How to Get Started with SEO: a Beginner’s Guide for Small Business
Mention search engine optimization to your average business owner and the most likely response is a furrowed brow and a look of frustration. Everyone knows it’s necessary but very few really have a clear idea of why or how best to go about it. SEO isn’t rocket science; in fact, with just a few basic tools you can get started with an SEO strategy to jumpstart your business.
People use search engines to find information, products, and services online, so positioning your company’s website to land higher on the results page is obviously better for generating business. SEO is a series of processes and tools that improve the way your website pages perform with major search engines. Optimization benefits your business in many ways:
- It boosts page rankings on the results page of major search engines, ensuring more potential customers find your business.
- It’s a major driver of traffic to your website, especially when combined with an inbound link tool.
- It helps you attract the type of customers who are most likely to buy your products or services.
In other words, SEO campaigns help you get the most bang from your marketing buck by delivering a higher volume of better qualified prospects to your website.
Know Your Target Customer
Before you can design a successful marketing campaign, you must understand the needs and behaviours of your target customers. For many businesses, the first step is developing buyer personae to give you a clear and detailed picture of your ideal potential customers.
The second step involves thinking about what your customers expect when they visit your site and whether you are delivering content that meets their expectations. Are you in a knowledge-based industry like insurance where customers need information about complicated products? Your website should include case studies, eBooks, and other informational content that answers their questions.
Finally, it’s important to know your main competitors, especially as you move into keyword strategies.
Identify Profitable Keywords
There are three types of people visiting your website: Browsers, shoppers, and buyers. Each is at a different stage in the purchasing journey and use different keywords to signify intent. Take the case of a customer thinking of purchasing a TV. A browser may enter “TV,” or “LCD TV” into the search bar, while a shopper whose further along in the process might enter “Sony 72 inch TV” or “Samsung TV reviews.” A buyer, almost ready to pull the trigger, might search “Lowest Vizio P-series price” or “order Vizio P-series online.”
If you’re working with a limited Google Adwords budget, it makes sense to target those keywords that signify serious intent and readiness to buy. Start by combing your website for the products you sell and attach “buyer” words to them. You can also survey your customers to find out how they arrived on your site and which words they used to search. You can also use Google’s perfectly serviceable keyword tool
Your competitors’ successful marketing campaigns are also a treasure-trove of useful information. SpyFu has a powerful keyword generation tool that scours your competitors’ domains to find the keywords they use that lead to conversions.
Plan Your Content
The single most important factor in SEO is creating relevant, engaging content that meets the needs of the visitors to your site. Images, rich media, and infographics invite a longer stay; this is important because “bounces” drag down search rankings.
Other factors to consider are word count and keyword density. For content marketing, in-depth articles of 500 words or more with a keyword density of one to three percent usually get better results.
Finally, you need to consider the quality of writing and creative factors. Do you have in-house talent who can write and design in a way that engages your target audience, or will you need to hire an agency or freelancer for your content needs? Keep in mind that how often you post new content or refresh existing content affects rankings; SEO spiders constantly crawl the Internet searching for new content to update results.
Optimize for Conversions
If you attract 100 visitors to your site every day but none converts to a lead, increasing traffic to 1,000 visitors won’t really improve your results. Some conversion rate optimization best practices include:
- Write an action-oriented copy that creates a sense of urgency.
- Include a value proposition your target audience finds compelling and attractive (think free trials, samples, ebooks).
- Include customer testimonials and product reviews.
- Post-how-to manuals, product demos, and video tutorials.
- Integrate social sharing in your content marketing.
- Optimize landing pages with prominent calls to action.
Don’t Forget Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO strategies include the optimization activities that occur outside your company’s website. In most cases, the main goal is to build inbound links and increase social media shares to boost search engine rank. Inbound links are like an Internet vote of confidence in your company. When you create engaging, relevant, educational, or entertaining content on your website or blog, other companies will link to it, increasing your exposure and search ranks.
Social media is also very powerful in off-page SEO. Getting your content shared on the most influential social sites, Facebook and Twitter, have a demonstrable effect on your SEO campaign. All content is not created equal in generating social response, however. Long-form content, content that inspires awe or amusement, and infographics outperform in social shares.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to implement an SEO campaign? There is no set timeframe for implementing an SEO campaign. Identifying keywords and optimizing your website copy can be accomplished fairly quickly while developing a content marketing and off-page SEO strategy can take a period of several months.
. Do I need an SEO consultant? The short answer is, “It depends.” However, free online SEO tools make do-it-yourself SEO an attainable goal for many business owners. In some cases, SEO consultants can even backfire and actually hurt your search results.
. Are pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns worth it? Again, it depends. PPC gets you immediate traffic and measurable results so you can evaluate your ROI. On the other hand, PPC gets expensive over time and traffic stops when your campaign ends. In general, if you have high margins, hard-to-find products, and a high customer lifetime value, PPC makes good sense.
. How do I measure results? The major search engines offer free analytics such as Google Analytics and Yahoo! Web Analytics. In addition, most keyword tracking tools have access to weekly progress tracking analysis and keyword stats.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that SEO delivers overnight results; it won’t. It’s a long-term proposition that delivers improved results over time. However, with a little research savvy and mastery of keyword tools, you’ll be off to a running start in crafting a profitable campaign.