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 – Value of Links
My first tip relates to links. Contrary to common belief, not all links are valuable. Incoming links are great, of course, but when they’re irrelevant, paid for or derive from a dodgy domain, you risk penalisation. My advice is to be mindful of your business’s link earning strategy, making sure that every piece of content shared has a purpose and value. Steer clear of paid links, and always avoid untrustworthy sites – this includes sites that blatantly dish out links to every Tom, Dick and Harry! My second piece of advice relates to content. As my area of expertise, I feel very passionately about quality content, and it’s frustrating to see many businesses wrongly assume that a blog post here and there suffices. Sure, any quality additions to your website are worthwhile, but a great content strategy takes more than the occasional article or tweet. Content is a huge part of your SEO strategy, and I order to secure the best results, you need to invest. Delegate both budget and time to identifying your target audience, their likes, dislikes and interests. Organise creative sessions with the wider team and encourage ideas generation. Hire the best writers, designers and PR people, ensuring that every piece of content is brilliantly put together and effectively syndicated. Remember, big budgets aren’t obligatory: focus more on investing in talented people that understand and contribute to your content strategy.
Thanks to Amy Kilvington, Naturally Content
#2 – Outreach is King
Anyone who has searched for anything about SEO will no doubt have seen the phrase, content is king. While this is partly true, you need to consider your outreach strategy to get this content seen by your target audience. Think about how many pieces of content are created on a daily basis, why would someone take the time to find yours? You need to deliver it to them by any and every platform possible – this means social media, e-mail, paid search, through your website etc. Create a proper content and outreach strategy to avoid ad-hoc content and messages and you will reap the rewards.
Thanks to Simon Jones, Miromedia
#3 – Local SEO
There are many SEO practices – quick-loading website, right meta tags, keyword optimisation, browser-caching and so on – I follow for my own website, as well as those I handle as part of my work. Being a Digital Strategist, I have found that Local SEO is a must for businesses that have a traditional office set-up. It boosts my SEO efforts a lot. However, with most entrepreneurs working from home nowadays, Local SEO can not be used. So instead, testimonials on the website itself work to a great extent. Hence, a combination of Local SEO and testimonials really work wonders!
Thanks to Ankitaa Gohain Dalmia, Anks Image
#4 – Think Differently
Stop thinking of it as SEO and start thinking of it as doing business in 2016 in a world where search engines exist. SEO is really a collection of marketing and site development best practices that any self-respecting website owner should be doing anyway because, well, they own a website. The whole purpose of owning a website is to provide content for your prospective and existing customers. This content should be written in a way that is attractive to said prospective and existing customers, which means using words they use to find your products and services (aka keyword research). Your site should be properly built anyway, because, why wouldn't you do that (on site SEO or technical SEO audit). And, if you do this with any merit, other websites will most likely link to you, but you may beed to do a little public relations work to kick start things (aka link building). You most likely have the skills to make this happen, but don't realize it just yet because SEO has been sold as a form of voodoo for so long, people are terrified of trying it for themselves.
Thanks to Jeff Ferguson, Fang Digital Marketing
#5 – Keyword Research
First and most important thing is to do comprehensive keyword research for your niche and business. Use your target keywords in page titles and meta descriptions. Use headings on your landing pages. In headings use your targeted keywords and variations. Create unique and value added content for your pages. There should be no duplicate content on your website. For affiliate websites product descriptions should be unique. In the content use your targeted keywords and their synonyms. Make use of internal linking of your pages with one another. Use related keywords as anchors in your internal links. Each page should contain three to five internal links. Create XML sitemap and robots.txt for your website. Sitemap should be updated on regular basis whenever you make any change on your website. Use alt tags for the images. Make load time of your pages as low as possible. Use schema.org tags on your website. For back links acquisition outreach to relevant industry bloggers is beneficial. Make your website mobile friendly and responsive.
