It’s 2020 and search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part to every business marketing budget. Whether you’re primarily online or brick-and-mortar, local or national, small, mid, or large in size, it does not matter. 

What matters is that you realize the power behind SEO and that you continually work to improve it.

This year alone, Google has received nearly 2.3 trillion searches. The first five organic results on the first page account for 67.60% of all the clicks. Google’s algorithm uses more than 200 factors to rank websites, but high-quality content and link building are two of the most important factors used by Google to rank your website.

We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to SEO that will show you how to use these two factors and more to help increase your visibility, relevancy and website ranking in search engine results—ultimately increasing your traffic, conversions and sales!

What is SEO?

First, let’s explore exactly what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is. SEO is focused primarily on expanding a company’s visibility in organic search results. It helps a business’s website rank higher in search engine result pages (SERP), driving more traffic to their site and increasing conversions.

In short, SEO drives two things: rankings and visibility.

Rankings is the process used to determine your place on a SERP, and visibility is how prominent your domain is in search engine results. If you have high visibility, your website is ranked higher in SERPs. Lower visibility occurs when you are not ranked as high on the page.

But both are responsible for the main SEO objective: increasing website traffic and conversions.

Is SEO an effective marketing move for your business?

Generally, some form of SEO is a good fit for almost every business. But the real question is what is a, good fit for your marketing goals and budget. Organic search visibility is always important, but it should not be the only digital marketing you do. Many times, PPC advertising can help deliver fast results while you begin SEO, which takes time.

There are a few things we always consider before starting SEO with our clients:

  • Budget. We will examine your budget to help you decide what to spend to compete in your market.
  • Timeline for results. SEO can take many months to see results, especially in competitive markets.
  • Competitors. Some search terms are dominated by the big guys, so it can be hard to compete. We will help you find search terms you can use to your advantage.

How to Maximize SEO to Increase Your Rankings

Ok, so now that we know that the goal in SEO is to increase rankings and visibility in SERP, how do you effectively do this?

You might think it takes professional maneuvering or complicated strategies, but for most small businesses, this is not the case!

For small businesses, the main SEO areas to focus on include the following…

1. Website

Creating a website that is effective for SEO doesn’t mean you have to spend $30-50k. Today, most platforms such as WordPress allow you to easily develop strong technical and optimized websites.

For your website to rank, it needs to do three things:           

  • First, it needs to be recognizable by search engines on the web.
  • Then, the search engines must need to be able to easily scan it to understand topics and identify keywords.
  • Last, it needs to add them to its index, or a database of all the content found on the web. This way the search algorithms can decide where to display your website among other results.

It’s important to remember that search engines don’t see graphics, colors or text with fancy formatting. All they see is the plain text. This is why having a technically optimized website is important!

Important technical factors that impact rankings and visibility include the following…

Website navigation and links

Search engines crawl sites just like you and me. They search pages, follow links and find content to analyze. It’s important to set navigation and links as text-only.

Simple URL structures

Search engines don’t like long phrases with complex structures, so keep URLs short. The URLs should include the main keyword for the page you are optimizing and as few other words as possible.

Dead links and duplicated content

Dead links send visitors to non-existing pages and broken links redirect them to dead ends. Not only does this cause poor user experience on the site but it interferes with search engines indexing your content.

Pages that contain similar or identical content confuse a search engine, making it hard for them to figure out what to display in search results. Duplicate content is viewed as a negative factor and will usually result in search engines displaying none of the pages.

Site speed

The page load time, or time it takes for a user to be able to read a page, is a characteristic that search engines use to indicate the quality of a website. Check out Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool for suggestions on how to improve this so your website is considered high quality.

Once you have an optimized website that is live, don’t forget to set up your Google My Business listing. This free tool helps business owners manage their online presence across Google and helps with SEO. To learn more about this, check out our blog post about how to optimize your GMB listing.

2. Content. 

The first step to developing high-quality, shareable content is to determine your keywords. The real SEO work starts when you can uncover words and phrases that potential buyers enter into search engines. PSC does this by helping to identify terms and topics that relate to your business. Then, we convert them into keywords and research which words and phrases your audience uses.

