As a small business owner, it can be difficult to understand why your closest competitor ranks higher on Google than you do. You are aware that you offer superior products (or services) at a lower price.
But every time you conduct a search, you see that others outrank your website; and this is infuriating for one simple reason: it means they’re generating business that you could be capturing.
The number of small businesses is growing every day. There are currently 30.2 million small businesses in the United States alone, accounting for 99.9 percent of all businesses in the country.
So, how effective is SEO for small businesses? The answer to this question should not come as a surprise. Search engines use complex algorithms to deliver the exact results people are looking for, which means that if you provide useful content, you can compete with both small businesses and large corporations.
SEO for Small Business Owners
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it is the process of optimizing a website’s technical configuration, content relevance, and link popularity so that its pages are easier to find, more relevant, and popular to user search queries, and, as a result, search engines rank them higher.
This includes, among other things, using relevant keywords in titles, meta descriptions, and headlines, using descriptive URLs with keywords rather than strings of numbers, and using schema markup to specify the page’s content meaning.
By featuring content that meets user search needs, search engines recommend SEO efforts that benefit both the user search experience and the page’s ranking. Because most online experiences begin with a search and search engine traffic can generate a large number of customers, search results are important.
It is how people search for online information, services, and products, and it can be a cost-effective digital marketing strategy for sites looking to increase their online presence and search traffic without incurring the advertising costs of paid search engine marketing.
In this beginner’s guide to SEO, you’ll learn the fundamentals, including the most important criteria to consider when increasing your organic traffic.
What exactly is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation for search engine optimization, which helps your page rank higher on Google and other search engines for relevant, targeted queries, attracting more user clicks, as users tend to click on the first result to drive more traffic to your site.
You can optimize your pages based on what search engines look for in a website, which evolves as technology trends do; and, if you haven’t already, you can tweak your web presence to make it more useful and informative.
However, SEO has not always been this way. In the early days of the internet, search engines ranked websites based on how many times they used a specific keyword. This resulted in a practice known as “keyword stuffing,” which meant that even high-quality sites could be easily buried.
How does Google operate?
Google now values quality over keyword density. If you have a website, that’s great news because you can invest time and talent into creating a site that will increase your chances of ranking higher.
To learn how you must first understand how search engines operate. We’ll use Google as an example because it powers the majority of global searches.
When you enter a search term, Google’s algorithm determines which of the countless websites available to you will be the most relevant. It then lists the appropriate sites based on relevance and popularity, among other ranking factors, and displays them to you on what is known in the industry as a search engine results page.
Google is constantly searching the web for new or updated pages to simulate user behavior. It employs web crawlers,
sometimes called a spider or spiderbot and often shortened to crawler, is an Internet bot that systematically browses the World Wide Web, typically operated by search engines for the purpose of Web indexing.
These crawlers/bots (programs) follow links across the internet, and report what they find to Google’s servers; that is why it is critical to ensure that your pages are crawlable and that your site architecture facilitates navigation across all site pages through the effective use of internal linking.
There are several SEO tools available to assist you with this task; and Technical SEO is that aspect of SEO that will support you in effectively configuring your site to optimize crawlability.
When Google’s web crawlers return information about a website, a group of internal servers analyzes the content of each page to determine its topics.
If Google believes that the page information is useful and relevant enough to be displayed in search results, it will keep it in its index and serve it whenever someone searches for a relevant topic.
That is why it is critical to:
The more specific you are about the content of the page, the more accurate the indexing process will be. As a result, content marketing is critical for SEO success.
When a user conducts a search, Google determines which pages appear first to provide the best user experience by considering factors such as:
The ongoing challenge of SEO is ensuring that pages on your site perform better than all others about the same topic while considering the aforementioned SEO factors so that a page can continue to perform better in search results, regardless of algorithm changes.
What Factors help you Rank Higher today?
Search engines have used algorithms to determine which sites should appear first on their results pages since the 1990s. What those algorithms prioritize, on the other hand, has shifted dramatically.
