How to Build an SEO Strategy for my Small Business Website
To help optimize a website for improved ranking, we need to address 3 factors:
the website must be built and structured correctly
it must have the proper content
and finally we need to look at backlinks.
SEO Strategy Website Structure and Build
I want to start out by talking about the website structure and build – and I want to mention that if your website was poorly built, you’re fighting an uphill battle. This is why we rarely implement SEO strategies for clients whose website we audited and found to be inadequate. It’s like using band-aids when you need a cast, no amount of work will get you optimal results.
A series of things need to happen for your website to appear in search engine result pages (SERPS).
First, a search engine must find your website on the internet
Second, it needs to be able to crawl, or scan, the content, identify topics and keywords and understand the context
And third, it has to index the pages – which means adding the pages to a database with all of the other pages it found and scanned.
This last part is what allows the algorithm to consider including your web pages in SERPS.
It’s important to understand that Google does not see your web pages the same way you do. When you visit your website you see a complete layout containing images, colors, graphics, formatted text and links – all Google sees is text. And because of the way a search engine sees a website, any page elements that it is unable to render as text are essentially hidden. It’s very important to understand this because while you may look at a website and think everything looks fine, a search engine might be unable to interpret the content if it’s implemented incorrectly. This brings us to to on-page optimization which is designed to allow Google to correctly scan and index your web pages.
On-page, also called on-site, optimization consists of:
Sitemap and Robots.txt files
We’ll start with website navigation. When a search scans, or crawls your website, it uses links, just like you do. The crawler, or spider, begins with a web page and then follows every link it can find and continues to analyze and index content until it can’t find any new pages. And if you remember what I said earlier, the search engine only sees text, so it’s critical that the main navigation elements on your website is constructed using text and not images.
Next I want to talk about links. You may not link to every page from your main or footer navigation, some sub-pages or blog posts may only be linked to from other main pages on the website. Again, it’s imperative that the links are text links and not images – it’s also a good idea to make sure every page has a link to it from another page on the website. It’s also important that you remove or correct any broken or dead links that may prevent search engines from indexing your content and frustrate your visitors.
Moving on, search engines have to crawl 100’s of millions of websites and then have to try to understand the structure and the context of each one. To make this easier, web developers can implement a logical, and simple-to-follow URL structure. This organizes the website, helps the search engines learn about the relationship between the various pages and allows them to quickly understand the content.
The next on-page optimization factor I want to talk about is page speed. Search engines want to provide a positive user experience, and that includes speed. In some part, search engines look at the page speed, or how long it takes a page to load to help rank pages. This is based on the assumption that, all things being equal, users would rather wait the least amount of time for the content to appear. Different elements, like how code is written, how libraries are linked to and optimized image sizes can contribute to load times.
Sitemap and Robots.txt Files
The last on-page optimization element I want to mention is duplicate content. Remember that its core, the search engine is trying to provide the user with relevant and useful results. If your website contains multiple pages with duplicate content, it can case the search engine to consider this content to be spam and can negatively impact your website’s ranking. Think of it this way, if you’re searching for chicken noodle soup recipes, would you want to go to a website that lists the same exact recipe on 10 different pages? Or would you rather go to a website that has 10 different recipes?
SEO Strategy Content
Now let’s move to the second SEO strategy factor – which is proper content. When a user visits Google and types in a search, they are looking for information which could be a product, a service, an answer – regardless, this information exists in the form of content.What does this content look like? That depends. Even within a single website tt could be a page describing a particular service or product, it could be a blog post detailing a specific use case or benefit, it could be a video demonstrating how a product is used, it can be a client testimonial sharing their personal experience; and of course there are other formats.
But regardless of the format, it’s all considered content – and search engines love content, and more content helps you improve your visibility and ranking. And it’s simple to see why. The more relevant content a website has on a particular topic, the more likely it is that the user will find what they are looking for. The search engine crawls every page it finds website, it looks at things like the amount of content the page contains, how it’s structured, which keywords are being used and in what ratio and placement, and it uses its algorithm to determine how relevant this page is to the user’s search query.
SEO Strategy Keyword Research
Ok, so which keywords should you use? How many of them should you use? How often, and where? The first step is keyword research. The goal is to get as many visitors to your website as possible right? Wrong – the goal is to get as many visitors who are looking for what you offer. I’ll get to this more in the next video, but think of it this way, would you rather get 1000 random people to your website and convert 5 of them? Or get 50 qualified visitors and convert 20 of them?
But how do you get qualified visitors? It begins with working to have your website rank specifically for keywords these potential visitors use when searching. You have to get inside the mind of your client and understand what THEY will type when they are looking for what you offer, not what you you would type. Start out by identifying terms that are relevant to your business. These could be the actual product or service that you offer, for example “branding company in cleveland” or “Cleveland web design company”.
Next, take this preliminary list and go through a more detailed process to identify any related or more targeted keywords and key phrases. Now that you identified a list of keywords, create a hierarchy base on business priorities and use that as a guideline when creating and optimizing content.
