Every year SEO gets more complicated as Google rolls out updates and changes the rules. This is especially frustrating for small business owners who don't have the time or resources to stay current in, what they believe to be, an esoteric and confusing industry.
Here are seven small business SEO tips to help earn more business through traditional organic search rankings.
1. Onsite SEO is Necessary But Not Sufficient
Yes, optimizing title tags, site structure (keep it flat) and load-speed are important. Many experiments have shown these elements are in the Google algorithm.
Don’t obsess. Hire someone to run an assessment and tune up the site; then move-on. Far too many small businesses get stuck at the starting line.
2. Website Content & Experience Are Critical
We have all read that “content is king,” but what does that really mean?
Your website must have engaging content for the end-user. The importance of this can’t be overstated. It will impact time-on-site, conversion and SEO (engaging content is more likely to be shared and linked to).
It is also critical because it orients the small business webmaster towards offering something of value. Thin content leaves a bad footprint, both onsite and offsite.
3. Use Content Marketing to Earn Backlinks
Most small business owners are savvy enough to know that 70 percent of their search engine rankings are the result of backlinks. Being a pragmatic bunch, they then ask “where can I buy some?”
Don’t buy backlinks - it also leaves a bad footprint.
Small business marketers need to earn links, and content marketing is extremely effective for gaining earned links. The trick is in the trade. Something of value must be offered.
Quality content containing humor, information, controversy, politics or training usually brings backlinks - and is definitely considered acceptable SEO.
4. Know Your Backlink Profile
There has been healthy debate recently about the changing role of anchor text in the Google algorithm. Even if the importance is fading, it is clearly still a factor.
Small businesses should know their backlink profiles. A lack of branded anchors and brand mentions is a clear signal of manipulation, and therefore a rank killer.
Healthy businesses market their brands through press releases and are discussed in forums by name. This all leaves a good footprint.
Co-citation is also a sign of a natural backlink profile. Strong companies are mentioned in the same paragraph as other strong brands.
Articles with a single anchored link to a website with low domain authority sticks out like a sore thumb. Google can spot these insubstantial articles and weighs the links accordingly, or worse. Read about the Penguin update for more.
5. Create Buzz Through Community Building
While the term link bait is perhaps overused, it is considered an acceptable activity by Google. This is because the activity is aimed toward creating a positive end-user experience.
Without a community element, link baiting is hard to distinguish from content marketing. Developing a community (best if done onsite) is perhaps the best link bait of all because the community starts to develop the content in ways no SEO consultant could ever think of.
This is truly organic, extremely natural, and helps SEO. Read up on Latent Semantic Indexing if this concept is confusing.
6. Quality Over Quantity
It is tempting to fall for the email solicitations for large quantities of inexpensive links. But we all know where that got JCPenney.
The SEO industry isn't like the automobile industry, where automation is praised as a gain in efficiency. Automation in SEO is bad because Google says it is. They believe it results in a poorer end-user experience, an argument that has merit.
Small businesses may not like this rule, but they do need to respect it if they want to see increases in rankings.
7. Review the SEO Reports
Small business owners are busy, but that is no excuse for not knowing what the SEO consultant is doing. It's important to digest the monthly reports for a couple of reasons:
- The results should be moving in the right direction. Don’t expect miracles, just monthly progress.
- The monthly reports should demonstrate that the SEO team is executing with a disciplined process. Small business should not foot the bill for experiments. There is enough risk facing small business owners already.
Google is a computer, largely, and needs to be thought of as such. The major elements in the algorithm are fairly well understood.
While it's true that updates are frequent and the rules of the game do shift, the major elements of onsite SEO and backlinks have been the fuel for better rankings for years. Follow these seven small business SEO tips to earn better rankings and build a community around your brand. And ignore the rest as noise.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!