SEO to Know: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Giants

Small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing in a crowded marketplace—and no marketplace is more crowded than the Web. That’s a lot of competition for those precious few spots on the first page of search engine results.

SEOIn almost every industry, there are giants. You know them; everyone does. They’ve been around since the beginning of the Internet, have a natural audience, and have everything they need to dominate in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO).

How can a small business hope to compete?

The secret is in how SEO works. If you have the answers your customers are searching for, you wind up on top. Here’s how to get attention.

1. Work Your Niche

Big businesses try pretty hard to be all things to all people. You win if you concentrate on one thing. Find your niche and dominate it. Make your content relevant to your niche and repeat your message in different ways on every page. What’s unique about your business? Find your unique selling point and let it permeate your company culture, social media, and website content.

2. Go Hyper-Local

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to location-specific goods and services. Google’s Pigeon update put local businesses at the forefront of mobile search. Using geo-location built into smartphones, Google shows users businesses that meet their needs and are in closest proximity. By mentioning specific neighborhoods or location-specific ingredients or interests, you move closer to the top of the search.

Location-specific ingredients, you ask? Local brewery Black Husky Brewing makes a beer called Sproose II IPA, which has the true taste of the great Northwest. It’s made with spruce tips. Chipotle grew quickly from a small business to a big business with a unique selling proposition: “fast casual dining.” It’s fast, but not fast food, locally sourced, fresh, and far more nutritious than traditional fast food…but still cheap and ready to serve.

3. Become the Authority

Remember, big businesses don’t have to work that hard. They concentrate big budgets on traditional advertising. Your best bet is to do the opposite and drive traffic through content and social media. Share your industry expertise on your blog and on major publications. The more relevant content you can produce, the more likely you are to add the value Google is looking for.

Every business has the opportunity to become a publisher. Use your platform to provide as much information as you can—and be sure it’s the information your customers are searching for.

4. Spread Your Fame

Link juice is still valuable. To gain valuable inbound links, you can approach influential writers in your industry or write interesting content and submit it for publication on big-time or industry sites. You can also sponsor an industry report. Good quality reports, like Deloitte Digital’s survey “Navigating the new digital divide,” earn more inbound links and mentions than any other type of content.

5. Be Human

Big corporations can appear to be cold and faceless. Call them and you may spend hours on hold, or get lost in the phone system twists and turns. Small businesses have an easier time being warm and human. Make everything about your customer service and social media personable and friendly—and that will become your reputation. Personal service makes you stand out, plus, it earns you recommendations and social media mentions, which pump up your SEO.

One last thing: If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, build one. It’s useless to work on SEO if more than 60% of your potential customers won’t see your website when they search on their mobile devices. It’s time to go mobile in 2016!

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Getting to the top of search engine results and staying there takes constant and consistent content marketing maintenance—and it’s totally worth it. Solid SEO strategy can help you compete with the biggest of the big boys for prime real estate on search engine results pages. Try these 5 tips to work your way to the top!

 

Your SEO Checklist: 6 Starter Steps for an SEO-Optimized Website

 
SEO-optimized websiteThe goal of SEO (search engine optimization) is to build up traffic flowing to your website. Great SEO means your site is easy for search engine crawlers to find and categorize, plus, it helps determine where your site will land within search results. Your goal, of course, is the highest possible ranking you can achieve: the first listing on the first page. That’s the listing that’s going to attract the most visitors. Hands down.

SEO isn’t a one-and-done thing. It’s a constant, ongoing process that takes strategy, monitoring, and refinement.

There are far more than six constantly moving parts to building and maintaining your SEO-optimized website, so consider this checklist the bare essentials of SEO.

Your starting line

1. Semantic Content

Just a few years ago, this #1 item on your SEO checklist would’ve been “Keywords and Phrases.” The launch of semantic search changed all that. Today, your website content has to be relevant to your industry or products. Repetitive keywords are out, concepts are in.

That simply means that all of your website content and copy needs to relate to your industry, your products, or your company. Forget random clickbait and keyword-stuffed articles. Instead, concentrate on providing real value: information your customers are searching for.

2. On-Page SEO

Before you publish, make sure your meta-data is in order:

  • Keyword-based titles unique to each page. To help search engines categorize your pages, include the site name and the page title. For example, our Contact Us page title is “Get In Touch – Grow With Cultivate | Cultivate.”
  • Clear, succinct description tags. This is a succinct description of each webpage—and it should contain at least one keyword. Use no more than 145 characters and be sure to hook the reader. This is what appears below the page title, so it’s valuable real estate you can use to persuade the reader to click.
  • Optimized images. To ensure fast loading time (which also influences your search rank), be sure your images are sized and optimized for web viewing.
  • Simple, but complete sitemap. With both an HTML and XML sitemap, all your search engine bases are covered. Sitemaps make it much easier to submit your site to search engines for faster indexing.

3. Analysis Tools

SEO-optimized websiteAlways use the most current site tools to help you analyze your website to find flaws, broken links, and other issues that affect SEO. You can also analyze competitor sites to find out how your site compares and what you might do more successfully.

