SEO is simultaneously a blessing and a curse for SMEs. On the one hand, intelligent use of organic SEO can help raise awareness of your brand without breaking the bank, leveling the playing field somewhat against more prominent competitors with deeper pockets.
Alas, the modifier “intelligent” does a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence. Slapdash or substandard approaches to SEO will lead to stagnation at best, damaging your online reputation at worst. If you’re to make the most of the opportunities provided by SEO, you’ll need a strategy.
You could bring in third-party help for this, leaning on the expertise of an SEO professional, but it’s potentially surprising how much business leaders can do for themselves. Here is aneight-step plan to conquer the art and science of a small business SEO strategy.
Step 1 – Understand the different components of SEO
Before we go any further, understand that SEO is divided into three core sub-divisions.
- On-page SEO is the aspect many people pour the most effort and attention into. This is how a web page looks, feels, and reacts to user behavior – as well as the content posted on it
- Off-page SEO revolves around the backlinks that you include on your website. These could be high authority sources that provide evidence of the points you are making, or your own social media profiles
- Technical SEO is the under-the-hood stuff that keeps your website ticking along, such as the code that you’re using, page loading speeds, and domain hosting
Understanding each of these – and acknowledging that one is no less important than the other – is at the heart of a successful SEO strategy.
Step 2 – Learn what Google– and your audience – likes
Yes, other search engines are out there, some of which have vocal fans. There is no denying that Google is the king of the hill, though. If you plan to create a successful SEO strategy, you mustbe familiar with Google’s latest algorithms.
All the same, do not make the mistake of strategizing solely for Google’s benefit. Do not lose sight of the fact that it’s living, breathing human beings that visit your site and consume your content. Take the time to learn what matters to your target audience, as giving users what they want is the endgame for our search engine overlords.
Step 3 – Investigate your competition
When it comes to SEO, it often pays to be a follower rather than a leader. Being the first to post content can be helpful, but it will not take long for any breaking story or trending topic to attract all manner of competing posts.
Allow the gold rush to unfold and look at how your competitors succeed. Once you know this, improve on what they have to offer. If your rivals offer a listicle with ten items, create one with fifteen. If your competition offers a quick, bite-sized guide to a product or service, craft the ultimate insight. If your competition offers a free white paper, give away an eBook.
Of course, you can’t just plagiarize or spin this existing content. If you’re going to enjoy success with the skyscraper technique, you’ll still need to offer value to your audience. That doesn’t mean there is any harm in drawing inspiration from others, though. All is fair in love, war, and SEO.
Step 4 – Plan your content approach
SEO applies to an array of different content approaches. Consider what you think will be most effective.
Blog posts, for example, are popular for attracting inbound traffic. Successful SEO is not as simple as just posting content packed with keywords, though. You’ll also need to think like a user. Break up your prose with images, sub-headings, and videos – walls of text can deter visitors.
Consider your social media presence, too. Google loves websites that interact directly with a brand’s social media profiles. When planning an SEO strategy, place as much emphasis on viral images and branded campaigns as you do your organic search engine traffic.
Step 5 – Identify your keywords
Some people will consider keywords the first, most critical element of an SEO strategy. While there is no denying that keyword researchis vital, simply spamming them into your content is a mistake.
Identifying the best keywords for any given project is a balancing act. Let’s imagine that you run an eCommerce site selling sneakers and sportswear. You could just see what keywords Nike and Adidas are using – they’re obviously popular – but these brands will suck up all the oxygen in the room.
A small business is unlikely to enjoy much success attempting to go toe to toe with a multinational conglomerate.Instead, think smart with your keywords. Use synonyms and long-tail alternatives to capture attention through Google and its rivals.
Step 6 – Consider the user experience
We previously discussed how critical understanding your audience can be to a successful SEO strategy. This also extends to user experience (UX). If visiting your corner of the internet is not a pleasant experience, your SEO page ranking will suffer.
Things to consider here include:
- Page loading speeds – slow websites tend to hemorrhage users
- Ease of navigation– ensure that visitors can methodically and intuitively traverse your website
- Mobile-friendliness – it’s likely that much of your traffic will come from mobile or tablet devices. Ensure these users receive an identical experience to desktop browsers
- Fast checkout– keep any sales filters short and to the point, without asking for too much personal data
Step 7 – Review and update your content regularly
We all like to imagine that our blog posts and insights are evergreen, but it’s likely that you’ll need to replace and update content periodically. User needs and expectations change, as do cold, hard facts based on our understanding of the world. Outdated content is unlikely to attract any kind of positive attention.
Review your content regularly, checking for anything that could be harming your online standing. Refresh and rewrite blogs posts, pushing them anew on social media following this fresh lick of paint. Remove any dead links, replacing them with high-authority alternatives. Above all, do not allow your website to host outdated or erroneous information.
Step 8 – Set targets for – and review – SEO performance
All this effort is for nothing if you do not have a way to measure the impact of your SEO. Make the assignment of SMART goals part of your strategy.
Be realistic about how long it will take to enjoy any impact from your SEO strategy – you’re unlikely to see results overnight. If you are still struggling to attract organic traffic to your site, consider a different approach going forward.
Jon Crain has written hundreds of website design and marketing article blog posts.
He is the sole owner of Pittsburgh SEO Services LLC which is a small business in Pittsburgh PA that specializes in affordable wordpress websites and digital marketing campaigns. Jon Crain has a marketing degree specializing in digital marketing and holds multiple internet marketing certifications. Jon Crain has over 25 years of experience along with managing hundreds of website projects and marketing campaigns. He also has won a variety of awards over the years from Tribune Review, Post Gazette and other publications.