Thanks to Muhammad Kamran, Printing Active
#6 – Make it a Priority
The best SEO tip I can offer any new business is to make SEO a priority from the beginning. SEO has evolved to a point where most search engines now favor large authority sites over smaller, niche ones. This means every new business is now competing with giants of the web every time they open shop. Gone are the days where you can just send a few targeted links and hope to bring in leads. A business needs to ensure SEO is a priority from the beginning of website development so that when the website is launched it is already technically sound. This way when the business begins to create content relevant to its target audience and gain momentum through links the website doesn't have technical SEO flaws holding it back. I've seen this happen countless times when a client has a huge site, a large amount of links and a large amount of content but the technical SEO is lacking. Do you know how many hours – and how much money – it takes just to get a large website's title tags in order? Without a focus on SEO from the beginning, a business loses a ton ground to high budget authority sites in rankings and in leads.
Thanks to Russab Ali, SMC Digital Marketing
#7 – Goldmine of Local SEO
1) Claim your Google My Business listing at google.com/business. Make sure all the data is exactly how you want it. It is critical to have a consistent name, address, and phone (NAP) across the internet. Avoid using tracking numbers or toll free numbers is that is not what you publish in other places. Add in any missing data. Include pictures of your products and services including a picture of your store front. 2) Claim your business listings at the major directories including Super Pages, Yellow Pages, and any local yellow page directories in your area. Once again make sure the NAP is the same as on your website and Google listing. 3) Get reviews for your business. Choose one or two places to recommend to your customers. This includes Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Open Table. It is against the terms of service for many sites to pay for a review but if you have a happy customer let them know that a review will really help your business. Technical tip: add in schema markup on your business. Use the related fields from schema.org/LocalBusinss to let the search engines know how to display data about your business.
Thanks to Steve Hastert, Shred Nations
#8 – Local Domain Authority
My favorite tactic for building up local domain authority is to host a local scholarship. What we do is post the $500 or $1,000 dollar scholarship in the state that we are targeting and then reach out to local high schools and local universities to let them know about that scholarship and for them to link to the application page. They are usually willing to do this as it helps their students so it's a win-win proposition. This is a great way to build up local links and high authority local links boosting your domain's authority and establishing local singles at the same time for a relatively low cost.
Thanks to Bryan Clayton, GreenPal
#9 – Customer Questions
Every time a customer asks you a question, make a note of it. If someone is asking you that question, it usually means that dozens of customers have thought of it – and Googled for an answer. By taking a list of all the questions you ever receive, and dedicating time to creating great blog posts that answer them, you'll be well on your way to established, thoughtful content. Doing that on a consistent basis is a great way to ensure that your company is high-ranking for a wide variety of keywords!
Thanks to Flynn Zaiger, Online Optimism
#10 – Do-Follow and No-Follow
Until recently, our entire business model was based on SEO optimization. The best tip I can provide, that oddly enough, not everyone knows about is the different between Do-Follow and No-Follow backlinks. Unique linking domains, or websites that link to your site, are a major ranking factor in Google's eyes. When a trying to build your backlink profile, look for websites that use the ‘Do-Follow' HTML code (rel=do-follow) when linking to other sites. Backlinks that have rel=no-follow tag are not counted by Google's robots and will not help your rankings. Google wants websites to use the no-follow tag for advertisements and other paid linking opportunities. However, to be safe, sometimes websites no-follow all of their links and being able to tell when a website has no-follow links can save you a lot of time. There are a few great plug-ins, such as Check My Links, on Chrome that automatically look at the HTML code of links for you so you do not have to look yourself.