Google has been working hard to understand what makes a website relevant and informative since the days of keyword stuffing. Every few months, it applies this knowledge when it releases a new update designed to rank sites more effectively.
When ranking websites, Google still considers the usage and inclusion of the targeted keyword within the content, but the quality of the information is also important.
Factors to Consider for Page Ranking
Some of these factors are on-page, which means they affect how you interact with the website. Others are off-page, such as other websites that link to yours. Google considers links to be “votes” or endorsements. Off-page elements help your site’s reputation and popularity, which helps it rank higher.
Classifying the various areas to be optimized based on whether they are on-page or off-page will assist you in developing an effective SEO strategy. Both on-page SEO and off-page SEO help you rank higher, but the methods for implementing them are quite different.
SEO On-page vs. SEO Off-page
The terms themselves are the best way to distinguish between on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to the elements on the site, including technical configurations and content, which search engines will consider, including but not limited to:
Off-page SEO helps improve your site ranking because Google considers links to be “endorsements” that refer popularity to your site, but it is more difficult to take action to directly improve it. This is because off-page SEO involves sites that aren’t yours but link to you.
This could include:
The more effectively you address on-page SEO elements, the higher your site will rank in organic searches. That is why it is critical to begin the SEO process with keyword research, a research process that will assist you in understanding how your target audience searches.
Search Keyword Relevance
Keyword research will assist you in determining how to ensure that various areas of your pages are relevant and descriptive to the most popular and relevant user searches for which you want to rank.
To begin with keyword research, there are keyword research tools available, as well as data provided directly by Google via the Google Search Console for free.
It is also necessary to conduct SEO audits to analyze your site’s technical configuration as well as content relevance to the targeted keywords to improve your content accordingly.
Local Directory Listing
If you own a local business, you can start improving your off-page SEO by submitting your company information to sites like Sirchpro.com, Yelp.com, and YellowPages.com. Encourage your customers to leave reviews and rate your business on these pages to strengthen your presence.
Attracting backlinks through link-building campaigns is another important aspect of off-page SEO. A backlink is an external link that redirects users to your website. The more backlinks you have, the more people regard you as an authority in your field.
This area, predictably, has caused issues because it is difficult to build links. Website owners used to trade or buy backlinks in the hopes of becoming more popular and ranking higher in search results, and some still do.
However, any links built unnaturally with the intent of manipulating a site’s ranking are now considered a violation of Google’s guidelines and can negatively impact and penalize your site’s rankings in search results.
Backlinks Quality and Relevance
Nowadays, the quality of your backlinks is far more important than quantity. Links to your site’s pages should come from relevant and, ideally, authoritative websites.
Every link on your page must be relevant to your content and appealing to your target audience. As long as you follow Google’s quality guidelines, you can work to increase the number of backlinks you have.
The best link building strategies rely on producing extremely useful, appealing, and shareable content in a variety of formats, such as guides, interviews, infographics, or videos in the form of webinars.
These you can promote to your community and influencers via social media or newsletters, who will then decide whether or not to link to them if they find them useful.
Your ultimate goal is to establish yourself as an authority in your field, which will be reflected in link popularity.
Concentrate on Target Audience
The first reason small businesses struggle to appear in search results is a scarcity of specialized resources and knowledge.
There’s no getting around the fact that those who own and work for small businesses must wear many hats and perform a variety of tasks on a daily basis.
As a result, many small businesses frequently lack dedicated marketing resources or those who have developed the skills required to successfully rank a website on Google.
Without the right tools, it will be difficult to gain the insights required to track progress and make decisions to increase the visibility of your website.
Acquaint yourself with Google Tools
Google Search Console and Google Analytics are two essential tools that are both free to use. It’s possible that both profiles are already set up for your website, but if not, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with these tools.
Set these up for your company before you do anything else, as the insights you can gain from them will be invaluable as you work through other tasks.
Finally, now that you understand SEO, you can work to improve the ranking and visibility of your website, getting started is simple! The more valuable your content is to your audience, and the more technical aspects of your site you optimize, the better your results will be.