One critical analysis no self-respecting webmaster can afford to overlook is backlinks. Be sure you don’t have incoming or outgoing links to low-quality sites. SERPs hate that.

4. Regular Monitoring

With your SEO boosted, you’ll want to monitor your campaigns and new content to see what’s most successful (which content or ad earns the most clicks, conversions, likes and reshares). By adjusting your SEO strategy to make your audience happier, you boost your traffic organically. It’s all one big circle. SEO builds traffic, and traffic boosts your search engine rank…which results in more traffic.

5. Testing

To get to that sweet spot where your visitors are coming back on their own and sharing your content with their friends and colleagues, you’ll need to try new things. Depending on your industry, your visitors might be more interested in how-to videos, eye-catching photos, detailed instructions, user-generated content about your product or service in action, lengthy consumer reports, or one-line quips. Figuring out what works best for your audience means trying new things and doing more of what works.

6. Mobile Friendliness

No SEO-optimized website checklist is complete without a mobile component. More and more frequently, your potential customers are using mobile devices to find information. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, your SEO is flatlined more than 61% of the time.

Your SEO strategy should be focused on user experience—on delivering the very best answer to the user’s question. SEO is an ever-changing scenario with a lot of influencing factors, so use this checklist as a bare-bones guide to basic SEO. If you’re not confident in your SEO strategy, let us know in the comments!

related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

The Strongest & Simplest Approach to Solid SEO Strategy

strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy

SEO is a complicated subject and a constantly moving target, but if you keep Google’s stated purpose in mind, you can craft a solid SEO strategy that works now and into the future. What is that purpose? To deliver the highest quality, most relevant results to users.

It sounds simple enough, but past efforts to game the system have landed many website owners in Google Hell…not always for their own actions. Many “SEO experts” are infamous for shady practices meant to deliver fast results. It makes them look good for a little while, until an algorithm update brings it all tumbling down. A major loss in pagerank can destroy your bottom line.

That’s why we’re going to give you the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy. No tricks. No gaming. Just real, evergreen tactics that will never get you in trouble—and will always push your site to the top of the search engine results page.

Focus on: Keywords

Even with semantic search, keywords are still important. Make a list of industry keywords you want to shoot for, and ensure your website content on your site is focused around those topics and words. Forget repeating keywords x number of times on each page. Longtail keywords also have their limits. Just write naturally about the subjects native to your industry.

Best keyword practices:

  • Do thorough keyword research.
  • Use your primary keyword or keyword phrase in your title.
  • Write a short, pretty URL that contains your keyword.
  • Use keywords in your subheaders.
  • Include keywords in your first paragraph.

Focus on: Links

Every link is important, even those coming in to your website. Be sure you link in and out only to quality, relevant sites. Linking to internal pages is great SEO, but the links should fit naturally into the text.

Incoming links are equal parts awesome and terrifying. If industry bloggers on high-traffic sites link to your content or mention your site in any context, it’s a real SEO boost. Ditto if you share your knowledge to be published on other sites. Guest blogging extends your audience and raises your authority.

You just have to be careful. Backlinks coming in from low-quality sites can hurt your SEO. It’s a good idea to regularly evaluate your site’s links, fix any broken ones you find, and make sure your incoming links are from authoritative links related to your industry.

Focus on: Load Time

The length of time it takes your page to load is critical to SEO for several reasons. Slow-loading pages are frustrating to visitors and increase your bounce rate—which is indicative of how fast and how often visitors leave your page. Load times are influenced by the amount of code that loads when a visitor arrives and by image size.

If your page is loading slowly, the cause might be ads, videos or music set to play automatically, or other scripts. Code errors may also result in loading issues.

Large graphics are also a common issue. Even if graphics appear to be small in dimension, they might be large files controlled by specifying size in the code. If you right-click a small image and open it in a new window and it’s huge, it’s not optimized, and it’s probably slowing your load time.

Focus on: Content

All basic SEO strategy should focus on high-quality content. Publishing great content attracts traffic by giving customers and prospects information about your industry and your products, provides endless opportunities to bolster your keyword strategy, and establishes your site as authoritative…a good reason for bloggers and journalists to write about you.

Whether you write content in-house or outsource, it should be informative and tailored to the interests of your audience.

Focus on: Location-Based SEO

Google’s latest algorithm makes location far more important than it’s ever been before. While city searches are still relevant, the search now drills down to a more granular neighborhood level. If you’re a brick-and-mortar, raising your rank, especially for mobile search, means adding more location information to your page. Instead of sticking to New York City references, be sure to mention you’re in SoHo or the Village.

Focus on: Mobile-Friendliness

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, your SEO isn’t up to par. Mobile search makes up 61% of all website traffic today and sites that aren’t optimized do not appear in the mobile search results. It’s a simple rule. If your site is not optimized for mobile, you lose any mobile traffic you might have earned.

There are a lot of details to SEO, but this is the strongest & simplest approach to solid SEO strategy on a broad level. Google is looking to deliver high quality results, and, if your website meets those high standards, that means your SEO is solid—and you’ll see boosts in both customer engagement and search engine results rankings. It’s worth it.

 
related-resources_01

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly