Small Business SEO Guide:
The world of Small Business Search Engine Optimization (SEO) seems to change on a regular basis.
It’s like a new computer or the latest smartphone, after a while it becomes outdated and you’ll need a new one.
In this case, you’ll need new strategies and techniques.
In order for you to rank in the current environment, it’s going to take a lot more than JUST backlinks.
There was a time when getting a ton backlinks would have done the trick, however, what you are now faced with is a much more comprehensive search algorithm.
What’s reassuring though is with the new strategies and techniques, you’ll also find that some of the things that have always worked, STILL work today.
Blending content, keywords, and backlinks together, we present you with our Small Business SEO Guide.
1. It All Starts With Content
Now, more than ever, your content truly matters. No longer will spun, regurgitated content stuffed with keywords work.
No, those days are long gone and you WILL be held accountable (or at least your small business site will) for the content you decide to post.
Case study after case study done by various content producers has shown the move towards longer content.
When you really sit and think about it, longer content just makes sense as being MORE valuable. Please understand that this is not always the case, as you can have lengthy content with absolutely NO value.
A study done by SERP IQ took a look at the top ten rankings in the search engines. Their results showed that the top 10 rankings (ALL Top Spots) contained at a minimum 2,000 words of content for that link.
The number one spot came in a shade over 2,450 words and declined as the rankings did. The number ten spot came in a little over 2,000 words.
At the very least, one of the main things you must consider is the length of your content.
Stop Repeating Everyone Else – Have Something to Say
The search engines aren’t stupid. They’ll be able to tell if you actually have something of value to say.
If you are just looking at other small business sites for SEO content, copying what they have to say and re-writing it, then you’ll have some other problems on your hands, besides search engine rankings.
Sure, the things that are said and found in most niches say mostly the same thing, BUT you need to stand out.
It’s like applying for a job. There are A TON of people applying for the SAME job. Most of them have the SAME experience and the SAME backgrounds.
So how does the employer choose?
Well, if you are lucky enough to edge them out with more experience and more education, perhaps that would be the way to go.
However, the even better way to go is to stick out.
How do you do that?
By having something to say.
By not sounding like a parrot.
Having an opinion is not a bad thing, so long as you bring some value to the table.
Plan It Out
Okay, so now that you know you need some longer content, AND have a message and something of value to share, what do you do?
Well, if you are like a lot of people, then you’ll just start writing and creating with no general plan in place.
That’s okay IF you are an extremely talented AND experienced writer.
If you aren’t, then you will need to have a content marketing plan for your business.
How do you do that?
Well, you can start by figuring out what you want your content to accomplish.
For instance, if you want to provide tips on how to get stronger in the gym, then research your competition. What are they saying about this specific topic?
What’s the point of this you ask?
The point of your content is you want to stick out AND have value, right? And you want to rank higher.
So, how do you win and rank higher than someone else?
Common sense says to do it and do it BETTER. Someone once said that in order to stick out in your marketplace and gain more attention and sales, all you need to do is take what’s out there and do it better.
If your competition in the rankings is doing lists of HOW to get stronger then you’ll do the same. If the highest list of tips is 20, then do 30.
Better yet, do 40, 50, or even 100.
If you are struggling to gain weight and get stronger, which one do you think you’ll read?
Which one do you think will get shared more?
The longer, valued filled post OR the shorter one?
Make It Easy On The Eyes
Straight text doesn’t do well on the eyes. What you’ll want to do as you structure out your content is to break it up into readable sections.
Utilize different things like bullet points, bolded words, phrases or even numbered lists to enhance your content.
Here are some things you may want to consider:
- Shorter sentences and paragraphs
- Bullet points
- Bolded words and phrases (especially keywords and phrases)
- Different colors (use sparingly and where appropriate)
Ensure That It’s Appropriate
Make sure that your content is right for your audience. This is extremely important for any small business.
