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How To Get Started in SEO: A Small Business Survival Guide

I’ve seen many things through the years and one thing that puzzles me is a small business owner who has trouble justifying SEO (search engine optimization). Sometimes it comes down to money, and I get that. But, sometimes it is the misnomer that bigger businesses need SEO. I often here no one comes to my website so why should I worry about it. These are misconceptions I think and in part why I am working on creating a beginner’s guide for to small business SEO.  Whether you own a t-shirt making business, a local bakery, or an international travel agency, you can do more than just incorporate SEO to help people find you online, you can make it work hard enough for you to potentially increase your revenue stream.

Taking Down Roadblocks Keeping You From SEO

Before we get too far into this, let’s acknowledge some of the common roadblocks to small business owners using SEO and how to get around them.

  • Roadblock #1: “I don’t really know what SEO is.”

    This is not a roadblock, this is an admission of truth.  I can almost promise you that at some point even the now big corporations weren’t sure what SEO was either.  Or, do it wrong. I can rattle off several larger businesses or publicly traded companies that do it flat out wrong and have circular conversations, work in an echo chamber and not do not move the ball forward.

For the purposes of this post, let’s define SEO or search engine optimization as a method of optimizing the pages on your website to rank higher on Google or other search engines so that when an end-user searches for a business like yours, your company pops up in the first page of Google search results.  When done correctly, your increased visibility can lead to more website traffic which can result in sale conversions.  You need to know what something is before you can learn how to effectively use it, so spend a few minutes checking out my post on what SEO is here (link to previous post about what SEO is).

  • Roadblock #2: “I don’t have a website.”

    Believe it or not, this can actually work in your favor when starting out.  An SEO professional who also does web design can help build a website from the ground up to fit SEO best practices.  This may also end up costing you less money in the long run as a website that is designed from the ground up with SEO in mind will perform better than those websites that are often built with antiquated SEO principles in mind. Most companies that do only web design have a habit of saying they don’t know SEO.

  • Roadblock #3: “I don’t know how to do SEO or build a website.”

    That’s okay.  I don’t know how to fix my air conditioner if it breaks, but I know who does.  It is not about the skills you possess as much as it is being able to find a reputable and reasonably priced SEO or web design professional who does have those skills- and in spades.  Outsourcing this type of help is usually cheaper than hiring a SEO expert in-house.

  • Roadblock #4: “I can’t afford it.”

    This is usually the final roadblock to SEO for most small businesses.  My question to you is, “How do you know you can’t afford it if you don’t even know what you need?”  We work diligently with clients to customize a SEO strategy that optimizes effectiveness for various price points.  Think of it this way, even if you are only able to do small chunks of SEO work at a time, it will still do more for you than doing nothing ever did.  (Can link this to article I wrote about Cost of SEO).

Basic Steps for A Small Business To Get Started In SEO

There are several steps a small business can tackle to get started in SEO.  Although it can sound a bit self-serving, I do want to mention here that working with an SEO professional on these very basic steps can have a more significant yield in your success in the long run.  Let me show you what I mean.

  • Build Your Website Right.

    If you’ve never built a website before, it can be tempting to choose a cookie cutter web program to build your website. Think Squarespace, Wix or other programs along those lines.  The issue with this is not necessarily with the program, but it’s efficacy.  In other words, it is crucial that the pages on your website are easy to navigate.  This means making it easy to get back to the homepage, having drop down menus keep your page organized, and having page meta titles that help the user easily find what they are looking for.  A SEO professional that is also a web designer should be able to do this in their sleep. The drag and drop site builders have a lot of issues that prevent them from being properly recognized and providing Google’s algorithm the right information to score the site properly and therefore rank it. This topic is so important to me, that I have an entire 2 hour seminar on this actual topic that I encourage you to watch on just this topic.

  • Maintain Your Website.

