SEO is an important tool all SMBs should consider. Search lets you be visible to potential customers when they are looking for a solution you provide.
8 out of every 10 people use search to find information about a product or service. Google accounts for over 70% of the searches. Bing and Baidu (Chinese) account for about 10% each. Therefore, unless you have a significant amount of business in China, Google is the key search engine when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO)
This type of free advertising is invaluable, but it can be very hard to achieve. However, there are techniques you can use to improve your ranking and visibility over time.
71% of all the click volume on any given search happens on the first page. In fact, the top 5 search engine results pages (SERPs) account for 68% of the clicks. The drop-off is steep the further down you go.
Search exists so that it can provide timely, relevant, and user-friendly results to queries. If they did not do that well, a user would look elsewhere to find the information.
To do this, each search engine has a program, often referred to as a bot, whose main job is to discover new pages, analyze them, index them. The bot analyzes each page and derives a score for that page based on its algorithm. This algorithm has a mix of factors or signals.
Then, when the engine receives a query, the search engine goes to the related index(-es) and provides a list to the user where the SERPs are listed in ranked order based on their perceived relevance to the query.
There are 3 types of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical. On-page SEO is what most people think about when asked what is SEO. On-page SEO, as it is named, focuses on the quality and uniqueness of the content and its keyword usage. It also includes metrics on user experience (UX). For example, it considers page speed, bounce rate, dwell time, among others. There are too many specifics to go into detail on each one. If you are interested in a how-to-guide to SEO, we suggest our eBook.
Off-page SEO, as the name suggests, covers the activities that happen outside your site to raise its online authority regarding the keywords most associated with your brand. Link building has historically been the most common way to build authority.
It is easiest to think of links as votes. One site is indicating that they find your site to be a source of credible information about a certain keyword. This keyword is often called the anchor text. This is the text which is highlighted as the link. This is why it is very important to try to have descriptive links as part of your link building strategy. There is more to off-page SEO than just link building if you would like to delve more deeply into the subject. We suggest.
Technical SEO, as the name implies, ensures you have a strong structural foundation that makes it easier for bots to do their job. There is a significant amount of coding needed. Therefore, the two easiest things that a small to medium-sized business can do is to ensure that your robot.txt is set-up properly and that you have a sitemap in XML.
The importance of SEO to small businesses and large should not be overlooked. SEO does require time and effort. It is not a program that can be put on autopilot. It is a process that can be successful where certain best practices are followed consistently.
This is arguably the hardest part of SEO. Selecting the right keywords to target requires both analytics and judgment. At the crux, keyword strategy requires you to think like your customers. How would they search for your product or service? It’s not always obvious.
Keyword strategy is linked closely to your brand strategy. Both require you to gain insight into what motivates your target to act. Behind every motivation, there is at least one need that is unfulfilled. Understanding that need, and what questions a person might ask to help solve that need, is very important in building your keyword strategy.
Luckily, most brands have competition. Therefore, a good place to start is to see which keywords your competitors are ranking highly. This can provide some insight into how your potential customers might be searching for you.
There are two models that we will cover that can help you with your keyword strategy. The first is the audience stages model. This simple model divides the action of search into four steps that align with the audience’s intent.
Therefore, you need to choose where in the audience model you want to engage. For large businesses, they may want to engage in all steps. For small businesses, they may choose to engage a little further down.
Lastly, we have keyword mapping. As the name implies, this step is where you map each keyword to a given page. This is to ensure that different pages on your site are competing against themselves. This type of competition is called keyword cannibalization. Small to mid-sized businesses cannot afford to waste effort. Therefore, this is a good practice to avoid waste.
Local SEO is a powerful tool for local businesses, as well as, mid-sized businesses with multiple locations. Several years ago, Google updated its algorithm to improve the performance of local businesses in search. If you are a local business, you should learn how to use this to your advantage.
Most cities and towns have local directories that list local businesses in the area. You are going to want to make sure that your business is listed correctly for your top keywords. It’s a great way to get backlinks. Plus, it’s a strong signal to Google that you are a legit local business.
Google My Business is one of Google’s best products for local businesses. Historically, this has been a free service. However, there are rumors that Google may be planning on converting this to a paid service in the future. Therefore, if you haven’t claimed your business, it would be a good idea to do it soon.
There are three key elements that need to be consistent across all your listings. These are the company name, address, and phone number. You will want to check your listings to ensure that everything is accurate.
Finally, there is community involvement. These are strong signals that the business is linked to the local community. Contests are one option. Every city has a “best of” competition. You’ll want to look for your “best of [broad keyword]” and enter. Even if you don’t win you might get a mention or link.
Sponsorships are another good way to show a tie back to the local community. Many nonprofits have a link of sponsors and benefactors. These aren’t as strong as they are sometimes viewed as paid links, but not always.
Local news, in my opinion, is an often overlooked tactic for building both community awareness and quality links. Local news supports local business, so try to develop a local interest story that you can pitch to a local news outlet. They are often looking for leads for stories that their audience might find interesting.
Lastly, we have reviews. Review sites are local by nature. They are generally tied to town, city, or neighborhood. Local reviews can also be a powerful signal to Google regarding your local business.
Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkenIn profile
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