Finally, we perform keyword optimization to make sure you have keywords in these important places:

  • URL
  • Blog posts and titles
  • In the first paragraph of content on each page
  • Meta-title and meta-description tags
  • Image file names and alt tags

3. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the process of planning, creating and distributing content to reach your target audience. Your content helps to educate your leads, boost conversions, connect with your audience and more.

Two areas of content marketing we help clients with the most are social media marketing and blog content marketing. There are many platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest) and several ways we can create and share social media content so you can connect with your audience. We will map out a social media content calendar as well as detailed posts so you know what to expect and when it will be posted.

Content for your blog can go hand in hand with your social media posts and help with inbound marketing. Blog posts make it easy to share information with your customers and target audience, and to convert prospects into customers, boost brand awareness and build relationships with your audience. The blog is an excellent place to link to your social media pages, piece content together from other areas of your website and link to partners’ websites and products.

4. On-page SEO. 

On page SEO is more than just including keywords in your text on pages. The following also impact your page’s credibility as well:

  • HTML tags: HyperText Markup Language” (HTML) is what tells browsers how to display your website. These tags divide your page up into different sections, formatted in different ways. From an SEO perspective, the most important kinds of tags are:
    • Headers: big, bold letters on websites usually create headers or heading tags. Headings help your visitors find what they need but also help search engines understand your content. Using keywords in headers helps your page rank and are very helpful for small business SEO.
    • Title tags: When a website populates in a search query, the bolder letters at the beginning are the <title> tag. We recommend making your titles and headers different text and shortening the title to 55-60 words so it displays properly in search results.
    • Meta descriptions: A meta description is a short blurb that tells visitors and search engines what your page content is about. In Google, this shows up immediately below the link. A good meta description should be 160 characters or less to fit in search results, contain keywords and be compelling to get readers to click on your link.
  • External links: Links out to other relevant pages on the topic will position your content as a valuable resource online.
  • Internal links: These boost ratings by helping search engines crawl to other pages on your site and show semantic relations between pages. For blogs, we recommend 2-4 internal links per blog post.
  • Content’s length: Longer content usually ranks better because a longer blog post will usually contain more information on a topic.
  • Multimedia: Videos, diagrams, and audio will keep visitors more engaged and on your page longer. This helps convince search engines that your content is valuable.

5. Local SEO

Small businesses need to consider local SEO best practices. Local SEO helps businesses promote products and services to local prospects and customers. When search engines gather information for local searches, they rely on things like local content, social profile pages, links and citations to provide the most relevant results.

Local SEO tips include:

  • Optimizing for Google My Business. Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that helps business owners manage their online presence across Google. With an account, you get more than just a business listing on Google. Your free profile lets you easily connect and communicate with customers across Google Search and Maps. Learn more about how to optimize your GMB listing.
  • Add location pages to your website. If you have more than one location, you’ll want to create location pages. These pages should list your name, address, phone number, store hours, descriptions, parking information, promotions and/or testimonials. Be sure not to duplicate content across these pages. If you have only one location, create a locally descriptive About Us page. It’s also important to add a Google Map to your website on your location page(s).
  • Create local content. You want to truly write content for users, not just search engines. This means when you’re creating content, make sure to focus on local or industry news to attract your local audience.
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6. Backlinks

We’ve mentioned before that your website can’t rank without relevancy and authority. But popularity is also important to search engines to help them prioritize pages that they consider are most relevant to online queries.

Links, or backlinks, are references to your content found on other websites. So, every time someone else links to you or mentions your content, you gain a backlink. Google evaluates the quantity and quality of links that you’re getting to determine your authority.

To improve your SEO, we help clients with link building, or the process of gaining new backlinks. Link building must be done strategically, creatively and with patience. Quality backlinks most often come from editorial or organic links, guest posts or blogs that you publish on third party websites, online profile links and more.

