With the cost of advertising going through the roof, small businesses are struggling to keep up with such a competitive field. Generally, it’s recommended to spend around 8% of your revenue on marketing, but is it really necessary to spend that much?
In the short term, it might be. However, for businesses seeking a “light at the end of the tunnel” where they can ease up on these expenses, you’ll have to turn to other solutions like organic traffic.
Luckily, we can help with that. Let’s talk about small business SEO and how to build organic traffic for your business this year!
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of altering or building your website’s content under the guidelines of search engines like Google. Doing so can help your website rank for relevant searches from your target audience.
Google uses “crawlers” to crawl and index billions of web pages every day, and they rank them for various keywords that people search for. They then use a few other factors from the user searching and the websites that match these keywords to determine their order. This is why you don’t see digital marketing agencies when you search for “ice cream near me”.
Well, showing up at the top of a Google search has some serious benefits. The difference between the bottom of the first page and the top of the second page is enormous in terms of drawing traffic, so websites have to compete with each other to optimize their content for these searches. So, is it worth the effort?
Benefits of SEO
SEO is unlike any other digital marketing strategy, especially paid ads. Sure, it takes some time to build the strategy, but once it’s up and running, you can reap the rewards for years to come with minimal upkeep. There’s little to no need for additional expenses.
Once the content is on your website, you won’t need to spend an extra dime, regardless of how much organic traffic it brings in. Also, organic traffic is simply superior to paid traffic. Think about it.
When you search on Google, how often do you skip over the search ads in favor of the organic results? Most people do, as they trust these results more. If your users start their journeys on an initial note of trust, this can lead to higher conversion rates, user retention, and brand loyalty down the road.
Finally, one of the best benefits is the lack of competition. While SEO is certainly a buzzword in the marketing world, 70% of businesses still don’t have an SEO strategy, making it much easier to get ahead now than it ever will be!
Small Business SEO Basics
Before we discuss how to use SEO in your marketing strategy, there are some important fundamentals you need to know. Here are the main pillars of a small business SEO strategy.
Keywords are a foundational pillar of your SEO strategy, so don’t neglect your keyword research. Google uses keywords to match users with the right content, and if those keywords aren’t present in your website’s content, how will Google know to rank you?
Ideally, you want to diversify your keyword strategy as much as possible, especially with both long-tail and short-tail keywords. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, short-tail keywords are the obvious ones in any industry that you would want to rank for. For example, it would be a major boon to a car dealership to rank for the keyword “used car”.
However, for a local dealership to compete with industry giants like KBB, Edmunds, and others, it would be an uphill battle. That’s why you should think of short-tail keywords as a long-term goal.
In the meantime, focus on diversifying your long-tail keywords. These may have less search volume, but they also have significantly less competition standing in your way. Look for keywords with the highest possible search volume and the lowest relative competition for the best results.
Most small businesses primarily rely on local traffic and customers to stay in business. Certainly not all, but most.
If you rely heavily on local business, then it’s important to use local SEO principles to maximize your local traffic. For starters, using location-specific keywords can go a long way. When users search for keywords like “pizza shop” or “dry cleaners”, search engines assume their intent is to find nearby locations, so they use location as a ranking factor.
For that reason, it’s important to use keywords that end with terms like “in LA” or “near me”. On top of that, be as clear and consistent as possible both on your website and off (social media, business profiles, directories, etc.) about your location and contact information. This will help confirm your location to Google.
Finally, if you have an established place of business like a store or office, add it to Google Maps and other popular GPS systems. This is another great way to boost organic traffic and a local customer base.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors specifically regarding the quality of your website. Without a strong website, you’re building a house on a broken foundation.
The reason for this is simple; if search engines were constantly promoting low-quality sites to their users, it would reflect poorly on their service. A modern website will go a long way toward helping you stand out in the long run!
Google’s algorithm is excellent at a lot of things, but it can’t instantly fact-check everything it indexes. How would it know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? There is simply too much conflicting information online for this to be a feasible approach to indexing.
For this reason, one of the most important aspects of off-page ranking is backlinks or the links from other sites to yours. These act as a vote in your website’s favor, establishing authority or credibility. The more authority and relevance that site has, the more authority it will offer your site.
