SEO 101 For Small Businesses - DIY Guide
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Google uses at least 200 criteria in its algorithm for search ranking. At first glance it may seem like an overwhelming task for a small business owner unfamiliar with search to do their own Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but we're here to help.
We have put together this short guide for our small business neighbors to use when they've decided to take a DIY approach to improving their search rankings. We recommend a simple strategy that any small business can follow, and a few resources that will make generating good content easy, and more discoverable for machines and the people that use them.
As an SEO strategy, you really only need to focus on three things:
1) Website Architecture
While it's really easy to get caught up in the tactics used in SEO -- keyword research for head and tail keywords, competitor rankings, social media feeds -- if you can focus on these basics you will start to rank higher for the things you do, and the products and services you offer.
1) Website Architecture. Like any good researcher we love primary sources and the best primary source for understanding what Google looks at for search rankings is Google Webmasters. It is a complete library, soup to nuts, for everything you could possibly need to get your site ranked on Google. As far as your website architecture is concerned, however, you will want to do three things well:
-Make your site crawlable for search engines. Have a consistent and logical schema that even a robot can follow.
-Make your site load as fast as possible.
-Optimize your site for the three types of devices that users access the web with -- desktop, tablet, and mobile.
2) Content. Your content should be unique, valuable, and fresh. Unique means you need to put your content in your own voice. If you don't have a brand or company voice, it's worth the time to develop a concept for how your brand or company "speaks" to your customers. As of writing this post there are 44 million results for "SEO DIY" on Google. You may have seen Gordon Ramsay berate chefs who don't write down their recipes because they're afraid someone will steal their secret culinary methods. Stupid! The reason? If you can't make your signature dish better than the guy or gal who just picked up the recipe off the kitchen counter, it's not that signature. Write your content in your own unique voice. Blogging is a good way to find your brand or company voice if you don't know what it sounds like yet. Value is a little harder to quantify. Is a square block of Manhattan (or Manhattan, KS) worth beads or stacks of paper covered in words and signatures? What's valuable to you isn't always what's valuable to me. Same goes for your customers. If your customer tends to be drawn to short content and frequently returns to your website to read short think pieces (again, blogging combined with Google Analytics will help you figure what your customers are drawn to), then focus on generating those. If your customer visits infrequently but spends more time with longform content, it's worth focusing on in-depth pieces to generate value for them. Know who your customer is and you'll know what's valuable to them. Fresh is the easiest of these three aspects to understand. Update your content regularly. It doesn't have to be every day but be sure it's often enough that you develop and show your unique voice and maintain your value to your customer.
3) Backlinks. Websites that point to your website help machines understand your content in context. The more sites that point to your website, generally, the better off you are. However, quality links, or links with high authority, will help you rank higher than low quality links or links with low authority. Simple enough. On a spectrum of authority you can place government, military, and international news outlets on one side of the spectrum and blog farms you pay to link to your site on the far other end of the spectrum. You can build backlinks organically by letting your customers share your content on social media or on their websites and you can build them by asking for website administrators to link back to you.
For those of you who like good pizza, you know that the fourth ingredient in good pizza dough is time. If you nail the three big points above, you will rank higher on Google but it will take time, focus, and dedication which is why many businesses partner with a marketing company to generate content for their businesses.
Some tools to make your life easier.
There are four great options for doing keyword research. Your content needs to rank for the words that your customers search for so doing some keyword research will take you a long way to improving your search rankings.
The first option is free, and while not explicitly for keyword research for SEO, it's a great way to see which words Google associates with businesses like yours. We recommend checking out the Google Keyword Planner before spending any money on one of the fee-based options below. You can couple your research on the Keyword Planner with Google Trends data. Both are a great starting resource and always free to use.
The other three options cost varying monthly fees. You can expect to spend between $150 to $200 a month for their services, plus the time it takes you to learn and apply what you get from them. They are, in alphabetical order:
They each have their advantages and disadvantages and they offer varying levels of service for the monthly fee. In our opinion, ahrefs has the best competitor research tools, Moz has the simplest reporting tools, and SEMrush has great social media reach. Get one of their trial subscriptions first and see what works for your needs and with your personality.
We hope you found this guide helpful and would love to hear from you on your small business needs.