SEO to top law firms in the Nation, Qamar Zaman (QZ) explains the future of SEO. Read this FREE 2018 Non-Complicated SEO Driven Growth Guide.
By 2019, it is expected that the spending in search engine marketing (SEO and PPC) will increase 1 to $45.49 billion. According to the website State of Inbound 2, 66% of marketers claim that improving SEO and increasing their organic presence in search results are their top inbound marketing priority. However, 63% of them also reveals that their top challenge is generating traffic and leads.
These figures show that the demand for SEO is still increasing despite the backlash caused by those who abuse and game search engine algorithms. And, along with this demand, comes the need for small business owners to get more acquainted (if not hands-on) in implementing their SEO campaigns.
SEO and Small Businesses
If you are part of the nearly 30 million 3 small businesses in the United States, then you might have already been implementing SEO in your website. Maybe you are contemplating hiring a professional who can help you increase your business’s visibility in search results.
Running a small business with limited capital and profits can really drain you especially if you have a limited budget for marketing. However, if you are willing to go hands-on and learn the latest SEO strategies to optimize your website for search engines, you may be able to save that money.
The thing is, you might be hesitating to do the latter and if you are doing the former, you might consider checking that your strategy and tactics are currently relevant.
When beginning, it’s important that you understand how search engine optimization works. You can create momentum by calibrating your digital marketing arsenal with this easy-to-use guide that will help you develop and implement your SEO strategy more effectively.
The Non-Complicated SEO Checklist for Small Business Owners
Search Engine Optimization for small businesses should not be complicated. You only need to remember these 3 main components:
- SILO selection
- Onsite optimization
- Offsite optimization
Of course, each component is composed of optimization processes that you can practice and learn on your own.
For 2018, this simple checklist should help you improve how to optimize your website and content for search engines.
1. Keyword Selection
- Check Your Competitors SILO terms
2. Onsite SEO
- Improve Website Structure
- Improve User Experience
- Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
- Try Implementing AMP
- Create Good Content
- Avoid Panda Penalties
3. Offsite Optimization
- Avoid Penguin Penalties
- Improve Local SEO
- Earn Social Signals
- Earn Organic Backlinks
1. Intent Selection
A successful SEO starts with the right market targeting user intent. If you are currently struggling with web ranking, then you might consider adapting to SILO architecture.
a. Check Your Competitors
Despite the continuous modern advances in search technology, keywords remain a constant factor in SEO. Without keywords, there’s no point in optimizing content for search engines.
2. Onsite SEO
Everything you do on your website that helps it to rank on the SERPs is part of Onsite SEO. It starts with the correct website structure, content, and important Metadata that can help you tell search engine bots that your web pages can be indexed.
In order for search engines to fully index and rank your website content, full onsite optimization should be done. This can only happen if you know the basics.
If you are looking for ways to boost your onsite SEO, this up-to-date checklist may help improve your search ranking.
- Start by Improving Your Website Structure
- Look for Ways to Improve User Experience
- Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
- Try Implementing AMP
- Improve Your Content Quality
- Avoid Panda Penalties
a. Improving Your Website Structure
Keeping your website structure simple and dynamic makes it easier for search engine bots to find, crawl, and index your web pages. Avoid using long URLs and make sure each of your pages are reachable from the homepage. See examples below.
Bad URL Structure
Good URL Structure
Your page URL names must be consistent with you website structure, and your internal links should point to correct and relevant pages. Also, don’t forget to use breadcrumbs 5 to facilitate navigation. You can also use rel=next and rel=prev to make your very long pages into paginated series. This saves your readers the tedious infinite scrolling that oftentimes discourages them from staying longer on your website.
Lastly, don’t forget to use XML sitemap 6, RSS Feeds, and integrate Schema markup 7 to enable rich snippets every time your website or content appears in the SERPs.
b. Improve User Experience
Boosting user experience should be one of the things you want to improve for your onsite SEO. Aside from making your website load faster, you can also help your visitors navigate it easily by placing a search box at its upper or lower part. Unfortunately, there are still business websites without a search box to the dissatisfaction of their users.
