If you're a small business owner, you likely implement best practices on a daily basis without being aware of it. Simple tasks such as making sure your books are up-to-date and payroll is done by the right date are just two examples.
The same holds true if you are a small business owner trying to beef up your online marketing efforts. I am referring to how your business is found online (search engine optimization).
As a small business owner, it is possible to take charge of your online presence, and it starts with the three-letter acronym SEO. To produce the best end result, you need to be steadfast in your approach to implementing best practices, which I discuss below.
So, what exactly is SEO and why is it important? In short, SEO is the process of optimizing your website, social media profiles and Google My Business accounts with the proper information so it is more easily found online. This is how new and existing customers find your business online.
Poor SEO affects the bottom line of your business in many ways: If someone is attempting to locate a business in your niche, you run the risk of not showing up in a local search if your site's SEO is not done properly. Your small business could also face an additional problem of showing up in a search query, but on the tenth page – drastically reducing your chances of being noticed by potential customers.
There are three best practices that will improve your overall SEO strategy. This includes on-page SEO, local search optimization and authority/link building.
On-page SEO is the continued optimization of site content and metatags. What SEO elements should you, as a small business owner, use to optimize your website?
For starters, title tags, metadescription tags, content, URLs as well as image alt text. Optimizing these elements often leads website visitors to a good user experience. They also help your small business appear in more relevant searches. The process of optimization takes time, however.
Second, optimize your site's content. When writing new content, conduct keyword research. This is likely one of the most important research tasks you will perform, as it could lead to an increase in business on many fronts.
Keywords are the words you associate with your business. Keywords should be both unique and naturally sprinkled throughout your website. You must not overuse them as this can come off as spammy for Google's algorithm, which measures user experience, relevance and other criteria. You can always improve your use of keywords and target more relevant ones.
Google includes user experience as an element of ranking and will lower or raise your search ranking accordingly. If your content has a misleading title and content that is totally unrelated, you will be penalized.
Optimize for local searches
Optimizing for local search begins with opening a Google My Business account, which lets you add details like your business address, phone number, customer reviews and hours of operation.
Essentially, Google My Business lets small business owners take charge of their online presence by providing tools to update local listings. The platform also enables you to interact with customers from your phone, computer or tablet via its FAQ section.
As a result of its ability to add FAQs, the platform provides small business owners the chance to avoid fielding long calls and emails. Finally, you can view key insights that pertain to your business and searches it has appeared in.
The key to success in this regard is to ensure all of the information you've entered is accurate. Once you make these updates, your business will appear in a local search with the correct details.
When is a local search relevant?
Local search optimization is important when you want to gain the business of new/retain current local customers. One of the most obvious use cases is when someone is traveling and in need of a service. They might perform a search for "best places to eat in Indianapolis." If your site is optimized for local search, you will more than likely appear in the results, and your chances of capturing new business exponentially increase.
When it comes to optimizing your small business website for local searches, don't cut corners. It is free, but it requires a small investment of time. When local search is optimized properly, it pays off in the form of more traffic to your website and physical location over time. There is always the potential for increased sales as well as this is usually a byproduct of good local search optimization.
What's social got to do with it?
Social media optimization is paramount simply because search engines often present social media information in a search query. Optimize many of the same elements you were able to edit when creating your Google My Business account to once more ensure the accuracy of information for those searching.
When a search query is made, all of this information will appear, providing valuable information about your business to the local searcher.
The final component of improving your small business website's SEO is establishing authority. Let's say someone performs a search on "website builders." Although the use of such generic keywords is discouraged, if your business shows up on the first few pages of a Google search for this query, your SEO game is already fairly strong.
This is not the case for most small businesses. There are, however, a few good ways to begin establishing authority.
The process is simple. It is called link building. This is when other credible websites (and I do stress credible) link to content on your website because it is seen as informative and relevant.
Another aspect of link building is sharing your knowledge of small businesses in the form of educational content that appears on outside websites under your byline. The post should include links to your website's insightful content that fits the publication's audience.
Ideally, the publication you write for will match the audience you are targeting in terms of scaling up business. Never expect to see sales from link-building articles. What is most important is the impact on authority.
You should also place links on your site that point to other pages on the site. This alerts Google that your site has not only a solid structure but multiple pieces of relevant content on similar or the same subject matter, which can lead to a better user experience.
Remember, Google considers user experience as a ranking factor when deciding where your page should be placed in a search. Link building or backlinking can be done in three steps:
1. Identify credible and authoritative publications, then select a topic that will provide value to its readers. The topic must also be something that relates to your business but doesn't push a product. For instance, you can provide tips to small business owners who are just starting out.
2. Next, reach out and offer your unique perspective.
3. Follow up if you do not hear back within a few days, it may take several follow-ups, but keep your emails short, sweet and to the point.
The above best practices can put you on the path to small business owner success.
Remember, the process of optimization is ongoing, so make sure to create the best and most informative content you can. Doing so may naturally lead to credible publications beginning to notice and link to your content.
Don't forget about the local searchers – they are an important piece of the puzzle. In most cases, they are willing to spend money on the services they need.