SEO for Small Business: Easy SEO Strategies to Get Your Website Discovered on Google (2015)
Chapter 1. WHAT SEO CAN (AND CAN’T) DO FOR YOU (AND YOUR BUSINESS)
Optimization is beneficial for all kinds of sites, from e-commerce to personal interest blogs to niche sites. A well-thought-out and expertly executed strategy will also help build your brand, both on and off the Web. It’s a lot of work to understand SEO’s core concepts, as well as identify your goals and formulate a strategy that will move you forward, but it’s worth it. Your SEO goals will likely involve considering the needs of your target market or audience, finding out how to write for those individuals, and understanding your competition. All of these factors will provide insight into how to best optimize your pages.
THE RANGE OF POSSIBILITIES
To set goals and initiate a strategy, you must first consider what a well-executed SEO has to offer you. Some major benefits include increased site traffic that leads to strong positioning in search results, and greater potential for marketing opportunities and brand development. What SEO can’t do is skyrocket your site to instant search engine success with only a few keywords and backlinks.
E-COMMERCE AND MARKETING
For small business owners, a solid SEO strategy offers a great opportunity to build a customer base by marketing your products or services to a wide audience. It serves as its own type of advertising, having the potential to reach millions of consumers worldwide, while a local television commercial might only be seen by a few thousand people in your immediate area.
Businesses can leverage this traffic for customer acquisition, branding, and direct sales, which can directly increase revenue. SEO marketing also has a cumulative effect on how many people are drawn to your site. If your content is solid, users will see you as a trustworthy or authoritative source, and will return to your website and share it with others. The more people that shop with you, for example, the higher your site will rise in rankings, and the more customers you will attract.
Smart SEO that contributes to increased site traffic also enables entrepreneurs to conduct research on the wants and needs of their customers, including:
•What products from your site do people share most often on social media?
•What are they linking to from your site in their own media?
•Is one type of product receiving more attention than another?
•If you also offer your products in brick and mortar storefronts, are there any differences between what your online customers purchase and what your customers buy in your physical store?
The answers to these questions can help direct which products or services you focus on, and can serve as valuable market research that will help your business become more profitable.
SPREADING A MESSAGE
There are many sites devoted simply to being informative, spreading a message, or gathering the support of a specific community. Hobby sites, blogs, and people or groups looking to disseminate ideas or information about a topic can, like business owners, experience tremendous benefits from improving search engine rankings. The more people you can reach, the more likely you will be to reach your target audience and win their favor.
Political movements, such as the Arab Spring, have been built around bringing people together online, through social media sharing done at lightning-fast speed. These changes in the way people unite have also been heavily influenced by the establishment of online communities and niche interest sites.
Building a community depends on access to easily searchable websites that are filled with useful, relevant information. If users recognize a reliable site, they are more likely to backlink to it, creating pathways to that information from other locations (a concept we will talk more abouthere). Individuals who are passionate about a subject will feel a personal, ideological connection to the sort of well-written site content, with strategically placed keywords, that Google’s algorithms are also designed to pick up on.
Appealing to a target audience plays a major role in branding. Most of us, even individuals who’ve never worked in sales or marketing, are somewhat familiar with this concept. If you’ve ever found yourself humming a catchy jingle from a radio or TV advertisement, you’ve encountered branding, the process of building an official identity for a company, group, or individual, which creates a positive, memorable image in the mind of a consumer or supporter.
Thoughtful, ethical use of SEO can help with branding efforts. As you learn what your customers, followers, and supporters want to see, buy, or identify with, you will be able to tailor the keywords and phrases in your website’s copy to correspond with the words those people are most likely to search for. In addition to making your site more appealing to spiders, keywords that relate to certain groups will dial in your “brand voice.” Those reading your site should be able to strongly identify with your message, product, or service. Some would argue that keywords are the core of SEO writing and content strategy.
SETTING YOUR GOALS
With the multitude of benefits offered by SEO, it’s up to you to decide which ones to concentrate on to improve your website. When you are thinking about developing an SEO strategy, here are some questions to consider:
•Why did you build your site? Was it personal interest or professional need?
•What niche group does it appeal to? Are you an activist looking to garner the support of others around a specific cause? Are you a small business advertising services in your town?
•What do you need? More customers, more supporters? To build your “brand” as a blogger or a company?
The answers to these questions will not only enable you to better understand your target market or audience, but also help you formulate fresh content to entice these users to come back. It will also give you ideas for new blog posts or page topics—Google favors volume, and many repeat visitors are a great indicator of an authoritative site.
SEO is a powerful tool, and, like any other marketing strategy, must be built around an understanding of your services, products, competitive landscape, and branding. When thinking about your goals for SEO, consider the following:
How will increased traffic benefit your website? It may help you share an idea with people, to raise awareness—or it could draw customers to your e-commerce site to boost business. Increased traffic can also generate revenue if you use an ad program (such as Google AdWords) or a pay-per-click service, which will pay you for every click to your website.
Who are you looking to draw to your site? Your SEO strategy can be tailored to specifically reach the people you want to engage. You can brand your site to match the needs of your target audience, establishing yourself as a trustworthy source that they will refer back to and share with others.
If you opt in to a pay-per-click service, a company places an ad on your site. For each user who clicks on that ad, the company pays you. Google AdWords is an online advertising resource that places ads on websites, and also at the top or side of Google SERPs. AdWords offers a variety of tools, including assistance with identifying keywords.
How can you get a leg up on your competition? Whatever your motivation, goals, and needs, you will also have to consider where you currently stand in your market and what your online competition is like. The greater your competition, or the more successful sites that exist with your same message, goals, or product/service, the more time and energy you will likely need to invest in creating useful, relevant content that stands out from the crowd.
BUILDING YOUR REPUTATION
How can you establish your site as an authority? Building backlinks or inbound links—links from the sites of others that lead back to your own site—is a contributing factor in gaining high search engine rankings. There are several simple strategies to help you build a catalogue of backlinks and meet your SEO goals in an ethical way.
•Social media: If you already have a large, active pool of followers on social media, it’s safe to assume that many of these people will be eager to interact with your new site, quickly increasing its perceived value. As Internet users link and share information from pages, a natural network of back-links is created.
•Guest blogging: Guest blogging means contributing your own content, in the form of editorial columns or commentary, to other people’s sites.
•Never underestimate the power of valuable content: Users will always want to link to useful, relevant, and informative content on sites that are easy to read and navigate.