If you own a small business, you know every penny has to count, and investing in search engine optimization can be a bold step, and also a risk if you don’t choose the right SEO company. As the owner of a small business myself, I understand that monthly SEO fees can’t always fit into the budget, so I’ve included five tips that any small business owner can follow in order to improve their organic rankings. (There are a lot more than 5 tips in here)
1. Do your keyword research
Keyword research is the foundation for any SEO campaign, so you’ll want to do it correctly. Unfortunately, you won’t have access to any fancy SEO programs, but all you’ll need for this is Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Search key phrases relevant to your business and target the phrases that get the most searches. If you sell different products, you’ll want to do individual searches for each of them. If you’re a small local business, you’ll want to focus on the city or state, depending on your reach. Once you have your base phrases, check the ‘Exact’ match box beneath the ‘Broad’ match box on the left and then do city or state relevant searches, such as ‘baltimore seo company’ and ‘seo company baltimore’. The Exact results will show you precisely how many people search that phrase. It’s important to get the order of words correct. Determine which phrasing has the most searches and go for that one. Note: If the phrasing is awkward, such as ‘seo company baltimore’, and it would never appear that way in normal writing, try going for ‘seo company in baltimore’, which makes a lot more sense and is more readable. It’s important to remember with all your SEO efforts that quality is key, and anything that seems unnatural and awkward to a site visitor should not be used.
2. Fix up your website
Once you have your keyword phrases you’ll probably need to go back through your website and change all the existing content to include those phrases. Note: DO NOT KEYWORD STUFF. Keyword stuffing is when you overuse keyword phrases so that it sounds unnatural, like so:
“Our Baltimore pizza shop sells pizzas to residents in Baltimore who are hungry and need pizzas. Located in Baltimore, our pizzas are delicious pizzas and satisfy any hunger”…and so on…
You will want to bold keyword phrases that are important. You’ll also want to go through all your images and add and ALT attribute. You can read about that here. And, the most important change you can make to your website: Change your Title tags! Using the keywords you found during your keyword research, create unique title tags for every page on your site that utilize those keywords. Note: Avoid keyword stuffing here as well. Example:
“Pizza Shop Baltimore Pizzas in Baltimore Baltimore Pizza Shop Pizza Delivery Baltimore Best Pizza”
Something more reasonable is:
“Baltimore Pizza Shop | Free Delivery | Gino’s Pizza | [List neighborhoods]”
Place your most important phrases near the front of the Title tags. I like to throw the business name at the end of the Title for branding purposes and also to get a cheap keyword in (If you have keywords in your business name. If not, add them anyway). You can go for longer titles if you want, such as one including neighborhoods, but note that only the first 70 characters will appear in search results. I can’t go into everything now as far as SEO changes to a website go, but you’ll also want to consider internal linking, which can be read about at SEOMoz, or in a previous post about internal linking.
3. See where your competition is getting their links
In my opinion, the two most important factors for SEO are links and Title tags, but if I had to choose one I’d choose links. Link building can be a slow process, or, if you get lucky with some extremely good content, which is rare, quick and easy. We’re first going to focus on the slow process, which often results in more long-term results. The first question you should ask when link building is this: Who will link to me? The answer: Probably the same people who link to your competitors. How do you figure out which links a competitor has? Again, you won’t have access to any fancy SEO software, so try Open Site Explorer. Just enter your competitor’s website and voila, you can see every site that links to them. That’s the easy part; the difficult part is actually getting the links. Also, you’ll want to focus on getting listed in local directories and places such as Yelp, which offer opportunities to list your businesses Name, Address, and Phone, and, hopefully, provide a link to your website. If they don’t provide a link, that’s okay, you’re just concerned with getting your name, address, and phone listed in as many places as possible. If competition is showing up above you on Google Places (maps results), try doing a search for their phone number and getting those same Name, Address, Phone listings. There are also directories to submit to, and searches for “[your business type] directory” is an easy way to acquire some low hanging links.
4. Create a valuable resource
Now it’s time to turn your website into a valuable resource that people will naturally want to link to. How do you do that? By doing exactly what I’m doing here: Offering valuable information that people will (hopefully) want to link to. If you’re a hair salon, write an article about 10 hairstyles that changed fashion for good; if you’re a pizza place, try writing an article about the origins of pizza. If you’re not a writer, try hiring someone who is. There are a lot of good content writers out there, but beware, you usually get what you pay for, so consider paying $40+ for a good article…or, you can get guest posters to create your content for you. Services such as MyGuestBlog help put you in touch with people looking to post their articles, and all they ask for in return is a link to their site! Read more about adding SEO content to your site.
5. Keep at it!
I’ve skipped over a lot of things, including social aspects of internet marketing, but the most important thing you need to remember is that SEO takes time. You’re not going to see results immediately, but you should see something by the end of the first month. It can be a slow-going process, but just keep at it, and follow the instructions I’ve given, and your small business will be showing up in those SERPs (search engine results pages)!
You may also be interested in: SEO Tricks You Overlooked