Last February was a very busy month for me. I had just started my new job as an SEO strategist at PCG Digital Marketing, and was beginning the quest to launch Get Busy Media. There was only one problem: I knew nothing about SEO or online marketing. I hit the books hard, and practiced the tools of the trade until I knew the ins and outs of SEO strategy.
I learned something very interesting through my research. Basic small business SEO is not rocket science. Sure, more advanced SEO techniques do take some technical experience and creativity, but getting started was much easier than I imagined.
As a small business owner, you need SEO to attract new customers and grow your overall marketing goals. If people cannot find you online, you might as well not exist to them. Think about it: when was the last time you pulled out the yellow pages and looked at every single pizza place in the area? Chances are you searched Google and went with one of the first results.
Let’s go over some basics before moving forward. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and involves optimizing your website for specific keyword phrases. Keywords are words or phrases that individuals type into a search engine like Google. Keywords can be one word or many words – it all depends on what your customers are looking for. To play off the above example, typing “Brooklyn Pizza Parlor” into Google is an example of a keyword phrase.
Below are some simple steps to get started with small business SEO:
Get a Content Management System
If you already have a website, this step might take a little more effort. A CMS is a website platform that lets you edit the content on your website without having to write code. There are many CMS platforms available, but my personal favorite is WordPress. It’s a fully customizable and powerful platform, and an abundance of themes make it easy for you to put up a beautiful website fast.
More importantly, you’ll be able to make changes on the fly as you continue to learn and test new SEO strategies for your site. This will be important a few steps down.
Do Your Research
Hey, remember when I told you about keywords? It’s time to dive in! Keyword research is the first step to any small business SEO. You need to put your website in front of the right people; otherwise, you will not convert anyone into a customer.
Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to see what words and phrases are popular search terms. For most local businesses, you will want to include a location and one or two descriptor words. In the example below, I’ve searched for pizza places in the Brooklyn area:
Enter your keywords one at a time to see how often they are searched monthly. In this example, “Brooklyn Pizza Store” is never searched, so you won’t want to optimize for that keyword. On the other hand, “Brooklyn Pizza” is very popular (over 74,000 monthly searches), so this term might be more difficult to rank for. To get the most bang for your buck, you would probably choose “Pizza in Brooklyn NY” or another keyword term with modest traffic.
Find 2-3 keywords to get started, as you don’t want to overdo it.
Create Your Content
Now that you have your keywords, it’s time to create and optimize your content. The beauty of working in a CMS is that it allows you to easily go in and edit content on your website pages. To optimize, begin adding keyword phrases wherever they make sense. In the “About Us” section, for example, you might write:
“Luigi’s is a Brooklyn pizzeria dedicated to using only quality ingredients to make the best tasting pizza.”
Notice how I included “Brooklyn Pizzeria” while still sounding (somewhat) natural. Do this throughout your website with different keyword combinations to maximize your on site optimization.
SEO doesn’t stop with your website content. It’s important to continue creating optimized content, and the best way to do this is through blogging. Try to write at least one blog post a week about interesting topics, and include keyword phrases throughout your posts. One week you might write about finding the best wine to go with a particular kind of pizza, and the next week write about a local charity you support. The more content you create on a regular basis, the better you will show up in search engine results.
Analyze and Refine
Small business SEO will take a few months before you start ranking high in search engines. In fact, most meaningful marketing campaigns you run will take time in order to be effective. My general rule of thumb is the longer a marketing campaign takes to establish, the longer you will see its results. (I know this will come back to haunt me somehow!)
Check your results by searching Google and other search engines for your keyword phrases, and see where your business ranks. You might start out on Page 15 of results, but as long as you continuously improve each month, you know your strategy is working. If after a few months you have not moved at all in the rankings, consider concentrating on more specific keyword phrases (i.e. pizza dumbo brooklyn) or completely different keywords (i.e. italian restaurants brooklyn).
Another great way to monitor results is with Google Analytics, a free website monitoring program designed to give you detailed insights into your website’s visitors, how they got there, and other data. You can instantly see all the keywords that led individuals to your site, helping you pinpoint valuable keyword opportunities. Google Analytics is a bit more technical, and you might need some assistance from a nerd (like myself) to install the code on your site.
SEO for small businesses is a long-term solution, so you need to get started with it now. The longer you wait, the farther you will fall behind your competitors who are already optimizing their own sites. It is easy to get started just by following the above tips. When you are ready to take it to the next level, consider hiring a dedicated small business SEO company to manage your campaigns and help you dominate online. Remember: If you don’t rank, you don’t exist.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about getting started with small business SEO or digital marketing.
*Bonus* Name the exact keyword phrase I tried to optimize this post for and I’ll give you a personalized SEO consultation, no sales pitch attached. First 3 responses by email only!