A search box not only helps you improve user experience but also helps your readers find useful content hidden deep within your website.
c. Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
When you make your website mobile-friendly you are also improving user experience. The easier it is to navigate from mobile devices, the higher the chance they will convert into paying customers.
When doing onsite SEO, understand that mobile use has out ranked desktop use. It is important to optimize your website for mobile platforms to increase your search rankings. Not doing so, will in fact, decrease your chances of getting more leads.
d. Try Implementing AMP
AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source project initiated by Google to help online publishers optimize their websites for mobile platforms. It was launched in 2015 and has since flourished. According to Google 8, since May of 2017, 900,000 web domains were already publishing AMP pages and there were already 2 billion AMP pages published globally.
If you think AMP is a good option for your SEO, then give it a try. Follow the tutorial set at AmpProject.org. If you feel implementing it is harder than you thought, you can always ask the help of professionals. Make sure you choose those with a solid track record in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through SEO.
e. Improve Your Content Quality
Do you already have regular blogging activity for your website? Does it help increase your visibility in search? If not, you might be missing a few important aspects on how to create a content that appeals to your prospects.
First, identify who you are writing for and what is the impact of your article on them. Determine the type of content platform they prefer. If they love reading text, then create long form articles. If they love visuals, create infographics and videos. If they have a very fast-paced lifestyle and have no time to read or watch, create a podcast blog.
Next, confirm how you can help them. Find out your prospects’ needs and create solutions that they can easily follow.
Don’t forget that if you do onsite optimization for the main pages of your website, you also need to do the same every time you publish a new blog. Make sure that you use the right keywords and that you don’t overstuff them. Use proper headings/subheadings and make sure your title and description follows the recommended text length so that it won’t look awkward when displayed in the SERPs.
f. Avoid Panda Penalties
When you abide by Google’s rules, you are zeroing any chances of obtaining penalties and deindexation which is good for your SEO. Making sure that you avoid Panda penalties can help you increase your search ranking and maintain it.
Google launched the Panda algorithm in the first quarter of 2011. This is Google’s way of filtering thin pages and low-quality content that was propagating online by those who are trying to game their system.
Creating high quality content is the only way to avoid getting a Panda penalty. Make sure you allocate time and budget to improve the overall quality of your content.
3. Offsite SEO
Onsite optimization for search engines is not enough. You also need forces from the outside to help your website become more visible in search. These forces are what we collectively refer to as Offsite SEO.
Off Site search engine optimization is all the things you do off your website that still help you increase its visibility in the SERPs. It is as important as Onsite Optimization. Without this crucial part of SEO, you will have a hard time boosting your search rankings.
a. Avoid Penguin Penalties
One way to make your offsite SEO effective is to avoid Penguin penalties. Penguin is another part of Google’s search algorithm that detects suspicious backlink patterns. It penalizes websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines 9 especially those who are trying to game their system using link schemes 10.
You can avoid getting a Penguin penalty by simply doing ethical link building practices while making sure to avoid interaction with practitioners who are practicing Black Hat SEO.
Ethical Offsite SEO practices include building editorial backlinks, accumulating diverse anchor texts for backlinks, natural link building, and disavowing bad or spammy links.
b. Improve Local SEO
Improving your Local SEO can help you increase your leads and conversion when done the right and ethical way. Targeting your prospects by location is far more effective than by targeting them without any filters.
For example, if you run a social media company in Texas, it is more effective to target cities in Texas rather than Texas as a whole.
Assuming that you are already doing local SEO, here are some tips that can help you improve.
- Consistent NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) in your local listings – This primary information should be listed consistently across all your web properties and online directory pages. For search engine crawlers to correctly index your business information, consistency is very important. This doesn’t only apply to search engines but to those people who are checking your business information online as well. An incomplete business address will lead your prospect to the wrong location creating a loss for you and your business.
