I talk with a great many small businesses who ask how they can build an online presence with SEO. I also hear from many, that their SEO efforts have underperformed or failed.
More often than not, SEO didn’t fail them. Their egos did. See, most small and micro businesses don’t have a large budget – or any budget – to allocate for SEO or online marketing. But they still want results.
Most of those think they’re funnier, smarter, quirkier than the article’s author, and believe they can dodge the advice and use their cuteness to attract an online audience.
Cute is fine; cute is likeable. Cute, though, is ineffective without an established audience. If you want to build an SEO foundation for your small business, you’ve got to follow a few standard SEO best practices.
I’m not anti-cute; I’m anti-wasting-money.
I can understand the predicament, but a truly effective SEO strategy will require hiring a third party to perform marketing services, or an investment in an in-house SEO specialist. I know that isn’t immediately viable for most of those businesses, so over the course of the next couple months, I will continue this series (Small Business SEO Basics) to help identify some areas you can improve to begin increasing your online presence.
With that said, here are a few general guidelines you should follow to get your small business increased exposure.
Start With On-Site SEO (vs. off-site SEO)
SEO can be segmented into two main focuses – on-site and off-site optimization. On-site optimization includes the things (you guessed it) you can do on your website – header tags, anchor text, keyword density, Meta descriptions and alt tags are all included here.
Off-site optimization includes things like guest blog posts, link building, social media, and any form of internet marketing done away from your website. We’ll discuss this in another post.
Today’s post focuses on three important aspects of on-site SEO – keyword research and selection, page relevancy, and content creation.
How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO
Research, research, research. Keyword research is, or should be, at the forefront of your mind. If you don’t already know about Google AdWords Keyword Tool, you’ve either been living under a rock or are still mystified by the interwebs.
You might also want to check out Google Trends – this will allow you to compare search terms and view a graph of their popularity over specific time frames, and geographies (examples below).
Of course, there are plenty of similar tools, but these are easy to find, easy to use, and easy to recommend.
Chances are, the terms that directly relate to your business are already taken. No, you are not special. People have not been waiting for you to arrive. Stop crying.
You will need to look for similar terms that don’t have as much competition – my advice here is to look at viable long-tail keyword options. This tends to be more accurate and target the right people to your site.
For example – if you are a plastic surgeon, a common keyword for your business plastic surgery or nose job.
However, these terms likely have a lot of competition, so you might go with one of two choices – make sure to include your geography in your keyword phrase (e.g. Plastic Surgeon Atlanta), and/or look at longer, more specific phrases like
Some of the easiest advice to remember for small businesses – understand what your potential customers are searching for, then provide them the answers on your site. It all begins with keyword research.
How to Increase Your Page Relevancy
Most search engines, most notably Google and Bing, want to provide the highest quality pages to web searchers. The best way to do that is to find and deliver relevant content. Page relevance simply refers to the correlation between your page title, page headings, and page content and keywords.
When these align, and match the query of a searcher, your content is deemed relevant and given better visibility in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Of course, those are not the only three factors to determine page relevancy (anchor text is a factor, though diminishing; inbound links to the page; outbound links to other relevant content, etc. are all factors).
However, when you write for your audience, you will find most of your content is relevant. Stick to what your potential customers want to read.
How to Create Quality Content
Personally, I hate the term “content marketing,” as it denotes a practice long understood by the blogging and article communities – provide useful information to your customers. It’s not a novel idea – just a catchy name to apply to something most effective marketers have been doing for a while.
Anyhow, small businesses working to increase their SEO, especially on a tight budget, will benefit from this concept.
After you know what your customers are searching for, provide them with that information. Simple as that. Even knowledgeable and experienced business owners face under-performing sites because they don’t know how to write for their audience using basic SEO techniques.
Great content comes in the form of videos, blogs, podcasts, discussions, infographics, white papers, webinars and articles – all targeted toward what the end user is searching for. This is an information exchange.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you relate this information (humor, , controversy, current events/news, politics, how-to/instruction, etc.), what matters is that the information you provide is useful to the visitor. Otherwise, you are better off spending your time doing something relatively useless…like baking me a cake.
Joshua Corbelli is a digital marketing consultant from Northern California. His primary background is in SEO, but also finds himself regularly involved in consultation and developing comprehensive marketing strategies. He’s pretty easy to find – through email, LinkedIn, or check out some of his recent work with LGH Marketing/Strategy.