    Creating a website is one thing.  Maintaining it is something entirely different altogether.  Once a website is up and running, SEO best practices typically call for new content on a regular basis to keep your site relevant.  This means ensuring that your pages and links are working correctly, including those that were created months and years ago.  Both broken links and broken pages can make a user feel like the website they are navigating is not up to par and cause them to click off of your website which translates to no sale conversion for you.

  • Ensure the Website Loads Quickly and Runs Smoothly on All Technology Devices.

    There is nothing more frustrating for a motivated website user than having to wait more than five to ten seconds for a page to load.  This is usually just frustrating enough to have them leave your website and move on to another.  Create website pages that load quickly and that look and navigate the same regardless of whether they are viewed on a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, etc. Finding the right web hosting copy is extremely important. I am often asked who I recommend. We recommend ACTWD. We built our hosting platform specifically for SEO performance.

  • Make Written Copy on Your Website Work for You.

    Ideally, every page on your website will have at least some written copy either to provide instruction or description.  A page without any copy can be a red flag for search engines so keep this in mind.  Each page with written copy needs to be tagged appropriately with meta titles and subheadings.  This is where an SEO professional that is also helping to build your website can really make you shine.

  • Feature New Content Regularly on Your Website.

    The more new content that regularly appears on the website can make it more relevant for search engines if the information is both legitimate and helpful.  An SEO professional can help you identify keywords for your written content or a blog that may make it more attractive to search engines.  The use of the right keywords and the placement of them throughout written copy is one of the components of an algorithm Google uses to determine which pages land first in search results pages.  Lastly, whether it is one hundred words or fifteen hundred words, make sure they include correct grammar and spelling.

  • Build Links for Your Website.

    Particularly with Google, if your company’s website is linked with other sites found by a search engine, it can help determine how high your website will appear on search results provided by a search engine.  For example, if you are a web design company, it can be beneficial to have a link to your website from those of clients as well as other companies within the industry.  For small businesses, this may look like being linked to your local chamber of commerce page or a supplier’s page.

It is worth noting that these are simple steps that provide an excellent foundation for SEO.  Once you and your SEO team have accomplished these objectives and continue to maintain this groundwork, you have essentially graduated from the beginning steps for small businesses getting started in SEO and may be ready to move on to the next level of a SEO campaign.

How To Find A SEO Professional That Understands How To Get A Small Business Started In SEO

When I Googled “SEO companies” the search returned a whopping two hundred five million results.  That is a lot.  I also feel I need to point out here that not all SEO companies are created equally.  A reputable SEO team will be able to:

  • Understand the needs of and have worked with small businesses
  • Have expertise specifically in SEO
  • Do web design
  • Offer a number of reasonably priced SEO packages to fit the client’s needs

Partnering with a company that knows how to do all of the above, makes them a one stop shop of sorts for clients that need multiple services.  This can be both more convenient and cost effective for clients instead of bouncing back and forth between different providers with different price points.

In addition to being able to provide the above services, it is best to keep the following considerations in mind when looking for an SEO professional to help your small business get started in SEO:

  • Choose a provider that has years of experience, specifically with SEO. This can be tricky because many companies claim to be top performers in digital marketing but that does not mean they know how to do SEO. Make sure the company you hire knows SEO inside and out.
  • Look for a SEO team that has a reputable industry reputation that can be further verified by talking to clients. A company worth their salt will have clients and peers vouch for their capabilities and customer satisfaction.  These referrals, or lack thereof, can be quite telling of a company’s abilities to communicate with their clients and help them achieve their goals.
  • Partner with a SEO professional that does not require a long-term contract. No SEO company that really understands their craft will require a client to sign a long-term contract.  To do so would only indicate that they do not have faith in their own ability to come through for the client.

Like most anything else, half the battle in getting your small business into SEO is learning what it is, what it does, and how you can make it work for you.  After reading this post, you don’t have to wonder how a small business gets started in SEO.  You’ve stopped wondering, and now it’s time to start doing.

Beth Guide:
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