As a small business owner or consultant, getting on the Web and developing your presence can be scary enough. When you’re in the thick of things, you don’t even want to hear terms like “search engine optimization (SEO)” or “Internet marketing.”
It certainly doesn’t help that new and improved SEO concepts are being touted each week. It can be hard to know what to believe or understand where your time is best spent. But for your business to reach its full Web potential, SEO is something you need to consider. Because SEO matters.
It matters a lot.
If you’re an SMB not sure where to get on the SEO train, fear not. As a small business, there are plenty of easy things you can do, all by yourself, to set up your site to be naturally good at SEO. Get the basics down; then worry about the more difficult components.
Where should you start?
1. Build your site for users: Putting together a full website that represents you and tells the world what you’re all about can be paralyzing. Where do you start? What do you focus on? Who do you speak to? There’s so much to consider.
Your first step is to focus on your customers. And that means focusing on usability. Build a site that is intuitive and easy for people to digest. Sticking to best SEO practices like using breadcrumb navigational elements, creating easy-to-skim content, having a simple interface, selecting the right keywords, and organizing your content into topic silos can go a long way in helping customers understand your site better.
By making your site intuitive and easy for a user to parse, you also make it easier for the search engines to index and rank. Remember, the search engines are using algorithm to “read” your website. That means the structure and organization of your content is paramount.
2. Become a subject matter-authority: Want to naturally attract SEO magic? Work toward asserting yourself as a subject matter authority in your niche by focusing on two things:
- Becoming a source of content: Adding unique, expert content to your website is a great way to set it up as a leader in its field and to build authority. For a SMB or consultant that may mean writing tutorials about your service or product, publishing opinion or thought-leader type pieces, writing e-books or whitepapers, creating videos, guest blogging on other authority sites, and using social media to share additional content. By making your site The Source for trusted information about a topic, you become a subject matter-authority in your customers’ eyes and build your expertness.
- Building your personal brand/reputation: By establishing yourself as a content hub, you’re already well on your way to building your personal brand and reputation. But don’t just stop on your own site! Start building your presence in your local community and your niche by speaking at events, participating in webinars, and being vocal about whatever it is you stand for. The more people see you participating in your online community, the more authoritative you become.
By making yourself an authority in your niche, it allows you to naturally attract the links, likes, mentions, and shares all the SEO experts will tell you that you need.
3. Do stuff to attract links: Any SEO worth his or her salt will tell you that you need to build links in order to increase your SEO efforts. But as a small business, how do you do that? And how do you do it in a non-spammy way that you’re comfortable with?
The easier answer is that to attract links you have to do stuff. You have to give people a reason to talk about you. And on the Web, talking about you means linking to you.
Again, becoming an authority and writing content are obviously two great ways to do something and attract links. But be on the lookout for ways to insert yourself into press mentions, hold contests and giveaways, sponsor events in your area, support local charities, blow something up, disagree with an industry demigod, anything.
While it’s easy to get caught up working inside your business, you also have to work on your business and attracting attention is part of that.
4. Increase social and be social: When you’re creating cool stuff, kill two birds with one stone by making that “stuff” inherently social. Add social calls to action, incorporate social share buttons, allows for user participation, etc.
Not only will adding and encouraging social activity help your content and ideas be seen by more eyeballs, it will give off important signals to the search engines that your brand and your content are things that consumers want. The search engines are looking at social signals to help them find the meat in the vast sea of content that is being produced. Likes, shares, mentions and comments help them to do that.
5. Think about performance: One thing many business owners don’t think about is the way their site performs, both on the Web an on mobile. They create sites in Flash not understanding the underlying SEO issues or they don’t worry too much if a page (or the whole website) takes too long to load. The result of this is a bad experience, both for users and the search engines.
Google has been very clear about the importance of a quick load time and how it plays into the Google algorithm. They’ve even developed a tool to help you analyze and optimize your page speed.
If performance is something you haven’t considered or thought about in terms of your site, you want to start thinking about it. Because when it’s between you and a competitor for the top sport in the search results, the little things can end up being big things.
Above are some ways small business owners can cover the SEO basics without really even trying. Because, as it turns out, the best SEO means simply creating the most positive experience you can for visitors.