- Make sure your Google My Business Listing has no missing information – Your Google My Business Listing can help you rank higher than your competitors in Google Search. Optimize it properly and get an edge when it comes to obtaining more space and visibility
in the SERPs. Read: The Importance of Google My Business for Local SEO
- Encourage your customers to leave a review of your product or services in popular review sites – If you ask for it, they will give it. This is what most customers do when it comes to giving reviews about the product or service they avail. For small business owners, it is very important to be proactive. You should always make sure to remind your customers to leave reviews more importantly if they are returning ones. Google includes review scores when they display your site snippet in their search results.
- Getting in touch with local bloggers and build online and offline relationship with them – To boost your online presence in your locality, building a good online and offline relationship with local bloggers is a must if you want to gain an edge on your competitors. Each time you launch a new product, you can get the help of these bloggers in amplifying the news. You can also help them with their blogging initiatives and advocacy as their sponsor and partner.
c. Earn Social Signals
Although there’s no official confirmation from Google that social signals are among the factors they include in ranking a website. However, there is a lot of evidence 11 that shows how those with a high social engagement have higher search rankings compared to those who have less or none.
You can earn social signals by boosting your social media presence and by engaging with your followers. Make sure that every time someone comments on your social media post, you reply and give them the information they need.
Creating good content, especially those that are time-relevant, can help you get more shares, likes, and comments.
Maintaining connections with social media influencers such as bloggers and YouTubers can also help you boost your social media presence thus allowing you to earn more social signals.
d. Earn Organic Backlinks
One of biggest factors that affects your offsite SEO is your backlinks. Backlinks are still one of the major factors Google uses in ranking websites. Despite the fact that many experts predict that its importance is currently diminishing, the reality is that search engines are still using it to gauge a site’s relevance, credibility, and importance.
Building links naturally requires more effort and takes more time than what most people normally expect. This is because you need not only online but offline as well to accumulate those kind of links. Here are a few instances where you can earn a backlink naturally.
- Your business is featured in an online newspaper with a backlink to your website. This usually happens after you hold a press conference or after a reporter interviewed you about a topic in your field of expertise.
- A customer loves your product and they blog about it and links back to your site.
- A forum user recommends your services and includes a backlink to your website.
- A website owner creates a resource page and they include your business and link back to your website.
- You submit an article to a high domain site and they approve it with a backlink to your website.
Earning organic backlinks requires you to deliver the best product/service, high quality content, good marketing strategy, and an effective PR strategy.
Of course, as a small business owner, you need only ensure to have an excellent product for your customers and that your website is properly optimized for search engines. If you do not have the capital or ability to do them all, you can start by improving your SEO, connecting with local bloggers and making sure your social media followers are fully engaged.
If you are lacking in time while trying to run your business, you can always employ the help of well-seasoned SEO and Social Media professionals. Search for the ones who have no less than a decade long track record in helping small business owners grow and and their company flourish through SEO and Social Media Marketing.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Qamar Zaman is a Dallas SEO and Lawyer Marketing Expert who has been featured in Huffington Post, Forbes, The Entrepreneur and many authority trade journals in the United States and The Cayman Islands’ local newspapers as an expert in search.
Sources and References:
- Digital marketing spending in the United States from 2014 to 2019, by segment (in billion U.S. dollars) – http://www.statista.com/statistics/275230/us-interactive-marketing-spending-growth-from-2011-to-2016-by-segment/
- State of Inbound 2017 – http://www.stateofinbound.com/?__hstc=20629287.e2be31bff6b26b1ef1b005e107fd0020.1496019625750.1496019625750.1496019625750.1&__hssc=20629287.1.1496019625750&__hsfp=261688941
- United States Small Business Profile – https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/All_States.pdf
- Open Site Explorer: Link Research & Backlink Checker – https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/
- Breadcrumbs: Everything About Breadcrumbs & SEO – https://www.searchenginejournal.com/breadcrumbs/15022/
- Create Your Own Google Sitemap Online – https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
- Schema.org – http://schema.org/
- Turbocharging AMP – https://www.ampproject.org/latest/blog/turbocharging-amp/
- Webmaster Guidelines – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en#3
- Link schemes – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en
- Do Social Signals Influence SEO? A 2016 Study on 23 Million Shares – https://cognitiveseo.com/blog/11903/social-signals-seo-influence/