I had a friend approach the other day and ask for my opinion on SEO services for small businesses. He read an article that proclaimed SEO was dead, and that small businesses should really focus their resources on building a social media presence, rather than, more or less, chasing unicorns.
Google has moved the target dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past two decades, and they aren’t always forthright about what the moves means for small business SEO efforts. For better or worse, it’s hard for small business owners to keep up with changes in SEO best-practices.
It’s hard, frankly, for marketers to keep up thus, all things tried and tired, are useless – “dead,” as they put it.
Plus, with all of Google’s updates and guidance, it’s still not exactly clear how their algorithm works and weighs varying rank-signals.
The personal opinion as I shared, was that businesses should use their financial and personnel resources on what works for them and that “continually improving their website, should be a part of that.”
I know, that’s a bit vague – let’s see if I can clear that up a bit.
For starters, “doing what works” should be measured objectively and done with some level of consistency – I wrote about that so am not going to spend a moment on that here.
“Improving a website,” also has a ring of uncertainty to it until we break down what that means.
Google does provide pretty decent guidance on the structure of a website, and I think a lot of business owners would do well in spending a half a day per month looking at their site with their team and figuring out ways to make seo services for small businesses more effective.
Today, let’s focus our attention on SEO services for small business websites.
When we structure a site for SEO purposes, it basically means we build each page in simple form – one page heading (h1) for your page title, a few subheadings (h2), some sub-sub-headings (h3-h6’s), some body text (p), images and/or videos that are properly named, titled and optimized.
There’s really not tons-more to it.
Google crawls your website and depending on a number of factors, it can take a few days to weeks to actually gather all of what it needs to index and delineate where your site fits in search. When it does crawl your site these markup tags guide its bot through the structure of the site and tells it the sequence of which information should be considered.
SEO titles probably fall into the same category of “structure,” and you could make a case for the next point I’m about to make too, regarding keywords, but there’s a bit of a nuance to each of these.
If the sequence the bot follows is guided by markup tags like “h1,” then the actual material or content itself, is shared with the bot via markdown and meta data.
You’ll see on most site builders, or SEO plugins in WordPress, will have room for optimizing titles and meta descriptions – do it. These are important.
While Titles are an important ranking factor for SEO, they essentially tell Google bots what the page should be about and provide a clue to what can be expected in forthcoming text.
Meta descriptions, however, are not necessarily required ranking, but would likely be included in SEO services for small businesses or any other size of business. Meta descriptions are the preview text you see in Google Search results. While they don’t have a direct effect on your site’s ranking, they may help users determine the relevance of and article or page they seeing in search results – so they’re good to manage.
We’ll discuss what makes up a good meta description in another post.
One of the most well-known initiatives a small business can take on for improving the SEO of their website is though the use of keywords. Keyword ranking is at the core of Google becoming the single most valuable connection created on the internet.
It was also the source of the most abuse.
I think when Google made corrections – yes, corrections – to their algorithm in (2010) to crack down on “black hat” SEO techniques, the average layperson, who’d found ranking online easy prior, found ranking on the search engine much harder.
Many previous marketers who built an entire industry around search ranking, quit. “SEO’s” were quick to dismiss the practice as being “dead,” after.
Earlier, small businesses could compete at-scale for highly searched keywords because basically all that was necessary to rank high on search engines was an adequate keyword distribution.
Keyword Stuffing, as it was called, was all-of-the-sudden not-so-effective.
That, however, is not to say that a small business can’t compete.
We wrote an article making the case for content as a primary means of growing ranking.
I still stand by this, and I think as we move further and further down the road, we’ll find that search will get smarter and smarter – thus making content more and more important.
Google’s objective after all, is to connect its search users to information that they are after – which in essence means “relevant” search results.
It’s so easy today to publish garbage content – you find a low competition keyword, do a bunch of research, then publish 10th grade-level writing that regurgitates something you found on the web, then point a bunch of links to it. The result with todays algorithm is generally speaking, a move into search rankings.
It seems at every turn and for every topic, people have found a way to circumvent the intended purpose of ranking factors.
It’s my belief that Google will eventually sort out what it means to produce “quality content” that is well-written and informative.
Link-building is (roughly) the process of having “authoritative” sites, link to your site as a means of earning online credibility.
So, if I ran a baseball blog and had ESPN and MLB linked to it as a form of reference, they’d pass along their authority to me – telling Google that my site is legit.
If my site is authoritative, I will generally rank higher for what I say on my website. Higher ranking = more traffic…. you get the drift.
There is an entire economy built on backlinks – not necessarily monetarily, though there is some of that. Folks from foreign countries for example, essentially figured they could build a website, crowdsource a bunch of content from desperate American SEO’s, while simultaneously passing authority back and forth to their millions of sites.
This strategy can work, but it’s not a welcome approach by Google and it’s not necessarily reliable over time if those foreign site’s get dinged down the road.
Mostly, good SEO’s work at capturing meaningful backlinks – which are actually difficult to come by. Good backlinks pass good and meaningful authority, which give them value – like getting a personal reference from an industry expert.
The difficulty here, is that we once again return to a haves and have-nots. People who operate higher-end sites have the resources to perform tasks like genuine outreach. They can also maybe hire expert writers, and possibly have relationships that are difficult to generate in the startup phase for a small business or website.
This is why sometimes it’s sometimes easier to outsource SEO to a company that can do a lot of this for you. If complete services aren’t affordable and you have someone on staff that’s able to create solid content, there may be some efficiencies you can find that make the services both effective and affordable.
At the very least, focus on frequent, quality content on the spine of a rock-solid website. While Google tries to build a smarter search engine, SEO for your small businesses can position your website for future growth in building better authority and ranking.