You don’t want to create something geared towards the younger generation using buzzwords that they are familiar with, talking about technology that they all use and general language that they utilize IF your audience is older.
You also don’t want to give them the wrong information.
Wait, that’s common sense, right?
You’d think so. However, I can’t count how many times well-intentioned websites and content creators tried to cross over and it just didn’t work.
For instance, if you are going to a site to learn how to train your dog, then you really don’t want to learn how to train your alligator.
Sounds silly, but think about it.
Website Owner A…
- Is an animal trainer
- Works with animals
- Trains alligators
- Has decades of experience
- Is looking to gain more traffic and site visitors
He creates broad content saying he can help you train any animal, say, even your dog.
You get there, and you are dumbfounded.
Sorry, make it easy on yourself.
Don’t be Website Owner A. Make your content appropriate for your audience.
2. Keywords are Still Important
Here’s the part that many seem to forget – keywords.
Without knowing what your keywords are, how are the search engines supposed to rank your website?
Without knowing what keywords you need so you know what you want your visitors to do, then how do you even know where to start?
Keywords are EXTREMELY important for SEO and content marketing as you begin the process of building out your website.
Keywords are going to help you better understand WHAT words and phrases you will need to focus on for SEO.
Focus on the wrong keywords and you’ll have a bunch of people just “window shopping” on your website.
Focus on the right ones and you’ll find the buyers and not just window shoppers.
Three Quick Ways To Research Keywords
- Go To The Source – Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. All you need to do is open an AdWords account and you’ll be able to access the free keyword research tool to see what search volumes and competition are like. If you have your niche or even a keyword in mind, you can easily enter it to see what else you can find. Here is a video to walk you through how to use the Google Keyword Planner.
- Let Google Figure It Out – Go to Google and type in a few words or even a base keyword phrase. The autocomplete will pop up and attempt to finish your phrase. This lets you see what is related and what people may be searching for AND gives you some added phrases and words to work with for SEO. Towards the bottom of the page you’ll see “Searches related to…” which gives you even more information.
- Read – That’s not a typo. You’ll ACTUALLY have to do some reading. Go to the top ten rankings for your keyword or phrase. See what your competition is writing about. You’ll start to pick up on some things if you are paying attention. You’ll start to see what keywords and phrases other small businesses are using as well as some related ones.
Put It Where It’s Important And Sticks Out
Where should your keyword phrases go?
Anywhere it seems important and sticks out is the common sense answer.
Where are these areas?
- Anchor text
- ALT tags
Don’t Stuff It, Make It Natural
The search engines aren’t stupid. Did we say that already?
Don’t make the mistake of stuffing in keywords and phrases in the hopes that your page or post will rank higher.
It won’t and it will do you and your website more harm than good for getting ranked.
What’s the answer?
Use it where it seems appropriate, where it flows naturally and also use phrases that are naturally related.
To paint this picture, let’s use the keyword phrase “lose weight fast.”
All you need to do is picture a conversation between two people. Let’s pretend the person speaking is the website, while the person listening (You) is the search engine.
Here’s the first version:
“Hey, do you want to lose weight fast. I have lots of ways to teach you how to lose weight fast. To lose weight fast you need to exercise and eat better. If you want to lose weight fast, I can help you.
Here’s the second:
“Are you trying to lose weight fast? If so, there are many different ways I can teach you how you can drop that weight quickly. If you are really bent on wanting to lose those extra pounds, then you’ll need to consider a healthy diet coupled with an exercise program. If you are serious about losing weight, then I’d like to help you.”
Which conversation sounds more natural?
Which one sounds like an actual person is speaking instead of a robot and will keep you interested?
The second has more to do with Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords and phrases, which is more of a fancy way of saying naturally occurring related keywords and phrases.
Yeah, people appreciate that, and so do the search engines.
While you may have the temptation to use multiple keywords and phrases on the same page, and as it may actually happen, you might want to do your best to laser focus each page of content.
