You own a small business and you have a million things on your plate. Read on to learn everything you need to know about SEO in our ultimate SEO kickstart guide.
When Scott Paxton entered a competition to see who could get their new website to the front of Google the fastest, he decided to look at what his competitors were doing.
What he learned can help you take charge of where your business ranks in the top search engine result pages (SERPs).
You want to rank first for your industry on Google…but you don’t have the time or money to spend hours trying out different strategies…how do you get great SERP results without blowing your whole budget?
Is SEO for Small Business Worth It?
You love your business and nothing excites you more than waking up to help it grow every day.
But your website and all its subdomains aren’t popping up on the first page of Google.
As much as you’ve heard about how small business SEO can help bring in new customers, you just don’t want to bother trudging through educational resources on the subject.
One easy place to start is with a SEO score. You’ll get an easy to read SEO report sent right to your inbox.
This is a great place to start if SEO seems like a daunting subject. It will show you everything you could be doing to rank higher for your keywords.
Let’s take a look at what else can help your rankings.
SEO Then and Now
In the early days of SEO, volume was all that mattered. Google wasn’t as savvy to spam and other black hat tactics as they are now.
Today, Google prizes quality over quantity. That means having great content that solves your audience’s problems will always put you ahead of your competitors.
Everyone tells you that you need great content. Sure, that’s easy to say, but how do you consistently produce great content that your readers love?
Good question. Every business using digital media in the world wonders that, so you’re not alone.
Start by creating your content strategy. Having a strategy helps eliminate the possibility of creating the wrong kind of content for your customers.
A content strategy should answer each of the following questions:
- What is the content about?
- How will it be displayed? Which social media outlets, websites, etc.
- Who will you need to hire to produce the content?
- Who will make decisions about which content is produced?
Often times marketers fall short of completing the real goal behind SEO. To get more sales. Just ranking higher for certain keywords will undoubtedly bring more traffic to your site, but if you’re attracting the wrong visitors your efforts are in vain.
How well you do at matching your customers to content that solves their problems determines your reputation with Google.
“I Have a Reputation with Google?”
Yes, Google ranks websites by how trustworthy they are. Everything from how long visitors spend on your page to whether they scroll through and read everything are factors in your reputation.
Small business online reputation management relies on several factors to help pages rank higher than their competitors.
→ Put Mobile First
On January 10th, 2017 Google made an official announcement that the future is now.
For years smartphones were the future of media consumption. Businesses knew eventually they’d need to optimize for mobile, but Google’s update set a firm date.
By now, if your site isn’t easy to bring up on a smartphone, there’s no way you’re going to make it to the top of the SERPs.
So what makes a website suitable for mobile devices? One of Google’s most recent beefs with the mobile user experience (UX) is intrusive interstitials.
→ Bad Pop-Ups
You know those pop-up ads that ask you to subscribe or buy something and don’t let you see the content until you comply?
Or even worse, when you do comply and the pop-up is unresponsive, making the whole site useless.
These are what Google considers “intrusive interstitials”. Keep in mind that only ads that hurt the user experience by either crashing the site or creating a paywall are intrusive.
That’s because Google aims to serve the searcher, not the business. Think about when you’re searching for something.
How much time have you wasted clicking on links that looked promising only to be led to a paywall?
It sucks and Google knows it.
Fix Technical Issues
Often times entrepreneurs will focus on how their website looks without testing to make sure all the features and links work.
→ Loading Speed
Research shows that 53% of people will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. That’s bad news given that the average loading time of a mobile page hovers around 22 seconds.
Complicated graphics or videos can cause your site to lag too much, ultimately losing your potential leads.
→ Broken Links
Make sure every link on your site is functional. Broken links hurt your online reputation and make your whole site look unprofessional.
→ Canonical Link Elements
Canonical link elements tell search engines which page of duplicate content should be shown. You probably have several duplicates of content pages from your own site and don’t even know it.
That’s because duplication can happen due to something as small as opening a new user session. Often times a single instance URL is issued when each visitor comes to your page.
Forgetting to use canonical link elements can result in the wrong page being pushed up the SERPs.
“Would I Do This If Search Engines Didn’t Exist?”
