Search Engine Optimization, known as SEO, is an essential tools in any small businesses arsenal. SEO is all about making sure your website and services are seen online ahead of competitors. It’s easy in theory, of course. Yet SEO isn’t about going down a list of rules and checking off some boxes. It's a little more complicated than that. The strategies employed in a solid SEO plan can be perplexing no matter what field you’re in. Every new week brings the latest techniques for bumping your business up in search results. Staying on top of SEO and making sure your site reflects positive SEO mechanics is a constant battle. We asked some readers to give their best SEO tips and their responses are below.
#1 – Choose the Right Keyword
With SEO, it's important to choose the right keywords. Most professionals are accustomed to using industry lingo that is known to them and other professionals. However, those keywords are not necessarily the ones that their target audience would be searching for. For example, the term maxillofacial surgeon might be well known within the medical community. But, their target audience may be more familiar with the terms dentist or oral surgeon when they conduct a search. If you want to get found by your target audience, use the keywords that your target audience uses. I've found that about 80 percent of the website owners don't do this. If you become one of the few who do, then you'll have a major advantage.
Thanks to Blake Newman, SEO Quotient
#2 – Check Your Robots.txt
I am always surprised when business and website owners don't realize they have search engine spiders (like Googlebot) blocked from reading their website. To be sure, spiders must be able to crawl your site in order for your content to display in search results and for your site to rank. A /robots.txt file instructs search engine spiders (like Googlebot) about which pages it is allowed to crawl and which should be ignored. Do a quick search for your organization in any of the search engines. If you see a message under your search engine results page listing that says “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt – learn more” it means your robots.txt file is blocking spiders from crawling your site. This is a critical SEO error. You also can check your robots.txt file by going to yourdomain.com/robots.txt. If you see: User-agent:* Disallow: / this tells you that your robots.txt is blocking search engine spiders. Because of this, not only is your site not ranking, but you are likely missing out on a lot of website traffic. It’s an easy fix. Call your web host and ask them to help you correct the critical error. Once you’ve created (or checked) your /robots.txt file, submit it to Google via Search Console (but you need a Search Console account first). Just open Search Console and go to Crawl → robots.txt Tester → Submit which will open a dialog box for instructions on submitting an updated file.
Thanks to Jill Van Nostran, MissionFound
#3 – Guest Blog
My best SEO tips are to guest blog or contribute to numerous blog sites, preferably well-established blog sites such as CEO Blog Nation . Google loves back links, especially from authority sites, so this is a great way to boost your SEO rankings when the sites link back to your website. Likewise, being a guest on lots of podcast shows is a great way to get high quality back links to your site, for which google will reward you for. Naturally you need to come up with great content that is valuable to the blog site and/or podcast show and consequently their audience. I highly recommend doing this as not only do you get priceless links back to your website, which improves your SEO rankings, it also positions you, your business and brand as an authority in your niche.
Thanks to Sharon Bolt, Get Free Publicity Today
#4 – Fix Broken Links
In cost-to-benefit ratio terms fixing broken links on your site would be my No1 SEO tip, because they can severely dent your rankings. Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and drill down to Crawl Errors, where it lists which of your pages Google deems non-existent and what other pages/sites link to them. If an external site points a non-existent page on your site (eg, you have moved your content to another page) ask that site if they can amend the link. Alternatively, put a 301-redirect on your site to automatically redirect users and search engines to the correct page. If there is no correct version of the non-existent page, ensure your server returns a Google-friendly 404 or 410 error. The first time I cleaned up my broken links my search engine traffic increased by nearly 40 per cent.
Thanks to Ainsley Okoro, Homes and Villas Abroad
#5 – Don't Stress
As a professional online marketer, the best SEO advice I can give to entrepreneurs is this: Don’t stress out too much over the myriad factors that go into search rankings. All that stuff is important, yes, but at the end of the day the best way any business can compete for rankings is to be true to your offering. This means creating websites and content that’s going to help your potential customers and suit their needs, not the needs of the search engine spiders. Bottom line: As long as your site answers the questions your target market is asking, and as long as you’re doing it in a way that’s unique, engaging, and easy to use, you’ll be off to a strong start.