Content and Keyword Optimization Strategy
Remember that in order for Google to rank your page well, it must first understand what you page is about.
To help Google with this process, you want to use your primary keyword in a few places.
Page or Post Title: This may be obvious, but make sure you place your keyword at, or as close as you can to, the beginning or the title.
URL: Next, you page’s URL should include the primary keyword. Also try to avoid including and stop words in your URL which most search engines will filter out before indexing.
H1 Tag: Every page on your website should contain an H1 tag and that tag should contain keywords.
Meta-Title and Description Tags: Google and other search engines use both of these tags when they display a listing in a SERP. The Meta-title becomes the actual listing’s title and the Meta description is the little excerpt you see below the title. This information also helps Google understand what each page is about.
Image file names and ALT Tags: Earlier, I mentioned that Google doesn’t actually see images and graphics on your web page. And although it can’t read or see the image, it can ready the name of the image file. This makes it important to make sure that image files contain keywords. Another element is the ALT attribute of the image which is the text a browser displays when you hover over the image – this is another good place to SEO.
Additional On-Page Optimization Factors
Remember that the search engine is attempting to identify a level of authority and credibility for each web page, do here is what we can do to help.
External Links: One way to do this is to link to other websites that are relevant to the topic of your web page. This helps Google assign context to your page and it also improves the value to the viewer. Be careful with this strategy because as a general rule, you don’t want to encourage visitors to leave your website.
Internal Links: The next method has to do with internal links. These are the links you add in the copy of each page which link to other web pages within your website. These links also teach the search engine about the relationship between your pages.
Longer Content: The next method has to do with the length of your content. Because the goal of the search engine is to provide the visitor with the most valuable and relevant content, it assumes that all things being equal, a page with more content is more likely to contain what the visitor is looking for.
Multimedia: As a last method, I want to mention potentially including multimedia elements like video. Almost without exception, I recommend that every website use video. On top of the many other benefits of using video for your small business, it tends to increase stickiness for a web page – which is the amount of time a person spends on a web page. This is great for both SEO and conversions.
Ok, so we talked about website structure, having the proper content and we’re moving on to the third factor which is backlinks. Backlinks are essentially the opposite of external links. Rather than you linking to other websites, backlinks are links from other websites to yours. The reason why backlinks are important to search engines is that they assume that if other sources have chosen to link to your content, it’s link because that content was proven to be of value.
I do want to mention that all backlinks are created equal, and the search engines consider the source. That means that having a link to your website from Forbes.com will carry more weight than having a link from an obscure website with very few visitors.
If you remember in episode 2 of this series, we mentioned Black Hat SEO. One example is link farms, or networks of websites built specifically to be used as backlink sources to try and trick the search engine into believing that a website is popular. Not only will this strategy not help you in the long run, it may actually penalize your website.
In order to determine which links are qualified and which aren’t, the search engines look at:
Linking Website Popularity and Trust: If a search engine considers a domain to be popular and trustworthy, it will assign a higher value to backlinks originating from that website. Think of it this way, how easy would it be to “trick” the New York Times to link to your website?
Linking Website Relevance: Search engines also look at how closely related the linking website is to yours in terms of topics. So a backlink from a popular financial planning website to a saltwater fish website will carry less weight than it would if it linked to a local financial planning firm.
Link Building Strategy
Now that we know why backlinks are important and what we shouldn’t do, how do we go about acquiring real, trustworthy backlinks.
This is probably the most challenging aspect of SEO, and at the core of this strategy is creating valuable content.:
Guest Posts: The first example is guest posts, which are original blog articles that you write and publish on other websites. As “payment” for the free content, the owner of the other website agrees to include 1 or 2 links to your website.
Outreach: The second example is outreach which includes creating a piece of content that carries a lot of value, and then sharing it with other people in the field. The idea here is that since they find value in what you created, they will want to share it with their network, or even reference it from their website. You can also include a soft “ask” when you reach out.
Profile Links: Next, you may want to look at profile links. There are a lot of websites that allow you to create profiles and as part of that profile, include a link to your website.
Organic Backlinks: The last “strategy” is more the results of doing the work. Creating valuable content has inherent value, and even without reaching out to anyone, a reader may choose to share or reference your content from their website. We see that a lot with our own blog, where some of our articles have over 2 million views, mostly from a large number of organic backlinks.
If you still need ideas, you can always conduct an analysis of what your competitors or best-in-class websites do so that you can mirror those efforts.
Small Business Website SEO Strategy Wrapped Up
Alright, so this concludes part 3 of our Small Business Website SEO series, in part 4 we’ll cover how to track and measure SEO results. I really hope I was able to give you a good overview of how to build an SEO Strategy for your small business. If I did, please let me know by giving this video thumbs up, tweet it, share it, and if you haven’t yet, join the community by hitting the subscribe and notification buttons. If you have any questions about this video, please put them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help you.
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