Everything You Need To Know About SEO for SMBs
As online marketing becomes more competitive for SMBs, it’s increasingly important to invest time, energy and money toward search engine optimization (SEO). It doesn’t matter if you have five employees or 100, every business benefits from a robust online presence and your search ranking is critical to that. SEO—the process of improving quality and quantity of organic (meaning unpaid) traffic to your website—is driven by value and how much you can add for your target audience. This is where SMBs can use their unique relationship with their customers to win big. People often think SEO is just about finding the right keywords, but that’s only part of it. To really be successful, you need to take multiple other aspects into consideration, starting with user experience. When you optimize your website for SEO, you’re also optimizing for the user experience, essentially killing two birds with one stone. Additionally, the more your website or content adds value to your audience, the better it will perform. That means highlighting not only what your business does, but also what your clients want and how to give them the information they need. Doing so will drive traffic to your website and help define your business as an industry leader, which goes a long way in strengthening brand awareness or authority (another key factor in a successful SEO strategy). And, because you already have an online presence, this isn’t a new investment—just a way to leverage one of the assets you already have. This helps amplify your other marketing efforts because your website ranks highly and that adds credibility. A great search presence also gives you a platform to launch any other marketing initiatives like email campaigns, new display ad programs, or even a microsite or interactive experience. In this detailed guide, we’ll walk you through some of the ways you can set your company apart and maximize its success. It takes little more than some time and consideration, and the results are both long-lasting and impressive.
You Need To Publish Unique, Quality Content
The content on your website should do two things very clearly: The first is to provide critical information about your company. Things like your type of business, operating hours, location and any other information including accreditations or industry memberships. This last element is great for improving your authority. The second is value-added content for potential customers. For example, let’s say you’re a plumber in a northern state. Write articles like, “How to stop your pipes freezing” or “What to do when [state] weather hits your pipes.” This shows thought leadership, gives potential customers a reason to come to your site and gives Google a reason to rank you. These pieces should be well-written and helpful. Articles with bulleted lists, for example, can get your page indexed by Google for more specific, bottom-of-the-funnel keywords that can provide higher-quality new business leads for your business. Long-form content that includes quick-to-read, “digestible” (short content your readers can consume and process easily) sections of information can be extremely valuable, too. Above all, search engines reward your effort to help your audience. However, you can only do that if you know your audience. That means checking out your competitors. Ask yourself, “What can I do to rewrite my competitors’ content to make it more detailed and valuable?” Look into keyword search metrics and find out what your customers are searching for. You can use your own page analytics or a third party (SEMrush is a helpful tool). Think about the questions you get often asked, too. If you’re in HVAC that could be a question like “what is error code X398 on an ACME furnace?” If you see questions like that and answer them, you’re adding value. And as of right now, Google’s algorithm places extra emphasis on ranking websites that clearly state a common question and provide a direct answer to that problem.
User Experience Plays A Vital Role in Successful SEO
User experience, or UX, is the way your site looks and feels for its visitors. Pages should load quickly without being “heavy.” That means there shouldn’t be a lot of background processes or large images to navigate. The site should flow well. Most critical information should be within one click of the homepage. Nested menus are one thing to be cognizant of. You don't want too many of them. They’re clunky on desktops and nearly impossible to use on mobile devices. In recent years, mobile designs have become more important to SEO than desktop designs as human usage patterns have changed. So, when planning the top-level navigation menu on a website, start by determining which three to four paths you want users to take through your website, then put these starting pages as your top-level menu. Keep text easy to read and buttons or navigation easy to access and recognize. Buttons should flow well aesthetically within the design, but stand out enough (by way of color, text, shape, border, etc.) for users to find them quickly and with little effort. The cleaner and easier to use your site is, the better for SEO. Give your audience ways to get to the information they need quickly. This can even mean analyzing your page stats to see where people go most and what they read for longer, which you can do with a website heatmap and behavior analytics tool like Hotjar. Use that information to shape the layout and flow of your site. Those analytics are vital to your understanding of your audience and Google’s view of your site. Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn't all about keyword performance. Search engines use metrics like time on site, bounce rate and repeat visits to determine how good your site is at meeting the needs of its audience.
Don't Forget About Website Structure
This brings us to website structure. The right structure helps your audience navigate, but it also helps Google’s bots find their way around, too. These days, web structure also impacts accessibility, which is a core metric for search engines. Using the right title tags is one thing, but they should also be staggered correctly. For example, an H1 for the main title, H2 for subtitles and H3 for titles nested within those on a page. Bulleted lists should be marked-up properly using structured data so they can be recognized, and you will also need Alternative (ALT) text tags—or a short-written description—for images as a minimum. These items can be implemented easily with most modern content management systems (CMS), like Wordpress. Doing so means the search engine bots can see more of your content and make your site usable for a broader range of users and systems. All of which enhances your metrics, which again helps search engines see the value in your site.
Focus on Building Authority, Too
When search engines like Google see visitors interacting positively with your site, they can assign you higher and higher authority. This is the best way for small and medium businesses, especially new ones, to gain traction. Some larger businesses have authority purely because they are the go-to brand in their segment. For example, if you search “pharmacy” in the United States, you’ll see Walgreens and CVS up high on the list. That’s due almost entirely to their level of authority earned through brand awareness. Brand awareness and authority go hand in hand, so if you’re trying to grow brand awareness, you need to grow authority and vice versa. You can leverage this knowledge even if you’re not a household name. The trick is to find a way to show your authority and that brings us full circle back to adding value for your potential clients. Is there a niche you can carve out? What pain points, specialties or common issues are you particularly good at solving? Use social media to ask your following these questions. Respond quickly to their replies and create content around them. Highlight those in your content with copy that helps show your expertise while also giving the audience information they can use. Let’s say you’re the state’s best plumber for second-floor additions. You can add guides, FAQs, images and even videos to your site that help show the reader why you’re a leader in this particular space. Simple instructional, journey or “a day in the life”-type of videos shot with an iPhone can help keep users engaged on both your site and social media channels.
Customer-First SEO Pays Off in the Long Run
All of these steps take time and a little bit of effort. By keeping your eye on the customer and meeting their needs, you’re able to show your authority, add value and give the bots a reason to rate your site highly. When the search engines see your audience growing and loving your content—or better yet, linking to your pages or sharing them on social media—they’ll give you more love, too. This is how large companies that spend a fortune on website design and bells and whistles get beaten out by SMBs that focus on the fundamentals. SMB owners and marketing teams always has a real opportunity to carve out their own segment of the space by focusing on quality niche content that most other large national companies don’t have the time or resources to develop. As your search ranking improves, you can expect a rise in traffic and leads. Remember, organic traffic builds over time. Consistently investing in SEO over a period of several years has the potential to create a low-cost lead generation system that can support your business for years to come. And when that happens, you’ll want someone you can trust to help manage the influx of new clients and customers. That’s where a Nexa virtual receptionist can help. Our live agents will help manage your inbound calls, schedule appointments and even dispatch your technicians to service those calls. You bring the traffic and we’ll convert it.