Thanks to Michael Ferrari, Pen Cap Online Marketing, LLC
#6 – Digital Marketing
Not too long ago businesses could guarantee their Google visibility by employing an SEO team, and the job was considered as done. Things changed. Today, SEO is an indispensable part of your entire digital marketing strategy and stems from every marketing activity your team carries out. As Google spiders become smarter, every blog post, product description, image, and caption must be optimized based on your SEO and digital marketing standards. Google’s focus on relevancy and user-friendly content leaves no other option but to play by the rules and utilize your buyer personas during keyword research, content creation, and distribution. Needless to say, your buyer personas should be developed by your inbound marketing team.
Thanks to Doug Fowler, Waypost Marketing
#7 – Don't Be Too Keyword Conscious
Today’s consumer can’t turn on the TV, check their social media profiles or even drive down the road without being exposed to an advertisement. They know when they’re being marketed too, and they’ve learned how to switch off to it. In order to engage today’s savvy consumer, you have to put in the effort. When it comes to SEO, this means you should write as if you’re talking to the customer. Address their concerns and problems, and speak to their emotions; don’t just keyword-stuff pages and roll out spammy articles. This more organic approach to SEO will enhance your ROI on the channel beyond page metrics and visitor statistics; it will delight your customers and grow your business brand as a whole.
Thanks to Andrew Silcox, The Lead Agency
#8 – Reaching Organic Users
SEO has been a large part of our marketing program. The ability for us to reach organic users who have not been exposed to our brand and turn them into loyal fans make it a profitable channel. One of our most successful SEO campaigns has been to create content around specific questions our users are asking. We create a long form answer with the intent of getting our content into the Featured Snippet in the SERP. These coveted spots highlight our content and have increase traffic dramatically. Some of these are easy wins, and other helps us show up in the top results, which is also effective.
Thanks to Leslie Ramey, SmallWorlds
#9 – Evaluate Your Business
My business is heavily dependent on SEO, which has brought me both great fortune and nightmarish catastrophes over the years. Google has cracked down on over-aggressive and automated SEO tactics, and the penalties for getting caught violating their guidelines are incredibly steep. However, there is still opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to build a successful SEO campaign. In order to get quality links to improve your SEO and not run afoul of Google's guidelines, it's best to think of today's SEO as PR with the side goal of getting links. Evaluate your business to identify any hooks that you may have or be able to create to generate interest among the media and blogging communities. Find out who are the reporters and writers that cover your industry and build relationships with them by commenting on their stories and interacting with them on social media. Look for opportunities to do newsworthy things that reporters want to cover, then make it easy for them to cover you, but providing them with the information they need to quickly assemble the story. These activities will help you build your brand as an authority in your niche, while also generating links to your site from high quality websites like news outlets and relevant blogs.
Thanks to Leo Welder, ChooseWhat.com
#10 – Negative Listings
No brand is immune to online complaints. The larger the brand, the larger the potential universe of complainers, no matter how loved the brand. Apple is the number one brand according to Interbrand’s annual global ranking, and the iPhone is a huge percentage of their business (almost 2/3). Yet a search for “complaints Apple iPhone” returns quite a few low stars on review sites. Yet because of Apple’s beloved status, negative listings do not impact them nearly as much as a small or mid-sized brand. Complaints—whether they are on review sites, buyer’s guides, forums or private blogs—are always best to be dealt with directly and quickly. Brands too often see negative reviews as an enemy. Instead, claim the review and post a response on how the complaintant can seek a resolution to their issue. SEO teams should work with customer experience teams to take advantage of the high SERP of review sites by working with those sites to improve sentiment, engage unhappy customers and display the whole customer experience.
Thanks to Danica Jones, ConsumerAffairs for Brands
#11 – Always Provide Value
As a business owner who mainly conduct my business over the internet having adequate SEO is critical to the success of my business. Throughout the years I have learned a lot about SEO and how to rank my website organically. The best SEO tip I can offer for other business owners is to always provide value to your target audience. Content is the number one resource every business owner should invest in. Not only it will help you rank for more keywords in your target niche market, but it will showcase your knowledge and authority over your industry. When your e-commerce site or blog provides high quality content it will naturally attract other bloggers to share your information with their users. Bringing in more traffic and valuable do-follow links to help you rank in search engines. Remember to write for your audience not for the search engines. Nothing will hurt your business credibility more than a low quality articles trying to deceive search engines.