Sites that have a lot of backlinks have a huge leg up on the competition. If you started a new blog and wrote the most comprehensive and informative article in the world about an upcoming election, a much less informative article from the New York Times is likely to rank ahead of you. They receive links every day from news outlets around the world with high domain authority, giving them an enormous advantage.
Fortunately, Google doesn’t expect a new website to have backlinks. However, it’s important to include these in your strategy over time. More on that later.
How to Use Small Business SEO
Now that you understand some of the fundamentals of an SEO strategy, it’s time to discuss implementation. Here are some small business SEO tips to use in your strategy.
Build a Strong Website
Since your strategy relies so heavily upon your website, it’s best to build a good one ahead of time. Most importantly, your website needs to have:
- Mobile-friendly design
- Fast load times
- A clean navigation system
- A clear XML sitemap
- A legible page structure
- The right keywords
- Optimized features (tags, alt attributes, etc.)
The list goes on, but this is enough to get you pretty far! Once your pages are optimized, it’s a lot easier to grow your strategy from there.
Google strongly prioritized mobile-friendly sites, since the majority of web traffic now comes from mobile devices. Ensure that your web pages can fit to different screens seamlessly before publishing any new content.
Also, your bounce rate and loading times will both play a role in your SEO prospects. With slow loading times, your bounce rate will increase, creating a “double whammy” for your strategy. Ensure that your technical SEO is optimized and that you’re not using too many heavy files on your web pages to allow for faster loading times.
Analyze the Competition
If you don’t know what the competition is doing, how will you ever get ahead of them? Without competitor research, you’ll be left running a race in the dark. Fortunately, it’s easy to see where your competition is, even without insider information.
Your competition’s SEO strategy lies entirely in their website, which is available for you to analyze. Simply go to your favorite SEO tool or keyword research tool and input their URL to get a detailed analysis. Some of these tools are free for limited daily use, so take this one step at a time if you want to save money.
From there, scroll through their existing content to generate ideas, and make sure you keep notes! Build a list of keywords and topics that want to compete for that you may have missed out on. This will help you develop new content, learn the industry standards, and understand exactly what you’re competing against.
Create Useful Content
Creating informative, engaging content should be your primary focus. After all, the entire purpose of search engines is to match users with relevant, high-quality content. If you offer that on an optimized website, you’ll eventually see SEO results.
Regardless of the type of content you create (audio, blog, video, etc.), remember that you’re creating it for users, not search engines. Google knows every trick in the book and will eventually catch onto tactics like keyword stuffing, word count inflation, and more. You can beat the system, but not for long.
Once Google penalizes you for quality, the effects could last for a long time, even if you improve your content. We recommend always having something to say when creating content, reviewing your content before publishing, and removing anything that doesn’t serve a purpose to your users.
When reviewing your content, remember to optimize your links, images, and everything else before publishing. This is the only part that is for search engines, as their algorithms rely heavily on context for images, infographics, videos, links, and other features.
Also, be as consistent as possible. Posting weekly is great, but try to post multiple times a week for the best results. SEO takes time to develop, but with the right amount of consistency, you’ll see results as soon as possible.
Directory links and social media links are important for SEO, but they don’t exactly help build domain authority. If you want to get ahead of the competition, you will need a backlink strategy. The sooner you start, the better.
There are many strategies for building backlinks, but they don’t all offer guarantees. You can try reaching out to affiliates for links, offering link exchanges, or buying links. However, paid links will come with penalties if discovered by Google, which they are cracking down on more heavily.
One of the best strategies for building links from other sites is by offering guest posts that link back to your intended page. By offering a quality guest post to a blog with high domain authority, they’re a lot more likely to run it. Blogs are always looking for quality content to post, and they’re often willing to exchange a link for engaging content.
Start Ranking Ahead Today
Now that you have a helpful guide to small business SEO, use it to your advantage. The sooner you put these tips into practice, the sooner you will see results. Just remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint, so do your diligence and keep at it!
Start your small business SEO campaign today and stay up to date with our latest digital marketing news for more information!