Why Small Businesses Can't Skimp on SEO
Companies today are making more cuts than ever to stay afloat; however, don't make the mistake of skimping on SEO.
The same rules apply for small businesses. The day to day tasks of the modern small business owner continue to mount. The meeting about the new project gets pushed back. The whiteboard with the fresh ideas for 2013 gathers dust. The brilliant marketing campaign that's been in your head all month slowly gets pushed to the back of your mind. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, it happens.
If there's one area of your business where you can't afford to “fall off the wagon,” it's search engine optimization.
We continue to see the field of SEO evolve and grow each year and small business owners are responsible to take note of such changes in order to keep up. Perhaps SEOMoz CEO Rand Fishkin puts it best as he describes the current state of SEO as having a "relentless pace of innovation, change, and opportunity" with "little chance of slowing down."
Small business owners often cower in the face of SEO despite its importance. But why? In the battle between two businesses, one with an adequate SEO strategy and other without, guess which company comes out on top?
Nobody is asking the ordinary small business owner to be an expert when it comes to search engines. The wealth of information on SEO available for free online is staggering and it's all at your fingertips. While you don't have to be an expert, you do owe it to yourself to understand the basics of SEO. Understand that the path to search engine dominance is a marathon and not a sprint. There is no miracle site or trick that will push you to the top of Google.
Regardless of your SEO goals, you need to have a strategy in place. Furthermore, that strategy needs to work. Ideally, you want to use your time as essentially as possible. Below are the keys to outlining a successful strategy that will help you get the most out of your efforts.
Don't Fret: It's Easier Than You Think
Firstly, there's no need to be afraid or hold some sort of grudge against the idea of SEO. It's a must-do for the modern business and every company has the opportunity to approach it differently. As so much commerce is done online, avoiding SEO out of preconceptions or fear is simply not an option.
In many ways, your SEO strategy is exactly what you make of it. Some businesses are more aggressive than others when it comes to social media versus email marketing. Others are very content-heavy. For many small businesses, especially those working alone or with limited resources, it's all about finding a balance. Just as you allocate time or resources to certain avenues of your business, now's the time to grind out the time for SEO. There's really no way around it.
What are the Essentials to Small Business SEO?
Although the importance of content creation for your small business has been discussed at length, its importance can't be stressed enough. Remember that content represents more than just the run-of-the-mill articles or blog posts. Content encompasses what you're providing through your social media updates and the static content on your website in addition to what you're providing on your business' blog. If these concepts or terms seem foreign to you, it's time to develop a content creation strategy.
Content creation is the cornerstone of a small business' SEO strategy. What you include within that content, in terms of both subject matter and keywords, are perhaps equally important in regard to search engines. Pieces of content that are prone to sharing represent search engine gold, meanwhile users will be able to find what they're looking for if you're targeting the correct keywords.
For many small businesses, keywords represent a cautionary tale. In short, don't be a spammer.
For the longest time, small business SEO was reduced to the concept of stuffing as many keywords as possible into as much content as possible. Times have changed, obviously, and Google is not shy to punish sites with poorly valued content. Instead of trying to trick Google, take advantage of their own keyword tool and delve into some keyword research yourself. Understand what keywords are being searched by users in your field and integrate them into your content strategy. Remember that such keywords should supplement your content, not dominate it.
In 2012, Rand Fishkin predicted that SEO and social media would continue to become more and more intertwined, stating that "social is becoming the dominant method of both sharing and discovery for web users." As you develop your social media strategy, consider how that strategy is connected with your SEO efforts.
Social sharing has a huge impact on search engine performance. Furthermore, Facebook and Google+ continue to put emphasis on search efforts through their graph search and authorship functions, respectively. Take into consideration the fact that search and social are not so far removed and remember the importance of both as your business moves forward this year.
Directories, Ratings and Reviews
Many marketers fail to mention directory and review sites when it comes to SEO strategy, yet they provide huge opportunities for businesses to both increase their visibility online and create links in the process. Your content, keyword and social media strategies all come together as you solicit reviews on such sites. Securing your online reputation through ratings and reviews not only puts you in a positive light with Google, but also shows customers who've found you organically that you're trustworthy.
The Bottom Line
You don't have to sink tons of time and money into SEO in order to develop a successful strategy. As small businesses juggle so many roles these days, SEO is part of the balancing act and it's here to stay.
SEO Image via Shutterstock