Is the exact question Google says to ask yourself before modifying your site. It’s tempting to cater to search engines because they bring in so many of your customers.
But it’s important to keep in mind that you share the same goal as Google, to better serve your customers.
So look at Google as more of a partner than a landlord. One way to prove to Google your site is trustworthy while still providing tremendous value to the end user is through backlinks.
Backlinks are when other websites link back to your content.
How to Get Backlinks
Before we talk about how to get backlinks, let’s talk about how not to get them.
This is just as vital because black hat tactics like link schemes can result in penalties that will make your site harder to find than Timbuktu with a blindfold on.
Original content reigns supreme within Google and other search engines. Unique opinions and commentary on content from other sources is still considered original.
But content scraped from other sites with nothing of value added to the user experience will earn you a penalty fast.
A great way to get other sites to take notice of your content (and link to it) is to create a resource center.
→ Resource Center
A resource center, like this one, is the perfect way to build backlinks. No one likes being sold to. It’s why we fast forward or skip commercials whenever we can.
But a source for high quality, fresh content that answers your readers’ questions will have them begging for more.
And yes, your resource center should be totally, 100% free. Think of your resource center as a first date with a potential customer.
You want them to see the expertise and skills you have to offer. You don’t try and sell to every visitor right away the same way you wouldn’t propose to every stranger walking into Starbucks after you.
The less sales-oriented your resource page is, the better. This isn’t a buyer’s guide. Don’t try and upsell or link to products. Provide only the information readers are looking for.
It might seem counterintuitive not to focus on sales here, but remember we have a reputation to uphold with Google.
The more time reader’s spend on our pages the higher they’ll rank. A resource page builds your credibility as an expert in your industry.
How Social Media and Content Marketing Work Together
Social media is a double-edged sword when it comes to content marketing.
It democratizes content creation but it can also be more demanding than your typical marketing strategy.
That’s because not only do you speak to your users on social media, but they speak to you.
→ User-Generated Content
Taking advantage of user-generated content like customers using your branded hashtags is an important part of making your social media campaign a success.
Responding to comments and DMs also go along way in ranking your social media pages higher in SERPs.
→ Keep It Share Worthy
Social media is all about sharing. Sharing something that makes you laugh, cry, or angry is what makes social media so addicting.
It’s not like traditional media that talks at you. It’s your best friend sending you something that made them crack up.
It’s your mom sending you something that made her go, “awww!”
Always ask yourself, “would I share this on my personal profile,” before posting something on your business profiles.
Marketers used to go on nothing more than trial and error. Not anymore. We have more data than ever to base our marketing decisions on.
A website audit report is a good place to start. You’ll get a look at what’s working (and what’s not) with keywords your visitors might be using to find you. You can focus on those subjects and remove irrelevant content that may be holding you back.
Facebook’s targeting metrics are arguably the most advanced of any tech company. You can find everything from keywords your customers are searching for to what their favorite band is.
A pet supply store might target the keyword “black cat” on Halloween, which would probably create a short term surge in traffic.
But most people searching for the term “black cat” are not going to be interested in pet food.
Know who your customer is before trying to connect with them.
One of the best ways to do keyword research is with an in-depth keyword analysis. These are great because you get an instant critique of your keyword usage.
If you’re not ranking well, don’t worry! That’s the whole point of the audit. Improving your SEO strategy starts with fixing what’s broken.
If your site is lacking in keywords there is a lot of help. Content creation and backlinks are what will get you to the top of the SERPs. You can outsource a lot of this time-consuming work to a service like this.
You Can Start to See Results in Less Time Than You Think
So what did Scott Paxton learn while racing to rank his website?
Every top search result led to a subdomain of their homepage. Your homepage should act as a directory that hosts all your valuable unique content.
That’s because we want to provide value above all else. Backlinks and keywords create the language we use to communicate with Google.
But content is what speaks to our customers.
No one wants to do business with a faceless corporation. SEO and content marketing set you up to be an industry leader by humanizing your business.
To start ranking higher and attracting more customers, get a free site audit and start optimizing your page immediately! If you still need help with your SEO strategy we can help with everything from designing your website to creating a solid network of backlinks.
Stop ignoring your SEO strategy while your competitors thrive. Read this article now about what happens behind the scenes of a site audit.