Search engine optimization is one of the more complicated and mysterious pieces of online marketing tactics. Small business owners and marketing professionals alike are often intimidated by the ever-changing algorithm updates and inherent uncertainties that accompany an SEO strategy.
However, the fact is, that while the intricacies of deep optimization for search can be challenging, there are some basic tactics that you, as a small business owner, can take to position yourself to be discovered through search.
Understanding SEO basics
Understanding how SEO actually works is the first step. While this won’t turn you into an immediate pro, learning a few of the basics can help demystify it.
In a nutshell, search engines crawl the internet looking for content to index, and then use a complex series of variables to determine and verify what your content is, establishing which keyword searches your pages will show up for – and most importantly, where in the list you will rank.
To make these determinations, Google’s algorithm looks at both on and off-page SEO elements.
On-page SEO refers to what search engines can identify as the actual content and technical components of your site. In addition to the content itself, meaning the words/keywords that are part of your copy, on-page elements include:
- Metadata / Title Tags and Header Tags
- Image Alt Tag
- Internal linking
- XML sitemaps and architecture
Off-page SEO elements are all about authority and authenticity. Basically, Google looks to external linking to verify that you are who you say you are. They look at all the potential inputs outside of your content and technical information on your website. The tactic of link-building is a key component to off-page SEO success, and one that takes time to develop and expand.
Getting started with search engine optimization
Now that you understand how search engines function, you can move towards selecting the keywords and content that you want to rank for.
Utilizing SEO tools can assist greatly in this process as they help to understand what your competition ranks for and where your greatest opportunities lie. Be sure to consider the overall search volume and the “value” of a keyword when making these selections. There are many tools available, for those with time to spare, to help see how Google ranks your website. The information tracked ranges from your indexed pages, external links, rankings and important keywords.
Keyword research and competitive analysis is an ongoing and time-consuming endeavor, so be mindful that these findings will come over time.
Here’s the most important thing to understand: SEO and inbound marketing have a synergistic relationship. SEO ensures content is discovered, which results in inbound marketing, and marketing enables search success by creating high quality content that can then become discoverable.
Therefore, since content is king, most marketers focus on the written words on your page as the basis of an SEO strategy. But here’s the secret – SEO success is driven by much more than that.
Here are 5 tips on where to focus to enhance your rankings:
Secret #1: Business Listings Management
Businesses are listed in a multitiude of online directories, well more than you may realize. As Google crawls all these directories, it’s imperative that your listings are consistent, right down to Street vs St. within you address.
Consistent listings prove to Google that you are one business and will help you show for search, specifically local search, which is when Google provides results that are specifically relevant based on location. Every local business wants to appear on Google Maps results, and consistent listings management is the first step to this.
We have a free tool that lets you check if your listings are indeed consistent, check it out here.
Secret #2: Google My Business
If you have a business, you’d better have a verified Google My Business (GMB) account! Google trusts and prefers its own platform (shocking right!) GMB listings tend to appear first in search results and use a large amount of digital real estate. These listing also appear at the top of mobile searches.
To maximize your exposure, your GMB profile must be relevant. This means you have claimed and verified your GMB page. You are posting content on a regular basis. Whether that is an article you recently published, answering questions from customers or creating events, the more content you publish, the higher you’ll rank. And finally, you need to ask for, and respond to, reviews.
Secret #3: Blog Articles
Remember, content is king. But content is not just your web pages. It’s also what you write about in your blog. Posting blog articles, whether they are a section of your own site or on a 3rd party site, expands your content and keyword reach, allowing you to rank for terms that may not be optimized for on your main site. Blogs establish your business as subject matter experts, increasing your thought leadership profile within the industry. The more you write, the more you will appear to your prospects and customers when they are searching.
Secret #4: Social Media Profiles & Postings
In the same way that blogging expands your content reach, so does social media postings. As Google indexes tweets in real time, your social media efforts will serve to broaden your visibility and reach. Social media also gives you the opportunity to expand and experiment with your messages to see what resonates best with your customers.
Secret #5: Review Site Responses & Replies
In the world of Yelp, Google and Facebook reviews, your customer base is relying on what others are saying about your business. We have covered the importance of online reviews many, many times, but the benefits of doing so also have SEO implications. Review responses expand your content reach and discoverability in searches both within and outside of the review platforms.
Measure SEO Success
Like all marketing tactics, measurement is essential to ensure your strategies are successful.
Track data around things like rankings, referrals, back links and conversions in order to analyze your SEO strategy and optimize it for success. Most importantly, be sure that your SEO strategy is aligned to drive your business goals. It’s not just about discovery and visibility, but that your content is being clicked on and actioned in way that drives value.
Overall, while search engine optimization is no doubt a complex process, it’s not an impossible one. Follow a few of these quick tips to see how you too can benefit from the power of search.
With tools like the Vivial platform, search engine optimization has gotten even easier. Our services will enable the critical tactics like business listing management, content creation and reputation management, ensuring your business is well positioned for success in your local market. Learn more about Vivial and the services we provide.