
Quality Link Building
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to yours. It is very important because it helps search engines measure the authority of your site. If your website has a high authority it means that it is regarded as high quality and respected by the top people in your industry.
Another indicator of authority is the popularity of your website. If your website is popular, then it means that you are doing something right because people are willing to share your site, thus find value in it.
Some ways to get other websites to link to your site include:
- If you follow our advice on creating quality, original and valuable content, you will increase your chances of other people referring and sharing your content.
- Reach out to your newsworthy local authorities for them to share information about upcoming events or services.
- Get listed in as many directories as you can.
The challenging thing about link building is that it is highly dependent on external factors and for this reason, it can take a lot of time. However, remember to be patient, the results are well worth it.
Pro tip: It is always a plus if you can get linked by domains that end in .edu or .gov because their authority is considered to be relevant.
I’ve Heard it Takes a Lot of Time to Get Results
It is true that there is no concrete answer to the question of ‘when will I be able to see results?’ when it comes to SEO. However, there are some known indicators that have been shared by search engines that can be of help when forecasting how long it will take depending on the specifications of your business, these are:
Domain age: Literally the time that your domain name and website has been around
Popularity of your page: How many people share your content on social media? How many are linking to your site? How many people visit your site frequently? These questions can help you determine the popularity of your page.
Relevant and fresh content: The more content you publish, the more pages Google will have to crawl. It is also an indication of how relevant you stay and that you are providing good value to your visitors through updated content.
User-friendly design and UX: If your website is designed to make it easy for search engines to crawl but more importantly to satisfy the needs of your visitors then you are set.
In addition, the keyword you are trying to rank for may be the one that slows or speeds up the process.Trying to rank for keywords within the white duck hunting industry, is rather quick and easy. But if you’re trying to rank for something related to gambling, travel or cars, then you’re up for a big challenge.
I know this still doesn’t provide you with a definite answer. However, the truth is that there is not one but if you follow these three steps you are well underway to achieving great results with SEO.
How Can You Measure Your Results?
No one is quite clear about how search engine algorithms work, however, there are some ways to find out if your efforts are producing any results. I recommend starting out with checking Google Analytics since it’s a free software where you can get a lot of insights. Keep in mind that there are many free and paid alternatives to help measure SEO results.
Every business is unique, and so are the metrics used to measure this success. However, the number one indicator for me is a peak in your organic results accompanied by lots of referrals and visits to your pages from search engines.
Of course, there are a lot more indicators to take a look at so I recommend reading this guide by Moz:
There Are a Lot of People Who Claim They Can Do SEO, How Do I Know Who to Trust?
The SEO market is saturated with people who claim they can jump start your SEO efforts. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great professionals whether it be agencies or freelancers who can show you results. You just need to be careful if you are going and watch out for these warning signs:
They Say They Can ‘Guarantee’ Results
As we have previously stated on this post, no one can guarantee any results when it comes to SEO.
There are a lot of people who claim they can guarantee in bringing in specific numbers of visitors or leads or that they can build a backlink profile for you with a specific amount of links. I think it is safe to say that they are outright lying.
There are also agencies or freelancers who use a Pay Per Results model or ‘Money Back Guarantee’ strategy. This sounds great in essence, however, I would be cautious since you would be putting too much trust in their abilities.
As a general rule, I would stay away from agencies or people like this because no one can assure you will get any results much less put a numerical figure to the equation.
They Don’t Ask You in Depth Questions About Your Business
There is no clear cut formula to good SEO, so naturally, this can’t be replicated to all business types across all industries. If the person or agency you are looking to hire doesn’t ask you questions about your business or your goals with your SEO efforts, they are probably not going to provide any results.
Why Should I Hire Someone Else When I Could Just Do It Myself?
True, you could do it yourself. At the end of the day SEO is not rocket science and if you decide to do it yourself it can be a very rewarding experience.
However, I have two main concerns for the person who has not much experience with SEO:
There is a myriad of information out there about SEO. Some of it is outdated, some of it is just a flat out lie and others are helpful. But how will you be able to tell the difference and know what will work best for your business?
It’s way too easy to fall into black hat SEO practices. You may think that you are doing a great job by keyword stuffing your pages but nowadays this is considered a no-no.
Will you have the time? – SEO is inexpensive and can really work. but it takes patience and if you are too busy handling all the other aspects of your business, will you have the time it takes to make SEO succeed?
Places to Learn More
Like I mentioned there are several places that offer information about the world of SEO. However, the main takeaway of this post is that you continue learning and for that, I recommend the following: