It’s time to stop pretending that search engine optimization (SEO) is only for large corporations. Search engines don’t just favor big and beautiful websites. They favor a quality website user experience with great content. Even a business owner like you can do that!
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
SEO is a marketing strategy that helps your customers and potential customers find your businesses’ website when they type in keywords related to your business into search engines, whether that’s Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
Search engines rank all the web pages on the internet (that’s your competitors’ websites!) are being ranked against yours. (Generally speaking, you’ll have similar keywords across both sites and thus, rank similarly) For example, if your business is a legal firm, other legal firms in your city (and the surrounding area) will be your competitors on a search engine. Your competitors will have content with keyword phrases like, “affordable lawyers in [your city],” categorizing them into the same bucket within a search engine.
How can you get ahead of the SEO game?
You need to build a site that has a solid foundation, with the right optimized keywords. Highlighting these keywords within unique and robust content is the first step to ranking higher on a search engine, driving more traffic to your site, and generating more sales.
Can you do SEO for your own business?
It may sound a little technical at first, but you can do quite a lot for your own SEO to achieve great results from engines like Google. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of it.
Remember, the key is not to be alarmed with the technical jargon. These are simple concepts, and if you work through them carefully, you’ll start to see each puzzle piece come together pretty neatly.
SEO terms and their impact
The process of a search engine being able to discover your web pages.
Fresh, relevant, valuable content that is released regularly to customers across your website and social media platforms. This includes updating existing web pages regularly.
Words or phrases that a user types into a search engine that describes a product or service you provide.
How well your website/platform works. This includes page load time, responsiveness (how well it works on mobile), and how easy the site is to navigate.
Content to share
This is related to quality content we just spoke about but includes internal or “inbound links” and citations and outbound links. An example would be social media sharing links.
Each content piece should have tiered titles – H1 is the most significant and most relevant, H2, slightly more detailed, and H3 and H4 are longer-strung statements. Each title should include keywords and help structure URLs.
The title and description preview that a search engine shows on a results page.
There are many more terms that you will come across in SEO, but these are the main terms that will help your business get started simply and effectively. Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and co-founder of SparkToro, created his own “SEO version” of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which he calls “Mozlow’s hierarchy of SEO needs.” Take a look to view these terms in a tiered diagram.
Top tips to get your SEO kick-started
1. Get your foundation right
The user experience is an integral part of ranking higher on search engines. Make sure your website is responsive (it looks great and flows well on all devices — desktops, tablets, phones, phablets, heck, even pigeon carriers!), and you have an easy-to-navigate menu.
What you should do
Include your offerings on your home page, as well as your location and your unique selling points. This way, the user can immediately see what you have to offer. Make sure your website has good visuals, but not large ones, as it will affect the site speed (time taken for your website to load). Use proper headings with clean, simple language. Your audience doesn’t want to pull out the thesaurus every time they read something on your site. Lastly, set up your analytics correctly. Google offers Google Analytics a free platform that measures your website traffic, conversions, bounce rates, and a lot more. By knowing who is coming to your site, to from where, to which pages, and for how long, you know what to improve on.
2. Research and use the right keywords
Businesses often have so many insider phrases or terms that their consumers aren’t even aware of, often industry terms not used in casual conversation. Consumers will use simple language in a search engine. If you are selling electronics, a user is more likely to search, “best cheap TV for sale” rather than “edge-lit LED with backlighting television for sale.” Though if you specialize in a niche industry with clued-in customers, then maybe ranking higher for certain technical terms might work for you.
What you should do
Make a list of 20 to 40 keywords to start. These can be short keywords, like “TV for sale,” or what we call “long-tailed keywords”, which is a string of keywords tied together like, “cheap TV for sale in [location].” Start incorporating keywords into your pages, titles, and URLs to ensure search engines can “crawl” your website efficiently. Check out Google Keyword Planner to help you formulate some effective keywords.
3. Capitalize on your uniqueness
As you well know, your competitors are trying to get your customer’s attention as much as you are. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity to share what makes you unique. Maybe you’re located somewhere convenient. Maybe you have a uniquely premium and sought-after product (local produce or certain B2B industries). Maybe you offer extended warranties. No matter how small you think a feature or benefit may be, it’s essential to infiltrate it into your website to stand out.
What you should do
If the budget allows, start a pay-per-click campaign. You may also remember Google Adwords. Google will place your link near the top of their search engine, and charge you a certain amount, depending on your bid, when a user clicks on that ad. You’ll rank higher on Google and get more easily seen by searchers. Here’s an example of a Google Ad:
4. Produce quality content
Keywords are vital to SEO, but that doesn’t mean you should be sprinkling keywords willy-nilly throughout your website without adding context or checking for quality. Search engines consider what your users first find most valuable and trustworthy. Include reputable links from solid sources, as search engines look for reputability when ranking sites. Use inbound links (links from one page in your website to another) and outbound links (links to reputable sites related to your content). The goal is for legitimate websites to link back to you.
Pipedrive, a sales CRM (customer relationship management) platform, is a fantastic case study on nailing your SEO. Their competitors, including large business sites, strategists, and sales trainers, were already producing sales-focused content.
They managed to rank number 1 for a high-volume keyword, “sales management,” in under three months! By selecting the right topic/keywords (and including related keywords where they made sense, like “sales management definition” or “sales management process,” it made it clear to Google that their content covered exactly what users were searching for. Combined with high-quality content, internal and outbound linking, and encouraging others to link to their content, they were able to make themselves extremely relevant and snag a coveted top spot on Google. You can read more about their SEO strategy here.
What you should do
Share educational content about your products, service, or industry. People like to read about real stories and connect personally with brands. Get ready to have a conversation with customers – the more they trust your brand, the more they’ll keep coming back.
That’s a wrap!
So there you have it. Yes, SEO can be daunting and sound very technical, but you can start with a great user experience and focusing on a few keywords or phrases (supported by great content and supporting links) to get search engines excited about your website. Continue to create compelling content and structure your website correctly and you’ll reap those sweet, sweet SEO rewards. The best part about SEO? Once you’ve nailed it, it compounds over time — and doesn’t cost you a cent.
Watch out for more SEO tips for small businesses coming to Phlywheel soon!