91% of business plan to improve their website in 2018. Optimizing for SEO will get you found, deliver traffic, and drive revenue.
The first few pages of Google are the best billboard space in the world. When it comes to reach and organic ROI, no other marketing channel can compare.
And yet, only 17% of small businesses are investing in search engine optimization (SEO), according to a recent report. What gives?
SEO is the proven way to generate traffic for your business. As a reminder, SEO is the technical and creative processes that improve the visibility of your website to search engines.
In theory, every online company is competing for the keywords in their industry and a top spot in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
However, SEO is no accident. It requires dedicated attention to keywords, content, backlinks, and web design.
Remember how 83% of companies aren’t pursuing SEO? Your small business can skyrocket up the search rankings with a bit of research, patience, and quality web content. Here’s a 5-step beginners guide to getting found, driving traffic, and generating leads with SEO:
- Conduct market analysis
- Research keywords to target
- Create and optimize content for SEO
- Increase your visibility with off-page SEO
- Test and measure for SEO success
1. Conduct Market Analysis
What is your target market? Who is your target audience? What language do they use to search for your product or service? An effective SEO strategy is rooted in the needs and desires of the customer.
For example, say you’re selling leather furniture. To generate the most qualified leads, you’ll need your keywords to be more specific than “leather furniture.” Determine whether people are searching for “leather recliner,” “leather armchair,” or perhaps “leather furniture sets.”
Next, develop a list of the likeliest search terms. Survey your customer base if needed.
Competitor research will also clarify which search terms are most relevant. Tools like SEMRush and KeywordSpy let you examine the keyword rankings of other businesses. This will give you a sense of which keywords you can compete for and how to best position your SEO strategy within the market.
2. Research Keywords to Target
Keyword research and analysis is critical to identifying your list of keywords and phrases. This includes the long-tail keywords – like “leather sectional couch” – that will drive the most interested and qualified leads.
You can use Google Keyword Planner to review the search rankings of keywords, phrases, plurals, singulars, and misspellings. Remember, your aim is to replicate the exact language being used – even if it’s incorrect.
Below we see the most relevant query results for “leather furniture” in Keyword Planner, sorted by release and search volume.
Cultivate a list of the most relevant and frequent searches that match your offering. How do these compare to the search terms you discovered in your competitor research? Look to exploit any coverage gaps in keywords or phrases, as this will allow you the easiest way to rank with your SEO content strategy.
3. Create and Optimize Content for On-Page SEO
Investing in quality website content is pivotal to SEO success. For SEO to function, it needs keywords to search through. Content is what provides those keywords.
Content is what’s known as an “on-page” or “page-level” factor. It’s also one of Google’s top three ranking factors.
SEO-optimized content is:
- Longer rather than shorter. Neil Patel found that the top SERP results for blogs were all over 2,000 words. The more comprehensive the post, the better it holds user attention, garners shares, and improves SEO.
- Simple and coherent. Google Rankbrain determines the value of content by its readability. Easily consumable content will also improve your priority with site visitors.
- Filled with backlinks. Backlinks are created whenever another site links to yours. Traffic that arrives from more authoritative domains will boost your SEO ranking and provide credibility to your website. The image below shows how important these site referrals are to your ranking.
- Recent and consistent. The Google Caffeine update favors recent or updated content, as do readers. Top-ranking websites all supply users with a stream of timely material.
- Prominent with its keyword use. Top search rankings are correlated with using keywords in the first 100 words of page content.
- Use keywords in titles, meta-tags, and URLs. A thorough use of keywords is critical to outranking the competition. Users love to see keywords in the titles, meta-tags, and URLs because it lets them know they’re on the right page.
- Full of keywords and variants – organically. Keyword density is relevant, but don’t oversaturate. The Hummingbird algorithm allowed Google to understand a page topic with fewer keywords. The best content uses natural language, including synonyms and long-term keywords.
- Packed with keywords for the image tags. Add keywords to image titles, alt text, and captions. Make sure the language is descriptive and informative to users in Google Images.
- Available to search engines via sitemap. Help Google index your website by submitting a sitemap. For maximum searchability, use the webmaster tools to create both an XML and HTML version of your websites.
- Integrated within a quality user experience (UX). Web design and information architecture is a factor in SEO rankings. After all, no one wants to visit a site that looks like 1997’s Netscape Navigator. To ensure the best SEO rank, create a website that’s easy to use and navigate
4. Increase Your Visibility with Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO will ensure that your keyword research and content creation doesn’t go to waste. Keywords and content are useless without web traffic to make them relevant.
Off-page SEO involves promoting your content to various “off-page” platforms.
This will help increase your site traffic and garner valuable backlinks. Keep in mind that Google’s #1 ranking factor is backlinks. You’ll grab a serious SEO boost if one of these credible sites links back to you.
Here are some ways to boost your SERP position with backlinks, improve your domain authority (DA), and drive traffic with off-page SEO.
- Share posts on social media: The more extensively your posts are read, the better. Social media tools like Buffer can help you automate this process.
- Reach out to bloggers: If an influential blogger in your space links back to you, your rank will spike. This will also expand your reader base. Aim to establish a relationship with these influencers by engaging with their content and then submitting yours to them.
- Write guest posts: Guest posts allow you to promote your business via other industry publications or other businesses. Be sure to include a link to your site in the article footer. Use GuestPostTracker to find blogs that accept guest posts.
- Submit answers on Quora: With 4.6 million registered users, Quora can be a great source for web traffic. Avoid promotional language here and provide valuable answers to readers in your space. Add a link to a matching blog post on your site and in your profile bio.
- Comment on other blogs: When it comes to blog engagement, give before you get. Blog commenting in your niche helps to build relationships with other bloggers, drive targeted site traffic, and ensure your site is repeatedly indexed.
- Contribute to blogging platforms: Medium, StumbleUpon, Indiblogger and many more are great places to distribute your best content to an interested audience.
- Create video content: Translating your content to Youtube gives you access to 3 billion daily users. Google is prioritizing video these days, so reach your audience with fun and educational videos that relate to your brand.
5. Test, Measure, Adjust for SEO Success
SEO is always in flux, so you should regularly assess the impact of your SEO strategy. This means analyzing your web traffic, the individual performance of keywords, and your search engine rankings.
Are you keeping pace with your goals for web traffic, search ranking, or conversions? Use the baseline from before implementing your SEO strategy, then check the results every week.
SEO Strategy for Beginners
SEO success cannot be accomplished overnight. To be effective, an SEO strategy requires both an initial investment and an ongoing effort. To climb the search rankings, invest time and attention in your on- and off-page SEO elements.
Attend to any SEO updates quickly, track your position over time, and continue to refine your strategy. If effective, the visibility you gain with your audience will be very profitable.