Seo Services for Small Businesses

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.

On-Page SEO and Website Structure

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 and Meta Data

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.

Are Keywords An Important Part SEO Services for Small Businesses

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.

Building Quality Content Around Highly-searched Terms

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 for Small Business SEO

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.

Five Ways to Make Your Existing Website Not Suck

Websites have grown to become foundational items for businesses. Small, medium and large corporations enlist the help of the internet to express ideas, discuss problems, sell items and share information – we’ll get into the many purposes of a website at another time.

It’s hard to imagine that just two short decades ago the internet was used by only 5{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of the world’s population. Today, that number has grown to well over 50{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437}.

90{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of people in North America use the internet – no wonder everyone has a website.

We’re here to discuss some important keys to a website, not why it is important to have one.

Frankly, some businesses, like a local wheat farmer, for example, won’t find much benefit from having a website. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it just means that their bottom line is unlikely to change with their hanging a shingle online.

Some companies, like Amazon, live and breath upon their web presence.

It’s also important to note that the following information is by no means exhaustive. There are tons of elements that can help a website be successful (and not suck) and many metrics that can be viewed as a means of defining the very word, “success.”

Our vision of success looks something like, “keeping up with the times,” and grasping the authority that is rightfully yours. We also like websites that aren’t wasteful and instead, bring value.

A lot of business owners hire someone to build a website or build one themselves, and do so on the principle of having one, because that is what the world tells them to do. But that is where their effort ends.

Our five important keys are for that business owner – take the next step.

Maybe you are a small-town insurance agent, a local grocery store, restaurant or perhaps an accountant or bookkeeper. Your business relies on the quality of your work or products and you might even have a steady stream of income that comes from long-loyal customers.

For whatever reason, you have a website. You know having a site is important and you know that you get some traffic to it. People call or stop by, and certainly purchase from you, so something is working.

You’re just not sure what.

We’re not here to judge any of that – we’re just going to assume that by virtue of owning a website, you recognize some value in having ‘something’ online. You also recognize that if not today, some day it will be more important than before… how much?

Time will tell.

The keys that we’re not going to discuss are how to rank on search engines like Google – totally different topic.

Our aim, is to share some basic ideas; concepts that if you abide by, will set a solid foundation for you to have a reliable and scalable tool that can help your business grow – whenever you need it to.

1. Update your Website regularly

Updating a website is critically important

“Wait,” You ask. “Do you mean I need to update content regularly? Or do you mean that the site itself, like plugins, PHP upgrades and themes need to be updated?”

The Answer: YES!

Updating site content goes without saying. Times are a changing and your business does too.

Maybe employees listed on the site have changed or even your address – those are obviously important to keep up with.

Some of your business’s services have evolved – I know ours has a great deal over the years.

Most important, your products and principles constantly change. Tax laws change, prices go up (or down), your reasons for doing business and your mission – all sorts of stuff.

Make sure it is on your website – someone might actually read it!

Upgrades to your actual website are critical too. For example, PHP is the server side language that seems to change as often as most people change underwear.

As PHP code evolves, older versions fall out of favor and content management systems are not as compatible. Not keeping up with these updates can cause your site to break, or be susceptible to hacks and infiltration by brute force attacks.

Updates to plugins, WordPress and PHP will help keep many unneeded problems from happening and allow you to keep working at what you are good at.

Keeping up content, will help your website users find useful and relevant information related to your business. We’ll talk a little more about what this means below.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Mobile Site

“Huh?” You wonder. “You say this as though the mobile version of your site is different than the desktop.”

It is!

In fact, in many ways it is much different. Even the user-demographics can be way different.

Worldwide mobile web usage topped desktop browsing somewhere around 2015. Google recognized this trend early on and even built an algorithm to offer more credibility to responsive websites.

That is, if all else were equal between two competing websites and one was optimized for mobile viewing and the other was not, the optimized site would rank higher.

Ranking higher simply means more traffic and, as is often the case, more business.

If you have yet to jump on the (mobile) train, and still force your website visitors to pinch and squint – stop reading and call us…

Assuming you’ve remedied your mobile situation and are allowed to keep reading, take some time and give your mobile website a look over.

Examine a few basics:

  • Can you read your text without straining?
  • Are images visible?
  • Does anything fall off the screen or appear ‘unoptimized’?
  • Do all of your links work in mobile?
  • Does the logo in your header render clearly?
  • Does the information important to your business appear in the proper order?

Making sure your site is dialed in on phones and other devices will help your customers and avoid annoying them.

3. Make Your Content BOLD

I had a book publisher give me this advice with regard to writing a book: “Write boldly,” he said.

He didn’t mean bold… He meant BOLD… as in courageous and confident. Take ownership and authority over your subject matter.

So many people go into business as a newbie and feel like they need to excuse their messaging as a matter of their own opinion.

