How to Build a Successful SEO Strategy When You're a Small Business

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: November 1, 2017
Photo credit: everything possible/Shutterstock

One of the main digital marketing strategies that can help online small businesses take off is a solid SEO strategy.

With small to large corporations prioritizing the need for a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, it can be difficult to know which tactics are better suited to small businesses and what is best for ROI. Unlike larger companies, small businesses have different overriding business objectives.

Most SMBs emphasize a short-term return on investment, rather than having all of their tactics based on medium to long-term results. For example, a larger business that is well known and established will normally have the budget to spend on branding and general awareness campaigns. These tactics take time to measure and correlate directly relate to sales. Small businesses, however, typically focus on direct mail or targeted advertising where results can be seen rather quickly.

Both small and large companies will most likely use the same online channels. Whether it is social media, their websites or Google Adwords, the outcomes from these campaigns will differ for small and large businesses.

When it comes to your online ranking strategy, what should your small business focus on? What small businesses need is, first, a good foundation for ongoing online optimization. Second, they need to be able to easily identify results.

Here are some key elements that small businesses should incorporate into their SEO strategy.

Keywords

For small businesses, getting your keywords right is crucial to your success. What are your potential customers typing into Google? What are their wants and needs? There are various ways you can find out the keywords you require. To start, it's good to pick out a selection of 10 to 20 keywords.

One way to gather keywords is to listen to your customers. Is there a common question they are asking you? Is there a common service that makes up the majority of your revenue? For example, a small electrical business may find that the majority of their work is based on home outdoor needs. Therefore, a keyword or phrase may be "outdoor electrical services."

If you already have a website, examine the results coming from the search function on your website. Customers may type their specific need into your search bar, and these are great keywords to focus on.

Also, don't forget keyword tools. There are tools such as Google Keyword Planner or SEO Book's Keyword List Generator. They are easy to use and can help you drill down different types of keywords and their popularity.

Once you have your keywords, you will need to enter them into a spreadsheet. Set up your sheet so you have space to accurately record how well they rank from month to month.

 

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Directories

Popular online directories help in two ways. First, they are an ideal external resource to feature your website links. When you have an external website of authority, which most of the well-known directories are, linking back to your website, this helps increase your online ranking.

Second, being featured on these sites increases your business's credibility. Nowadays, most businesses are online, whether that is having their own website, social media pages or being featured in online directories. The more of these online avenues you are featured on, the more your business will seem trusted and known.

Popular directory sites include Yelp, True Local and Hotfrog. Just ensure that you are posting your listings on authoritative sites. There are many online directories out there, and not all of them are looked upon favorably by Google. With listings, quality is better than quantity. 

Blogs

Regular, advice-driven and optimized blogs are a core driver of your small business strategy. It will be the fuel that keeps your SEO strategy running and improving. The more content you have, the more your target market will be able to find you online.

The point of a blog is to create something that is informative and/or provides value to your market that draws them in to engage with your brand. Blogs can give advice, tell a story, provide a case study, highlight trends and more. It's about communicating with your audience, showcasing your expertise, and building a rapport with both your current and potential customers.

In terms of blogs improving your online ranking, they allow you to create various unique keyword-focused URLs, content to share on social platforms, plus they drive traffic back to your website and feature your keywords that help with organic searches.

As a general rule, keep blogs to around 750 to 2,000 words, focus on one keyword for each blog, include relevant images and include a couple of internal links.  

External linking

External linking refers to websites of authority that link back to your website. Like online directories, they help boost your online presence and show Google that your website is one that should be referred to on a particular topic. However, gone are the days where you would just make various postings on article sites thinking that will do the job.

Today, it's about reaching out to relevant bloggers and online publications. A good idea could be to submit a guest post to some nonprofit and high-quality websites. Having trusted sites linking back to your website also increases your overall business credibility and helps you stand out as an expert in your field. 

Website optimization

If you already have a website, do you know if it has been optimized? Whether you built it yourself or you had a service create it, having a website that has been correctly set up is crucial. It is the backbone of your strategy, and you need this to ensure that future tactics don't go to waste.

The basics to optimizing a website are to ensure that each page has the following:

  • Correctly placed headings, e.g., H1, H2, etc.
  • Keyword-focused meta descriptions
  • Keyword-focused alt tags
  • Keyword-focused URLs

If you are unsure, have an SEO company audit your website and fix any gaps, if required.

Analysis

A good strategy requires analysis. An ideal way to do this is to use a keyword-ranking tool. There are various online tools that allow you to input your keywords into their system, and it will tell you how your website is ranking for these keywords. If you do this every month, you'll have a clear overview of your progress.

Also, take a look at Google Analytics each month. Specifically, look at your bounce rate, traffic volume and top pages. This will give you an insight into how your strategy is progressing and flag any concerns. Take a look at the type of traffic you are receiving and where it is coming from. Google Analytics will tell you whether it is organic, referral or social traffic. 

Look at your resources

Now that you have the core ingredients to your SEO strategy mapped out, it's time to look at resources and who will actually get the work done.

A big difference between small businesses and larger companies is that resources are often limited, and this includes staff. Any type of business marketing takes time. If you are a solopreneur, then being the CEO, sales person, accountant and marketer can be a lot to take on. Also, an online strategy is one of those marketing activities that take time.

Unlike other marketing activities, such as an advertisement in a magazine, where you normally agree to a price and have the publication's in-house designer do the ad for you, SEO is one that involves research, content-writing and analysis.

Who will manage keyword selection? Who will write regular content? Sorting out your project plan is important before embarking on the actual tasks. If you have limited staff, how can you make room for an online strategy?

Look at what you can realistically take on yourself. Also, are there certain jobs where you might be the best person to handle these? For example, keyword selection is a job that a small business owner might like to work closely with. After all, they are the ones who know their target market the best. Although there are keyword tools to help you, you will know which keywords are not be best suited for your business.

Also, you don't need to hire more internal staff for your strategy. You can outsource elements of your work. Look at the tasks that will take the most amount of time to complete. One of these is typically content writing. Outsourcing content, such as text for landing pages and blogs, can allow your strategy to run on autopilot in the background while you get on with operating your business.

Also, external linking can be time-consuming. Most business owners may not be familiar with high-ranking websites that will link back to their content. Finding an SEO expert that has the connections to implement these strategies, as well as monitor campaigns, will save you a lot of research time.

Depending on your skillset and time, setting up one-off activities, such as online directories and a Google Business page, might be a task you feel you can take on yourself or perhaps delegate to another staff member that looks after administration.

Once you have these elements as part of your plan, then you have a strong and scalable strategy for your small business. Just remember to include keywords, directories, blogs, external linking, website optimization, analysis and resources.

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