Thanks to Wesley Flippo, Buy The Best Drone
#11 – Generic Search Terms
The best SEO tip for smaller businesses is to do extensive keyword research before building SEO webpages on your site. During this research make sure to look for search queries that have a high monthly search volume with lower competition. These pages will be the easiest to rank for and once you are ranking well for these pages you can begin to work on the bigger search terms. Furthermore, unless you are a major player in your industry, very generic search terms will be extremely difficult to rank for. For example, if you sell houses (like we do), trying to rank for a term like Houses For Sale will take years because of all the large websites, such as Realtor.com or Truila, that already rank for those major search terms. Instead, look for keywords that are a bit more specific and try to optimize pages for those terms, such as Big Homes For Sale in (your city). Another great SEO tip is to reach out to your business contacts and offer to write contact for their website. These articles are not only beneficial for their blog/business, but you can receive a backlink to your website and help boost your rankings.
Thanks to Evan Harris, SD Equity Partners
#12 – Topical Authority
Topical authority is something that many SEO's understand exists, but fail to implement well. Building a single page with your target keyword in mind will (often) not be good enough to help you rank. Building supporting content that links to the original page helps businesses build topical authority in spaces they otherwise have little presence in. You're delivering a better experience to your visitors if you fully cover the subject at hand, and an even better experience if you cover the subjects that are closely related to the original–even if these topics don't directly translate into a sale for you. Provide interactive tools, documents, and downloads that relate to the parent topic you're trying to rank for, then work to move those people down the funnel.
Thanks to Cam Garrant, Repsly, Inc
#13 – Fresh Content
Nothing makes Google bots ‘happier’ than plenty of fresh, relevant content on your website. When you consider that every search engine’s aim is to furnish the most relevant online material from the user’s search, it logically follows that the more you can write about your business and what it provides, where, how and who by, the higher up the SERPs you will climb. Yes, product information including cost, benefits, and availability, is paramount, but this kind of text tends to be static. You want to turn your website into a vibrant, breathing beast of business. Company news, blogs, press releases, and product launches, not only keep your website fresh to your regular customers, but when Google’s bots regularly uncover new content, its algorithm dictates that the website must be more relevant to the searcher and so upgrades your ranking, boosting you favorably up the SERPs. Just be sure to include more about how your product can solve the visitor’s problem or otherwise benefit them, than how you intend to build your brand.
Thanks to Jason Hall, MyLocalSEOs
#14 – Frequent Changes
1. SEO algorithms change frequently. Don’t get caught with yesterday’s outdated norms. 2. The first SEO issue comes in choosing your company’s name initially or for rebranding. If you have a name set in stone, create an SEO tagline like “Schlitz-the beer that made Milwaukee famous.” 3. Clicks can help or hurt you for SEO. If you pick the topic “Old Norse literature”, it will likely have fewer clicks than “Update-Keeping up with the Kardashians”. 4. Lack of readability can torpedo you. No matter the topic, you must have short sentences with mainly one syllable words. Headers and bullet points make it easier to skim. (The irony? The quicker your reader moves away the more it hurts your bounce rate!) 5. Remember 60 seconds on the Internet can feel like forever. If your site is slow to load, your SEO ratings will suffer. 6. Content is king. Length matters. Recommendations vary from Yoast at a minimum of 300 to others at 1,001.
Thanks to Elizabeth Avery, Solo Trekker 4 U
#15 – Optimize for Mobile
Our top three tips for a successful SEO campaign include 1) Track, test, tweak, repeat. At Blue Corona, we live by this. Great SEO is derived from data-driven decisions. When you try a new SEO tactic, don’t just implement it and assume it is working. Monitor it. Improve it. And repeat these steps. Data gives you the power to make informed decisions, rather than just taking wild shots in the dark. 2) Use contact forms on your site. As technology becomes more and more popular, less and less people pick up the phone to have a conversation-which is why it’s crucial that there are contact forms on every page of your website! Implementing contact forms throughout your entire site makes it easy for users to reach out and find what they’re looking for. 3) Optimize for mobile. I know most business owners are tired of hearing this SEO tip, but it needs to be repeated. Users are increasingly searching for services via their smartphones, and Google ranks websites in the mobile results based on whether a website is mobile-friendly or not. Don’t limit your chances of being found in the search results simply because your website is not responsive.
Thanks to Katie Birkbeck, Blue Corona