Have you ever played the game “signs”? Growing up, my friends loved that game. I hated it. No one ever explained the rules clearly. But everyone else was playing it, so I was stuck playing a game with rules I didn’t understand. Does that sound a little like small business marketing with SEO?
SEO marketing has a reputation for being too technical and inaccessible for the average small business owner. It doesn’t really make sense, but you have to play because everyone else does. SEO used to make me feel overwhelmed too.
Truth is, SEO can be pretty technical. But there’s a lot of really important (and not overly technical!) SEO work you can successfully do yourself to market your small business. But first, let’s define terms. What is SEO?
What is SEO?
Most obviously, SEO is Search Engine Optimization, or optimizing your website so it achieves better rankings in search engine results. Think of it this way: You’re in business because you solve a problem for target audiences. Most likely, your target audiences use Google to determine who can solve that problem.
Ideally you want Google to present you on the top of the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP) because people generally don’t look beyond that page in their search results. So, the content of your website needs to make it easy for Google to recognize that your website is one of the best options to offer to people searching for topics or questions related to the products and services your business offers.
SEO for a Small Business Marketing Strategy
First, SEO is rarely a quick-win option for small businesses unless they have an extremely niche market or, honestly, just get lucky. Sadly, there’s no hidden SEO on/off switch at the backend of your website that marketers can access to magically make your website appear on the first SERP.
A library is a good analogy for SEO. Librarians (like marketers) are adept at organizing and categorizing data so that patrons (or search engines) can easily find and identify information on a particular topic. However, even the best librarians can’t turn your office bookshelf into a resource that is as authoritative as the Library of Congress.
In the same way, the best marketers can’t somehow make a website with just a few pages or blog posts rank on the top of Google’s search results. It takes effort to research the best keywords, topics, and questions that should be addressed on the website, and it takes time to produce good-quality, informative, well-organized content.
So why do SEO at all? Because you are in the business of solving people’s problems and people need to know it. SEO content on your website – like blogs, landing pages, and pillar pages – serve a valuable purpose.
Through quality content set up with good SEO practices, you’re explaining to leads who are considering your product/service that you understand their problem and offer the best solution. Over time, you can accumulate enough content to gradually improve your SERP rankings.
Factors that Affect Your Website’s SEO
Below, you’ll find a not overly technical description of the primary factors that affect your website’s SEO. If you need to learn more details about SEO, I highly recommend Moz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Keywords are the words or phrases related to your product or service that people type into Google in order to answer questions related to your product or service. You need to know what keywords people are using so you’re answering questions people are actually asking. And so Google knows you’re answering those questions.
You need to use these keywords in URLs, page/post titles, the content of pages/posts, meta descriptions, and title tags. Focus on the keywords based on the products/services you most want to promote. You can even use them in your Google My Business description and posts.
Read this HubSpot article on keyword research to learn more. Once you have a list of ideas about the words, phrases, and questions your customers are searching online, Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends are free tools you can use to find out how often those keywords are actually being searched.
Outside Links to Your Website
Outside links are when another website links to a page or post on your website. When quality websites (especially .edu or .gov websites) link to your website, your domain authority will improve. Domain authority is a metric that predicts how your website ranks in SERPs compared to your competitors. The higher a referring website’s domain authority is, the more it will boost your website’s domain authority when it links to your website.
You can use social media to boost your outside links. Most importantly, make sure all your profiles include your website URL. Next, share your website content on social media. Pretty simple! You can even link to your website when you share images and videos. Then, make sure your website content is set up so visitors can easily share your content.
You can also solicit quality backlinks by simply asking for it – especially from businesses that relate or partner with yours (e.g. a local bank to a bookkeeper). You can ask other businesses to include your website URL in guest blog posts, press releases, social posts, and hyperlinks on your logo when websites display it.
A word of warning: Beware of “get-rich-quick” schemes for outside links. Some companies promise to generate a high amount of backlinks to your website. These link farms tread into something called “black hat SEO.” Google has gotten better at detecting it and will penalize your SERP rankings for it. Instead, focus on the slow and steady wins the race approach to SEO: quality over quantity.
Schema is a type of tags added to your website’s HTML that helps search engines read and present your website content on SERPs. Just as librarians categorize books using the Dewey Decimal System, Google uses the categories defined on schema.org to categorize web content. Adding Schema to your HTML not only improves your SERP ranking but also improves the snippet of text beneath your search engine results.
Schema is very precise, and adding the JSON script to the website content is technical, but there are tools to help you write the scripts. Some include Schema App, Merkle Structured Data Tool, and Hall Analysis. You can learn more about these schema tools and others in this article or by taking this class
Local SEO Ranking Performance
Local SEO allows people who search for something “near me” to find you. The easiest way to win at local SEO is to have a really good Google My Business profile. You can learn more about small business marketing with Google My Business here.
Even if you don’t have a physical location, you can track your website’s performance in the geographic area where your target audience is located by using tools like Ahrefs, Moz, SE Ranking, Google Analytics, and GeoSearch.
Website Performance Metrics
Search engines also look at the number of visitors on your website, the bounce rate, the amount of time visitors spend on your website and pages, and the average number of pages viewed per visit. Google evaluates these metrics to determine the quality of your content.
To Google, the volume of visitors who come to your website and spend time reading and clicking through it indicates your content quality. Poor content looks like a bounce rate higher than 80%, short page sessions, etc. Because Google wants to present quality content to its users, good metrics equal better SERP rankings.
Google Analytics is a free and easy-to-use tool for tracking these metrics and more. If you haven’t set it up yet for your website, do it now.
Market Your Small Business with SEO
Because Google is constantly trying to improve its helpfulness, it frequently changes the search algorithm (aka the game rules). Some experts estimate that the algorithm changes about once or twice a day – sometimes significantly, sometimes not so much. But don’t be dismayed!
Some markers try to game the system and find ways to trick Google into prioritizing their websites in search results. We generally find that as long as you focus on creating quality content that utilizes good SEO practices and focuses on solving potential customers’ problems, small businesses will improve their SERP rankings.
Read this article to learn more about producing quality content to market your small business.
If you’ve read this article and SEO still feels nebulous and overwhelming, don’t give up on it. Instead, give us a call. We’d love to start a conversation with you about strategically marketing your small business with SEO.
We invite you to schedule a conversation with one of our consultants to get started.
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