If your page is strictly talking about the keyword phrase “How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week,” then it can only help your chances to get ranked for THAT specific phrase IF you focus on it.
Staying focused on one keyword or phrase tips off the search engines as to what you want to rank that specific page for.
3. Sniper Backlinks NOT Shotgun Backlinks
When you think of these two types of guns, there are two very distinctive thoughts that come to mind.
With a Sniper, you are accurate and precise. You are methodical and have put lots of planning and thought into what you are trying to accomplish.
With a Sniper, things are clean and if done correctly then you don’t even leave a trail.
So what’s the Shotgun like?
Well, quite the opposite. With a shotgun, you get a huge blast that’s messy. It’s basically a big net that gets cast in the hope that you get what you want. And shotguns usually leave a pretty distinct trail.
The former are the types of backlinks that you should be going after for SEO. You want clean, precise and well thought out backlinks.
You want them to be as precise as possible so that the search engines know exactly WHAT they should be ranking your small business for. You want the search engines to also know that they are extremely relevant.
Don’t Buy Bad Links In Bulk
This just looks plain bad. When you buy backlinks in bulk because you think more is better, you must keep in mind how this looks on the other end.
A ton of backlinks created right away can do the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.
You may argue – “Well, what about those news stories that go viral and get tons of links immediately? Won’t they get penalized.”
Here’s our rebuttal – More than likely you aren’t a huge news source or website (if you are, we apologize) AND those links are extremely precise.
While you may be tempted to purchase backlinks to your site from one of those kinds of services, be sure you know what you are getting yourself into.
Get Some Clout
We’re gonna use a real live example for this.
You may think that more is better, well, we’d like to argue that you should be going after QUALITY rather than QUANTITY.
You’ll want some links from the bigger, more authority type sites. Getting a link from one of these types of sites (like The Huffington Post below) gives you more clout AND some of their authority juice passes on to your site.
Okay, so like we said, let’s take a look at a REAL LIVE example of this in action.
Imagine if there were a group of people you were being introduced to. Now, say there were a ton of people who no one really knew who kept coming up and saying you were the best at: FILL IN THE BLANK.
For this, let’s say basketball.
Now, imagine a bunch of people who maybe played basketball in elementary school or even high school kept coming up and saying you were the best.
Would you believe them?
Now, imagine if some well-known NBA players came up, like Michael Jordan, and were singing your praises of how great you were at basketball.
NOW, would you believe it?
I think It’s safe to say that you’d take Michael Jordan OVER hundreds of others.
Can you see how this idea of authority works when it comes to backlinks?
Make It “Linkable”
This really goes back to the content marketing section, but it bears repeating.
Longer form quality content that readers find value in, will get the attention it deserves, once you promote it.
If you wrote something and find that you wouldn’t even link to it, then don’t ask someone else to.
Take the time to create content that people will love and find extreme value in. Once you do that, it’ll make it MUCH easier to ask others to give you a backlink.
There are two ways you can be proactive when it comes to getting backlinks to your site and content for SEO:
- Ask – You can just be bold and flat out ask. Tell others about your site and why you think they should give you a backlink. This is one way to be proactive.
- Give THEN Ask – Okay, great, BUT how do you do this you ask? Guest posting or Guest blogging. Create something of value for the website owner’s site or just ask if you can create something for them. You can do so, then ask for one link back to your site. If done correctly, you may have your “in” as many website owners are always looking for quality content to share with their readers.
Social shares are HUGE. However, you must actively participate on social media networks and platforms.
Don’t just post stuff when you want to get something in return. Be a participator in conversations and get to know others in your area of expertise.
When you are active on Social Media, you’ll find a few great things happening. For one thing, you’ll have access to their network.
It’s the whole “What if one person told all their friends, who in turn told all of their friends…” and so on and so forth.
The beauty of this is that you don’t even need to rank!
Here’s an example, say that you post a high-quality article on your topic area and share it with 100 people on one of your Social Media Accounts.
