How Small Business Owners Can Harness the Power of SEO to Grow Their Brands

It seems like everyone and their mother has climbed aboard the content marketing train, pushing out everything from blog posts to whitepapers to tutorials online. You can quite literally find an answer — or multiple answers, really — to any question that comes to mind. Although helpful in many ways, this wealth of information poses a problem: We’re drowning in the stuff, which makes it that much harder for your audience to find your content.

SEO

If you want audiences to discover your content, SEO needs to be part and parcel of your content journey. Adhering to SEO best practices ensures that any content you produce meets Google’s standards, making it easier for bots to crawl your site, index your content, and rank its relevance. Provided you do it correctly, SEO can provide a significant boost to your content marketing results.

Your other option is paying for ads on Google, which can get costly. Sure, it’ll help promote and validate your company — when an advertisement and an organic listing both show up in search results, consumers feel like a brand has greater authority. But depending on the keyword or phrase, Google Ads can run you anywhere from pennies to $50 per click. And it’s only going to get more expensive over time.

Moving a portion of your advertising budget over to SEO, though, will free you from paying for ads for the life of your business. It also will position your business to show up in organic search results, which can generate more traffic from your target audience in the long term.

Many businesses expect to see results overnight, but that is not how SEO works. A lack of immediate results can lead plenty of SEO newcomers to abandon their efforts after just a few months. What they don’t realize is that it can take two to five years to see a return on the investment. In fact, only 5.7 percent of pages will reach the coveted top 10 of Google’s rankings within a year.

In other words, you should focus on SEO from day one. Here at Boat Planet, we had an SEO strategy long before our website went live. Provided you have a physical address and a domain, you can start building authority with Google. It’s all in how you approach the process.

SEO strategy

Focusing on the Essentials

One of the most important elements of SEO is your choice in keywords. Generally speaking, those keywords fall into one of two categories: competitive and long-tail. For any business on a tighter budget, I’d suggest looking into the latter. Long-tail keywords have less competition, which means you have better odds of ranking higher in search results. They’re also more targeted, so your content is likely to show up in the results of consumers who will, in all probability, do business with you.

This leads us to another element you should consider with SEO: local exposure. For small businesses or brick-and-mortar shops, most of your customers will be local. Instead of wasting your resources on targeting people across the country, gain local exposure by optimizing your SEO with a Google My Business page.

It’s also not a bad idea to work on link building. Apart from keywords, links from third-party websites help to validate your website’s relevance. Consider them “votes” in your favor. If those links are from trusted sources, even better — they can drastically improve your traffic. And here’s a full-circle moment for you: The best way to secure high-quality links is with high-quality content. Make sure your content is worthy of a link.

SEO rocket launch

Taking the First Step

If a small business or startup has the budget for SEO, an outside agency typically handles the entire process. SEO is a complex strategy that requires an up-to-date understanding of Google’s ever-evolving algorithms, so you might want to hire a professional if you’re not an expert.

That said, I’m a strong believer in having at least one person on your team with a basic grasp of SEO. An SEO workshop or online training can expose you to the best practices for researching and finding relevant keywords, structuring a website, optimizing pages, link building, etc.

If you’re ready to take the first step and start taking advantage of SEO tactics today, here are a few good places to begin:

1. Do your research

Carve out some time each week to read something new on the topic of SEO. I’m partial to HubSpot and Neil Patel, but there are plenty of other experts out there who offer insights on SEO best practices. By implementing on-page SEO strategies where they weren’t already present, you can positively affect your content — even your existing content. Also, don’t forget to claim your business listings and keep everything updated using a service such as Yext.

2. Use your experience to help others

In networking, success is based on how much you’re willing to give. The same rule applies here. Develop content that will help others reach a goal, overcome an obstacle, gain a new insight, etc. Not only will this position you as a thought leader, but it also will give you an opportunity to link back to this useful content on your website when giving advice. Online forums like Quora and Trello provide a powerful platform for sharing your knowledge with others.

3. Be generous with links

Take advantage of every opportunity to link back to your website. If you mention other businesses in your content, be sure to reach out and let them know. You might be fortunate to get a link back in the future.

And anytime someone mentions your business online, make sure the publisher includes a link to your website. By that token, you should be doing the same when posting comments on other sites or answering questions online. Include a link back to your business, but try to avoid being overly promotional in the process — you don’t want your post to come across as a shameless plug.

SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing. Done correctly, SEO creates a synergy that drives more traffic to your website. All it takes is a commitment from your team to see it through. Are you ready to get on board?

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