Thanks to Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco Kids Apparel
#12 – Personalized Outreach
Don't underestimate the power of personalized outreach! In an age where ‘content is king', many marketers are creating some truly amazing resources. The trouble is that many don't tell anyone about it. Very rarely is it a case of ‘build it and they will come' in the world of digital marketing, so promotion is essential. All SEOs love getting quality backlinks, so reach out to the right people with a highly personalized approach that focuses on building a relationship first, and you might get lucky. Then your content might end up dominating the SERPs. Make sure all the basics are taken care of on your site! Building a house on weak foundations is risky, and that's true for websites as well, so don't overlook things like metadata, keyword research, heading optimization, internal linking, Google Analytics setup and even Search Console linking. This is the bread and butter of any good SEO, so spend time doing the simple things and you'll benefit massively in the long run. Don't set your site up JUST for SEO. This is something that Google has been saying for years, but many SEOs don't actually listen to. Remember one thing- search engine crawlers don't generate revenue, so focus on what's important- your customers! Ensuring that your site has a logical structure, natural and well written content, great loading times and mobile optimization (to name a few) will help you convert traffic into business much better than doing shady old school things like creating 100 pages to target very similar keywords. And don't forget that you'll probably get a better SERP position if you think of your customers first. Funny that.
Thanks to Sam Binks, Cool Gifts For Dads!
#13 – Plan Ahead
My best tip is to plan ahead. Time is a precious commodity as an entrepreneur so the best way to leverage SEO with efficiency is to plan ahead. Do the necessary research for you to understand the competitive landscape and the opportunity keywords you can look into. Compile a list of relevant keywords then break it down into priorities. Plan out calendars to write blogs around a particular topic and ideally include other articles as additional links to your relevant content. Repeat this process every 3-6 months to help evaluate progress and identify additional opportunities.
Thanks to Jennifer Ping, Universal Insights Analytics
#14 – Keyword Conversion
While it may be tempting to rank for the keywords with the largest search demand, the focus should always be on the keywords that convert at the highest rate. The easiest way to determine your highest converting keywords is to run some tests with Google Adwords and Google Analytics. This initial investment will pay for itself many times over as you may find a huge difference between the keywords you think you should be ranking for and the ones that are actually driving conversions. Once you’ve figured out which keywords best convert for your business, you can then begin creating pages that feature the keywords in the title tag, URL, H1, and content.
Thanks to Jeffrey A. Hensel, North Coast Financial
#15 – Get What You Pay For
Companies are investing more and more money in SEO and inbound marketing each year. So my first piece of advice would be to hold your SEO teams accountable for that investment. That means frequent chats about the quantity and quality of leads they’re generating. Lead data should be easily accessible if they’re actually paying attention to what they’re doing. So don’t let your vendor hide beyond confusing data dumps. Make sure your SEO team is doing its part — keeping the phone ringing and the cash register dinging. Beyond keeping your SEO vendor accountable, my next best piece of advice would be to create quality content. You want people to find your site on Google? Then you need killer content. And you need a lot of it. And it needs to be accurate, unique, and worthy of showing up in Google. And don't stop! But how can you consistently create high-quality content unique to your business? That’s easy. Empower your team! You and your employees know your business better than anyone else. And you’d be surprised at the hidden talents that creative opportunities turn up. Publish and share that new content every month. SEO is not a sprint, it is a long, winding marathon. But, if you persist, it will pay large dividends. My last piece of advice would be knowing this: *you get what you pay for*. SEO done right will drive new leads to your business. But SEO done wrong will bury your website at the bottom of the search results. And if you’re choosing a cheap SEO team, then don’t be surprised if they try cheap tricks that earn Google’s wrath.
Thanks to Tyler Hutson, WebMechanix