I see websites all the time, and have done it myself, that use words like ‘I think’ or ‘we feel’ or ‘our experience,’ as a means of writing something that may be controversial or could even be refuted.

Visitors to your site – or better yet, customers that buy from you – want to be sure that this is the best product or service they can buy.

How often do you search for something online and add – “The best {insert search term}. Maybe you’re looking for the best chainsaw, or you need a new printer…” Imagine if Hewlett-Packard and Stihl wrote, “We feel our chainsaw is best,” or “we have the best printers in our opinion.”

Dammit, If you are the best personal injury attorney in town, say it!

This doesn’t mean you should be an overconfident idiot – stay in your lane and don’t make false promises.

But, you are in business for a reason – write with authority.

4. Share information that your visitors want to see

I giggle a little bit when I look on sites that are selling cars and boats with the “Call for Price” next to each of what are obviously the expensive listings.

Gone are the days of hiding information from people looking at your website – especially when that information is super cut and dry, and doesn’t require custom pricing.

The marketing industry is tough to get really specific with details because different websites have many different needs. Think about building a website: Some are one page sites but with a thousand words and 12 pictures.

A different one-pager might be a custom-designed 1200 pixel landing page; Another yet, like a site we are currently working on, has 1200 pages.

It is really tough to throw out a price that’ll cover all the costs associated with building or modifying the various sizes above.

What we can do however, is explain everything that goes into our pricing model. In addition to this, we can provide some basic tenants that we build our pricing from. For us, those tenants are somewhat market driven; what will the market bear for the products and services we sell.

Other information that is import is that which might save your customer in the long run. Pricing could fall into this too.

Maybe there are dreaded hidden fees, or expenses that aren’t within your control.

The old thought was – give people enough info so that they’ll call, “then we’ll sell ’em.” And in doing so, we can put those fees in fine print so they don’t see them until the first bill arrives.

Bad business…

Another irritant is the newsletter sign up.

Look, if you send marketing emails every single day good for you, just tell the people signing up…

Yes, you will lose people, but the ones that still sign up are either fools or incredibly dedicated customers: Genuinely part of your tribe!

Just make an effort to be straightforward. Perhaps the best way to do this is to recall all of the questions you get asked from customers – collect them on paper as they come.

Then go one-by-one and answer them, the same way you do when someone  is sitting across the desk from you.

Ultimately, your effort in doing so will refine your website visitors and improve your online conversions.

Sometimes this takes shape in eliminating the bad or boring and doing more of the good.

Elimination of waste is something most don’t even hesitate about in our normal lives, but when it comes to our website the concept is widely neglected.

Likewise, having someone click on a webpage that displays your services, but provides no explanation or detail of what those services are is a total waste of everyone’s time and effort.

People want detail. In fact research shows that 82{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of smartphone users consult their phones before making a purchase in-store.

45{b497a24d07ddde503a8e20c28adddb355e76b486645aa7e354353fdb0a2d3437} of people read reviews before purchasing off-line.

5. Add an Interesting Feature to Your Website

The easiest thing to do is to add a blog to your website. There are many benefits to this and chief among them, improved SEO – we’ll talk more about that later.

The hardest thing about managing a blog is continuing to write, especially if it isn’t something you do regularly.

If this is a challenge, call on employees, friends in the industry or people that you trust to provide 750 words per week or even every two weeks, to write about topics your customers might benefit from.

If you are in the insurance industry, there are a thousand different questions you could answer for your customers long before they come calling.

Another great thing about a blog is that they are highly shareable. Think about how often you scroll through your ‘news feed’ (There was no such thing as a news feed 15 years ago, btw) and read an article with an interesting headline… You get sucked in, then realize that your friends might be interested too, so you share it.

Next thing you know, you’ve got 35 visitors to your website who have never heard of you before. One of them might even be looking for the widget you sell, or a personal injury attorney, or new car insurance because Geico just dumped them.

You’ll benefit from a blog

Another interesting idea is to add a local event calendar for your work place or even the community that you live in.

Maybe there is a great download or “Guide to {Whatever}” that your users could make use of.

Vivid imagery is awesome too – just make sure it is relevant and well-titled, so it too, can show up in search engines.

Does your office create videos?? Here’s an idea – embed the video on your site, then share from your site to facebook, with a great headline.

Facebook videos are great, but we really like to see social media as a tool to draw people toward your funnel. Tools like social media are at the very top of your funnel, which is important to have, but it generally represents a very surface level, non-committed relationship.

Some of (a lot of?) of your Facebook followers have never been to your website, maybe they just like your cheeky posts…

If you’re a dentist or orthodontist, you could gather a crowd around your clever video – maybe hundreds or thousands. What if we could get them to your site to watch and they could see all of the other wonderful things you have going on!

Have more ideas on what makes a website awesome? Email us at [email protected]