Half of them find it newsworthy and decide to share it with all of their friends. On average each person also has 100 friends.
Do the math, 100 x 50 = 5,000 shares.
Imagine if it kept going and going and getting shared.
Do you see the possibilities here? The cool part – NO SEO even needed. Just quality content.
Okay, so while Social Media network backlinks may not necessarily improve your rankings (up for debate), think about what happens when you share an AWESOME piece of content.
Naturally it will get passed around, and what you may find is a whole set of natural backlinks occurring – REAL Backlinks.
For instance, say you find something extremely valuable on social media.
You think it will be very helpful to readers on your website, BUT those readers aren’t necessarily friends with you on your network.
So, you post the content with a link back to the original creator’s website.
Awesome natural link.
Now picture MANY others reading and thinking the same thing.
Can you say VIRAL?
Wear A White Hat
If you are familiar with SEO then you know the terms – white hat, grey hat, and black hat.
White hat means all techniques that are clean and non-manipulative of the search engines.
Grey hat, means “hey this could go either way, depending on WHO you are.”
Black hat, well, we’re pretty sure you can figure out what that means.
While you may be tempted to buy into some black hat techniques for you small business, you must understand how long it takes for modern SEO to work.
With one algorithm shake up, Google can SHUT DOWN your website.
Why is this a big deal?
It’s a big deal because there were MANY businesses and business owners who depended on these rankings, which were gained through black hat and grey hat techniques.
In fact, some business owners were unknowing of this because the SEO company they hired was doing it to get them their rankings.
So what happened?
Businesses rankings disappeared overnight, which means businesses went – POOF! And were gone.
No, they didn’t LOSE rankings.
They got kicked out.
They weren’t told, “Hey you gotta get to the back of the line.”
No, THEY were told, “Hey, you gotta leave.”
While ranking may be something you are after and want RIGHT NOW, remember that the shortcuts COULD get you penalized.
As the saying goes – “Better safe than sorry,” and you’ll be REALLY sorry if you use some of these bad SEO strategies and tactics to get rankings over the short term.
The landscape of SEO is ever changing.
However, if you are doing things the natural way, doing things the right way and creating content that people, not search engines, ACTUALLY want to read and will ACTUALLY learn something from, then your small business can’t go wrong.
While you may not see the immediate benefits from SEO when you do things this way, what you’ll see is that over time you WILL reap the benefits.
It’s like a farmer. You plant and water, take care of the plants for a long time and eventually you reap an abundant and plentiful harvest.
Were the plants able to give you a harvest that week? No, but doing things the right way, sure got you where you wanted to be.
Just some last minute things to keep in mind…
- Track what you are doing. Don’t just put it up and leave it. Keep a watchful eye on your content, traffic, and which keywords are working and which ones aren’t.
- Tweak and change as needed. If you see something that isn’t working and recognize some changes that could make some improvements, then do so. Don’t be so prideful that you can’t admit that you were wrong.
- Stay informed. Stay up to date with the latest in SEO for your small business. Ensure that you are paying attention to all the news happening with the search engines and how it may potentially affect you.
- Do it better. Keep informed on what others in your field are doing and just do it better. Provide more value, provide more information and listen to what your audience is saying.
- Do things the right way. Sure, there may be faster ways to do things and in some cases, it’s actually a good idea. However, when it comes to SEO, you may want to think twice about these quick methods. Do things the right way the first time, so you won’t have to deal with the potential problems later on.
The world of SEO is ever changing. What worked years ago just won’t work today.
The days of shotgun marketing are gone, and what remains are sniper specific and laser targeted marketing efforts.
In order to ensure that your site and content gets the search engine love they deserve, then you need to keep a close eye on the content you produce, the
keywords you use and the backlinks you go after.
Do things right the first time, and you can’t go wrong.
And doing things right the first time, starts right here with our Small Business SEO Guide.
Let’s continue the conversation in the comments section. I want to know if you have some more tips or questions on Content, Keywords, and Backlinks?
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