Small Business SEO (search engine optimization) can be a great way to get high-quality, targeted visitors to your website. In this article, I’ll discuss the necessary steps required for any effective small business SEO campaign.
Step 1 – Setting Goals and Objectives
Many people believe (erroneously) that getting a top rank in Google is “the goal” of any small business SEO campaign. Unfortunately, a top rank in Google won’t do much for you if
- no one is searching for those keywords you hope to rank for
- those who do search for those keywords aren’t looking for your product or service
- or if your website isn’t set up to convert those new visitors into subscribers, leads or sales
Every good small business SEO campaign starts with understanding your website goals and who you want to visit your site. Ask yourself these two questions.
- Who is your target audience? – What types of people do you want to visit your site? In other words, who can benefit the most from your products and services? Put yourself in the mind of your visitors – if they are looking for what you sell, what keywords do you need to target, what content do you need to provide, what offer do you need to make to grab their attention?
- What should they do once they get to your site? – Until your visitors take action, they will remain anonymous. Ideally, you’d like your visitors to raise their hands and let you know they are interested in your information, products or services. In other words, you want to generate leads from your website, so to capture their information, they might join your mailing list, download a free report, request a consultation, subscribe to your blog feed, buy your product, etc. How can you make it as easy as possible for them to do that? What would compel them to take that action immediately?
All successful small business SEO campaigns start with understanding the psychology of your target audience. Yes, you know your product or service can help them. But they don’t. They don’t know anything about you – and they aren’t likely to read every page of your site to see if you can potentially help them.
When your visitors click onto your site, they are in control of what content they read – so it’s up to you to design a site that very clearly explains what you can do for them and what the next step is if they are interested in learning more. How can you make it as easy for them as possible to take that action?
Step 2 – Keyword Research
Once you know a bit about your target audience, you start looking at your website the way they would. Your goal in this step is to make sure your website shows up where your target audience is actually looking – not simply where you think they’ll be looking.
Often, what people actually search for when they are ready to buy a product or service is not what you think that might be. They might use different phrases, terminology, or brand names than those you use to describe your products and services. Alternatively, if you pick keywords that are too generic or seem irrelevant to your services, your visitors won’t be as qualified as you’d like.
Keyword research usually starts with a brainstorming session – which keywords do you think are most relevant? You can also look to your competitors’ websites – which keywords do they target.
Make a list of all keywords you may want to rank for, then plug them into the Google Analytics Keyword Tool. This free tool will give you a good approximation of how many people type those keyword into Google each month.
To make the most of this tool,
- Make sure exact match is set on the left side (uncheck broad and phrase match). Exact match shows you the search volume for just that particular keyword, not its variants, misspellings, or related keywords, so it gives you a better indicator of actual traffic you might get to your site if you ranked for that keyword.
- Look at number of local searches, not global. Local searches shows you how many people in your country search for this particular keyword.
Step 3 – On-Page Optimization
Once you know what keywords your target audience is actually searching for, it’s time to evaluate your website for how well it ranks for those keywords. On-page optimization means everything you can do to your website that will influence its rank in search engines. This can include:
- using those keywords in your content, title tags and other HTML tags
- creating more content about those keywords
- linking to pages using those keywords in the link’s anchor text
- making sure visitors can skim your web copy within a few seconds by providing headlines, bullet lists, and bold words
- keeping content up-to-date
- and so forth
Before I get too far, let me stress – concentrate on your visitors first and then worry about search engines. If your site looks like it was written for search engines rather than your visitors, they’ll be able to tell – and will quickly click away.
Never forget the goal of small business SEO – you want visitors to come to your site AND take some sort of action. Conversion is the end goal!
Step 4 – Linking Strategies
On-page SEO will only take you so far. If you are targeting highly competitive search terms, you’ll need to devote considerable effort to getting other quality sites to link to you. Inbound links are a major factor in how search engines rank sites because search engines assume that if other quality sites are linking to you, you must have good content.
Think of it this way – not every site someone wants to be ranked No. 1 on Google for a particular keyword actually deserves that rank. Over the years, webmasters have tried to game search engines by getting as many links as they can without regard to the quality of sites that are actually linking to them. This strategy no longer works anymore.
Now, search engines rank sites based on a number of link-based ranking factors in order to filter out the spammers while promoting the quality sites that do deserve a high ranking. Rather than just look at quantity of links, they look at whether the site linking to you is a relevant, authoritative site that is also considered trustworthy on the web.
What should you be looking for?
- Is the linking site relevant? Search engines give greater weight to links coming from sites that are of a similar nature as yours.
- Is the linking site reputable? Do other websites link out to this site, implicating that this site is an authority on its topic?
- What anchor text does the site use to link to you? Anchor text is the text portion of a link. A link that includes your keywords is better than a link that just includes your site’s title or your URL.
- Where will the link be placed? Links located in the main content of the site are usually weighted more than those in the page footer or near other paid links.
- What type of traffic will the page send your site? – Look for sites with readers who might actually click through to your site rather than just focusing on getting a link back to your site.
A link from a high-quality, relevant site is far more valuable to you than submitting your site to thousands of directory sites or shady sites that will link to anyone.
Step 5 – Measuring Results
Finally, once you’ve implemented your campaign, you must measure and tweak the results.
Where does your site rank for your priority keywords? Are you getting more qualified traffic from those rankings? Are you getting good links from reputable and relevant sites? Are you getting the conversions you want? And specifically, are you getting a good return on your investment?
By following these five steps, you should start to see results from your small business SEO campaign within 30-90 days of implementation, depending on how competitive your keywords are. As you monitor your results and make the necessary changes, you’ll soon find your website ranks well – and converts visitors into subscribers, leads and sales.