Search engine optimization can help your website rise to the top of search rankings, and help bring customers your way. Here are strategies for SMBs to make the most of SEO.
By Meghan Laslocky
These days, no matter what size your company, having an online presence is of paramount importance in building your customer base. Without a great website that showcases what your company does, customers won’t have the information they need to decide whether to buy your products or services.
But the best website in the world isn’t worth much if it doesn’t have a sound Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy behind it, ensuring that prospective customers can find your company.
Indeed, good SEO can do wonders for your business’s place in what’s known as “organic ranking”—the list of web pages that most closely match a user’s search based on relevance. Sound SEO strategies can help even a new company quickly establish a good reputation, and potentially gain market share from competitors.
Still, SMBs face plenty of challenges when it comes to SEO. For one, SEO is a fast-moving, complex industry. The algorithms Google uses to calculate rankings can change 500 to 600 times per year, according to Phil Singleton, CEO of Kansas City SEO & Website Design. Moreover, SEO methods evolve continually, so it can be hard for non-experts to keep up.
Here are some strategies to consider for improving your website’s SEO:
Don’t ‘set it and forget it’
Are you giving your business’s website the attention it deserves? All too often, SMBs approach their sites from the wrong perspective, Singleton says. “If you treat your website as an expense, it will cost you money,” he says. “But if you treat it as an investment, it will make you money.”
A company’s website should be regarded as the hub of a company’s entire marketing presence. Singleton compares SEO to NASCAR racing. “The race car is your website and SEO is the driver. You need an SEO-friendly website and the right ongoing SEO strategy to win the search-engine race,” he says.
Do your keywords homework
SMBs often don’t know the right keywords for their industry, says Alecsy Christensen, an SEO specialist with Jet Digital Marketing. In this case, “right” means the most relevant, specific, and highly searched terms.
One tool that can be helpful in zeroing in on the best terms is Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which Singleton says offers the best way to get insight on what words people are looking for in relation to a company’s product and services. The free resources offered by Moz.com are also good for learning beginning and intermediate level SEO, he says.
Once you have your carefully chosen keywords, make sure those keywords match up with your website’s title tags, meta descriptions, and headings.
Treat your website like a content publishing platform
While your site should have static content with specific, relevant detail about the company’s products and services, you should also regularly post new content to improve your SEO.
Singleton advises that SMBs create content such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, and slideshows, and publish that content on their own sites as well as on relevant third-party sites.
“A consistent content marketing strategy naturally generates the kinds of ranking signals that Google and the other search engines want to see to rank your website,” he says. Read more about building brand awareness online.
Make the most of social media
It’s crucial to maintain an active social media presence by distributing content via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Singleton also advises having an online reputation strategy by building up customer reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook, as well as on sites specific to your industry. Good reviews support your SEO because search engines take those into account in terms of local rankings—a local company with the most positive reviews can outrank its competitors. Read about tech tools for building customer loyalty.
If you hire an SEO company, be wary
For SMBs with small marketing teams, it’s often worth hiring a reputable SEO company either to do an audit of their strategy or to provide SEO services. But all too often, SMBs fall into the trap of working with a low-cost SEO company that promises them the stars and doesn’t deliver.
Christensen advises working only with SEO companies that are transparent and can provide an action plan for your website rankings, as well as proof that they will give your business long-term results.
“Also ask for proof that they do not use spammy techniques to provide rankings,” she says.
In the industry, those are known as “black hat techniques,” and while many of them are now quickly sniffed out by Google’s algorithm updates, there are other risky link-building schemes, like Private Blog Networks (PBNs), that shady SEO companies continue to use and are less detectable by Google.
Singleton suggests that any SMB that buys SEO services should ask about the link-building methods of the service provider. SMBs should also be aware that if their site’s SEO violates Google quality guidelines in any way, the site will be penalized with a lower ranking.
This article was underwritten by HP: Introducing HP BusinessNow, the right technology to help your business grow.