Build a sound SEO strategy following these six steps.
For entrepreneurs and small businesses, balancing myriad tasks as they scale their business, SEO is often put on the back burner. However, SEO is a critical ingredient to scaling growth, and can pay dividends: Successful search optimization helps increase web traffic and brand visibility, leading to broader reach, sales opportunities, and revenue.
If SEO shouldn't be ignored, how can busy small businesses reap the benefits despite limited time and resources? I recommend six SEO-building tactics, which are discussed in more detail below.
1. Maximize your technical SEO.
Technical SEO is the art of ensuring that search engine crawlers can successfully read and index your site. Key factors in technical SEO include making sure that your site's pages load quickly, all links are functional and that the site has effective security measures in place.
Technical SEO is foundational to overall SEO; in order for high-quality creative content to reach the audience it deserves, your site's fundamentals must be in good working order.
If your small business has engineering resources available, more technical aspects of your site (such as security updates, data structuring and optimizing pages for speed) should be put in the hands of those experts.
Additional technical SEO techniques to utilize – which don't require a technical background – include:
- Create a site map to submit to Google. Available tools, such as the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress and others, can automatically generate a site map and keep it up to date as you add new pages and content. You can then use the free Google Search Console service to submit your site map to Google, which, in turn, tells Google's web crawlers how to index your content.
- Remove older pages with poor performance. Poorly performing pages with few visitors bring down your search rankings across the board – don't be afraid to cut them loose.
- Fix broken and outdated links. Fixing links improves search engine crawlers' assessments of your site, and, at the same time, improves your user experience. Also worth noting: A study by Reboot Online Marketing determined that Google's ranking algorithm favors sites that provide visitors with outbound links to respected, high-authority sites.
- Optimize images. Use images relevant to your content, include appropriate captions, and add a description of the image in the "alt text."
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2. Maximize local SEO.
Google has adapted its search algorithm to deliver local results when the searcher is deemed to be looking for close-to-home options. For example, Google now provides local options at the top of the page for searches such as "restaurants." This shift is very much in line with users' needs: On mobile devices, almost one-third of searches are now location-based. Small businesses have an outsized opportunity to benefit by focusing on local SEO.
You will want to set up and maintain a free Google My Business profile for your small business. Be thorough in filling out your business information, which will appear in Google search results.
Listing your business with Google also enables customers to leave reviews, which you can and should respond to. By engaging with reviews, you can build your digital reputation and establish a loyal community of customers. Google My Business also provides a question-and-answer section, which you should also take advantage of to proactively handle inquires your potential customers may have.
Going beyond Google, you can further grow your local SEO (without too much effort) and reach new audiences by registering your business with other directories of local businesses, including Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the Yellow Pages.
3. Discover the keywords your ideal customer searches for.
To create content that speaks directly to the needs of your intended audience – and to target the optimal search keywords for reaching that audience – it's a huge advantage to know what keywords your ideal customers are actually searching for. For busy entrepreneurs and small businesses, there are many tools available to both accelerate and simplify keyword research.
One easy technique is to use Google autocomplete. Start typing a relevant keyword in the search bar, and Google will offer suggestions for the most commonly searched phrases that include that keyword.
From this simple research, you can develop site content. Be sure to understand the search intent behind the keyword searches you build content around and to target a single keyword with each piece of content.
4. Maximize on-page SEO.
When it comes to optimizing the impact of your content, ensure that it focuses on target keywords (with one primary keyword per page) and is optimized to increase the odds of your pages being included in search results.
Best practices include:
- Optimized page titles and headlines. The headline you choose for any piece of content can have a major impact on its achieved click-through rate (the percentage of those who view the headline that then click on it), which, in turn, influences the content's rankings on search engine results pages. It's well worth taking the time to come up with something catchy. To make sure the page title is fully displayed in search results, keep it under 60 characters.
- Optimized header tags. Use headers for each section within your content pieces to keep them organized and easy to digest for your audience; this will also improve your time-on-site metrics. You also want to include relevant keywords in these headers.
- Optimized meta tags. Meta tags describe your content so that search engine crawlers understand what it's about. Including relevant keywords and descriptions in your meta tags can ensure that crawlers know what they're seeing, which helps boost SEO.
While the time and effort commitment on this tactic should be relatively low, you'll still want to develop a plan as to which pages should be prioritized for optimization.
5. Practice efficient content marketing.
To efficiently succeed at content marketing as a busy entrepreneur or time-strapped small business, leverage these techniques:
- Use templates. Using the same format for different articles and landing pages saves you time and effort while still yielding high-quality content.
- Make videos. Video content is easier to consume. Consumers often prefer it, making the format a win-win for both busy entrepreneurs and potential customers. Wistia is a tool you can use to optimize videos for SEO.
- Take advantage of social media and other channels. Make sure your content has reach beyond organic search: share it across social channels, as well as further relevant distribution channels. Reddit can be a particularly strong option, with attentive audiences for niche interests for you to put your content in front of.
6. Pursue backlinks to establish your site's authority.
Google's algorithm values the quantity and quality of sites that link to your own in assessing the authority and importance of your site. In fact, research indicates that backlink quantity correlates with high search rankings more than any other factor.
To earn backlinks efficiently, execute an outreach strategy by creating a list of potential contacts, including media, blogs, noncompetitive businesses, and other influential sites that you can approach with news, offers to exchange guest posts, and similar tactics. Tools for identifying where competitors earn their backlinks are also useful in quickly expanding your list of targets.
By putting these six tactics into action, entrepreneurs and small businesses can find that a little effort can go a long way toward making SEO a key pillar of their growth strategy.