Let’s start at the beginning.
No matter what industry you’re in, where you live, or how tech savvy you are — you need a company website.
Gone are the days of placing ads in the local newspaper (e.g., daily readership has declined precipitously and less than 30 percent of people ages 18-44 read the paper daily).
Do you even pick up a phonebook these days? Studies confirm 70% of adults rarely or never use the phonebook. And just when you think randomly handing out fliers is the answer … think again.
However, once your business is online, you’ll want to drive traffic to it and increase awareness and sales. At Rock Candy Media, we’ve had the opportunity to help dozens of businesses build their online presence. While it is admittedly a difficult and complicated process, there are a few simple techniques that any business owner can use.
1. Find the right keywords
The first step in SEO is to identify keywords that will drive traffic to your business website. Google’s Keyword Planner is a free resource that provides everything you need to generate a list of high value keywords. It allows you to build keyword lists based on your industry and location.
Just boot up the planner, input your product or service, add your website, choose your category and select your location. Keyword Planner will then spit out a selection of ad group and keyword ideas.
2. Optimize your website for search
Now that you know how to find the keywords you need, it’s time to start optimizing! Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly evolving field because search engines are always tweaking their algorithms. Luckily, there are some basic SEO truths that are easy to implement and remain valuable no matter what the search engines do.
3. Keep keywords front and center
Your focus keyword (i.e., the main keyword you’re featuring on a particular page) should appear early in your content — ideally within the first 100 words.
4. Be verbose, but relevant
Longer content consistently ranks higher in organic search results. The more time people spend on your page, the more highly it’s valued by search engines. Try to shoot for 1,000 or more words in whatever you publish when it comes to company blog content, etc.
5. Don’t over do it
Now that you’ve got all of those shiny keywords at your fingertips, you may be tempted to stuff your site with as many high-value keywords as possible. This is a really bad idea! Search engines penalize websites for keyword stuffing. Instead, your focus keyword should be 2.5 percent or less of the copy. Sprinkle in synonyms for your focus keyword. Search engines are smart and will recognize and value synonym keywords.
6. Wag the long tail
Long tail keywords are keyword phrases that are several words long and highly specific. To use a dog grooming business as an example, say the phrase “dog groomer” has 170 monthly searches, while the phrase “dog grooming open Sunday” has 30 searches. If your dog grooming business is open on Sundays, there are 30 highly specific customers per month you could be hitting by using long tail keywords in your copy.
7. Link it up
The most valuable links for SEO purposes are backlinks (i.e., links from other websites to your website). Getting quality backlinks can be tough. At a certain point, it is out of your hands. However, there are two other types of links you can use to give yourself an SEO boost.
Outbound links: Outbound links are links from your website to other websites. You don’t want to overdo these, but if you provide links to relevant sites in your web niche, Google will have a better idea of what your site is and how to rank it. If you’re a dog groomer, you may want to link to a grooming supplies shop that you trust or a local animal rescue.
Internal links: Internal links are links on your site to other pages on your site. Including internal links makes your site easier for search engines to crawl, allowing for a better index of your site. It also encourages users to click around on your site. The more time people spend on your site, the more highly it’s valued.
8. Keep content fresh
The more frequently you update your website, the more frequently it’s crawled by search engine bots, which can change your site’s ranking. The easiest way to keep content fresh is by adding a company blog to your site and publishing a new post at least once a week.
Advanced SEO techniques
The above-mentioned SEO techniques are easy to implement, even for inexperienced web users. If you think you’ve got a handle on those and want to go deeper, there are several other simple SEO tricks that require just a little bit of know how.
9. Add and tag images
Include images in your copy. They break up long blocks of text and provide opportunities for you to add keywords in a less obvious way. Most content management systems make it easy for you to change the title and alt tag of any image. Make sure that the title of the image and the alt tag are accurate to the image and include the focus keyword.
10. Use header tags
Header tags are HTML tags that designate hierarchy on a webpage. You want your title (with your focus keyword) to be in an H1 tag, while you want each subsection title to be in an H2 tag.
11. Keep URLs simple
Keep URLs short and specific and include the focus keyword. For example: “www.groomcrew.com/blog/dog-grooming-tips.”
Go forth and optimize
These tips will set you down the right path to search engine optimization for your small business. While this may seem like a lot, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Social media, your sitemap and domain trust can all impact your SEO ranking. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the basics, it may behoove your business to dig in to some high-level SEO techniques.
This article has been edited and condensed.