Black Hat SEO

When done correctly you will realize there are no shortcuts in SEO. Beware of online ads or companies that participate in black hat practices, or actions which manipulate search engine algorithms by using techniques such as keyword stuffing (hiding keywords in code for search engines to find) and buying links.

Ranking a website following the correct Google guidelines takes patience, effort and experience, but it will pay off hugely in the long run.

Getting caught participating in black hat SEO will result in your website being completely taken down from search listings, so be cautious of someone suggesting strategies that sound too quick or too good to be true!

Monitoring and Tracking SEO Results

Your website technical development, content and backlinks are all critical to SEO, but keeping track of your efforts and monitoring results is just as important to the future of your website.

SEO is not a one-and-done task. It takes continual measuring, analyzing and improving. Problem Solver’s can help track data about your website traffic, engagement and links, as well as develop SEO key performance indicators (KPIs) for you including:

  • Organic traffic growth
  • Website conversions from organic traffic
  • Web page bounce rates
  • Top performing landing pages
  • Keyword rankings
  • Indexed pages
  • Backlinks growth

Do you need an SEO provider to help?

If you’ve been running a business website, you’re probably already doing some SEO yourself. However, outsourcing this to an SEO provider like Problem Solver’s can usually help generate and improve results more quickly. Most small business owners find it less stressful to let SEO consultants handle the optimizing, while they focus on doing what they do best.

However, there are good resources out there if you want to take a look or perhaps just get familiar with SEO yourself.

SEO Tools for Small Businesses

There are many tools available online that can help you easily begin to optimize your website yourself if you choose. Many have a monthly fee, so be sure to take that into account when you’re comparing prices to a SEO provider.

  1. SEMrush. Our choice for an all-in-one marketing tool. This tool will give you intel on your content, website score, broken links, page titles, meta descriptions, URLs and more. It’s one of our go-to tools at Problem Solver’s. (Disclaimer: if you purchase using the link we may receive a commission. We thank you if you do!)
  2. Moz.com. Moz is a well-rounded SEO tool that helps with keyword research, rank tracking and link analysis. Check out the free 30-day free trial to get started.
  3. Google Search Console. This is free service that helps you monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your website’s presence in Google search results. It gives you diagnostic information about your website, helping you identify areas that you could improve.
  4. Google. This is the easiest, quickest way to find out who your competition is, where they are mentioned and who ranks highest in your industry in search results. Google yourself and your competitors to see what you come up with.
  5. Ubersuggest. This is a keyword research tool that gives you terms and phrases you can use as keywords. You’ll see volume, competitions and even trends for each keyword.

Small Business SEO Checklist

Whether you’re going to tackle SEO yourself, or partnering with us at PSC, we have a general checklist we recommend for all of our small business clients…

  1. Register with Google Search Console
  2. Register with Bing Webmaster Tools
  3. Create or claim your Google My Business listing
  4. Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number, etc.) data is listed properly on all websites like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, YellowPages.com, and more. For an easy way to make sure 65+ sites are correct check out our Listing Management package for small businesses.
  5. Conduct keyword research and organize by page
  6. Test your keywords with PPC
  7. Optimize your page titles and meta descriptions
  8. Add your small business to local directories
  9. Set up social media content calendar or plan

Why Small Businesses Need Smarter SEO Strategies

As a small business, you don’t have the budget and resources to put into marketing like Apple, Microsoft or Coca-Cola do. You probably won’t see huge impacts from one campaign or get backlinks with a single press release either.

However you can, create targeted efficient SEO strategies that focus on your customers. You can prioritize high-value keywords, create valuable content, perform on-page SEO and monitor your results over time to maintain higher rankings on SERPs.

Problem Solver’s is dedicated to helping small businesses achieve greater digital marketing results through SEO.

For more information on how to get started, or to learn about how to improve your current SEO practices with some of our proven Quick Fixes, call us today! We can get started with a power hour discussion to identify where your gaps are in SEO and social media marketing today.

Let our team at Problem Solver’s increase your search visibility, website traffic, conversions and sales with these effective SEO practices and more.

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