If you have a small business and you want to leverage the power of SEO, you need to know exactly how to craft an SEO strategy. What is an SEO strategy? It’s a plan for your website that focuses on all 3 pillars of SEO: on-site optimization, off-site optimization, and technical optimization.
An SEO strategy is the complex process of organizing your website’s architecture and content so that it becomes easy for search engine crawlers to scan your site. Plus, it sets out ways to improve and encourage your site visitors to engage with your content.
The ultimate goal of an SEO strategy is to grow your digital presence and to enable you to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERP) for high-value keywords.
What is an SEO strategy?
A complete SEO strategy includes all the on-page, off-page and technical SEO tactics you should perform in order to grow your presence and visibility on search engines. It also includes the exact roadmap you need to follow in order to attain success in your niche and leverage all the benefits of SEO.
An SEO strategy should be created by an SEO agency or freelancer. This blueprint outlines specific actions and changes to your website in order to grow your digital presence and outsmart your competitors. The ultimate goal is to be more visible and attract more clicks than any other business in your niche. The higher your traffic, the greater the opportunity to convert website visitors into paying customers.
3 pillars of an SEO strategy
SEO practitioners broadly agree that there are three key pillars of an effective digital SEO strategy. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them:
1. Technical optimization
This is arguably the most important aspect of search engine optimization, because it includes specific website optimizations that are required by Google. For example, having landing pages that are properly constructed for search engine crawlers, having specific metadata (such as page titles), and a website that loads quickly for all visitors on all devices.
These days, having a website that isn’t optimized for mobile is a critical failure. Over time, the outcome for your business could be a loss of up to 50% of your site visitors. This is a combination of users bouncing off your page within the first 3 seconds, plus a demotion of your website rank in SERPs.
Moreover, Google and Bing will penalize your site for loading slower than the average site, or having lack-lustre security in place (i.e. the lack of an SSL certificate). This is because your site and visitors’ information may be prone to hacking. That’s the last thing any small business owner wants.
Even if technical SEO seems daunting, the whole point is to ensure that your site can be easily found by search engine crawlers. Also, that your site visitors enjoy a superior navigation experience.
I’d be happy to help your business uncover opportunities for improvement on your website.
2. On-site optimization
On-site optimization focuses on the non-technical aspects of your site. More specifically, it concentrates on optimizing your content, URLs, navigation, web page structure, calls to action and schema markup.
Once your site is doing well from a technical point of view (i.e. it has no (or very few) errors), you should start looking at the content on your site. Need to check your website’s technical SEO score? Try our free SEO audit tool to find out whether your site is error-free.
Starting with your content, it needs to be 100% unique and should provide value to your site visitors. It should also include your main keywords, LSI keywords, long-tail keywords, proper title and meta tags, good calls to action and of course structured data markup.
Out of these, the structured data markup is the most advanced on-site SEO tactic and also one that is quite powerful. Using it properly gives you a huge advantage over your competitors and can enable you to be featured at the top of the search engine results. Read more about it on Search Engine Land.
3. Off-site optimization
This pillar of your SEO strategy involves link building and gaining high-quality links back to your website. In 2019, link building is still crucial if you want to outrank your competitors.
Be aware, though, that this is all about quality vs quantity. Search engines put a great deal more emphasis on backlinks from authority websites versus anything else. The practice of buying backlinks from link farms is totally outdated and considered black-hat SEO. Your website will be severely punished by Google and Bing by removing your site from their index completely.
When doing link building in 2019, know that it’s better to have a few links from quality sources than hundreds of links from poorly ranking sites. You also need to ensure that you have links from other sites or directories that are active and relevant in your business niche. This is so that search engines put your content in the right ‘bucket’ to appear for the most relevant search phrases.
It’s also important to note that search engines understand the intent of a person’s search, even if the search queries they enter aren’t exactly on point. Those intent-based searches will also show the most relevant websites in SERP.
From a Local SEO perspective, you need to list your site in local directories and local business platforms. Google My Business is perhaps the most important as it powers the listings that are shown on Google Maps. This will enable you to not just become visible to local customers who might be searching for you, but also to enjoy better rankings for local keywords.
Small business SEO strategy in 8 steps
1. Choose your niche and target topics
First and foremost, you need to identify the main topics that your products or services fall into. For example, if you’re an architect, your main topics might include Home Construction, Building Compliance, Home Renovations, etc.
You can use the free Keyword Planner Tool from Google to see the organic search volume of the main keywords relating to those topics. You can then identify (and begin to target) popular sub-topics that have a lot of organic search volume on a monthly basis. This indicates that people are actively searching for information in these areas. You want your website and its content to show up for those searches.
2. Split your website into sections
If you’re selling multiple products or services, it’s a good idea to organize your website around those main topics. The best way to approach this is to simply grab a pen and paper and make a mind map of your content structure. Remember to think about it from the user’s point of view. Perhaps even ask an existing customer what they’d expect to see on your website.
3. Identify long-tail and LSI keywords
Next up, you need to take the main keyword in each topic and find long-tail and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords that have good traffic but low competition. These are additional keywords that appear in your content that are related to the topic at hand. These keywords provide additional signals to Google and other search engines that your website is indeed talking about a particular topic (i.e. it appears to be relevant).
Again, you could use Google Keyword Planner along with other free and paid tools to find keywords you want to focus on, but I can also help you with this process.
Having a look at popular question and answer sites (like Quora) can really help to identify potential keywords by seeing what questions people are asking and the problems they have. You’ll find a lot of useful ideas on social media platforms, too, because that’s where some users are seeking input, recommendations and reviews from others.
4. Add a blog to your website and start writing
Fresh content is arguably the best way to catch the attention of search engines. While you should focus on using your main keywords on the pages of your site, you should also create a blog and start using long-tail and LSI keywords that you’ve found. This requires some keyword research and good ol’ fashioned common sense. Basically, you’re writing answers to people’s common questions that (so far) are largely unanswered by others in your niche.
Each and every new blog post gives you a chance to show up for unique search terms. You should also explore relevant subtopics and provide a good amount of breadth for your audience. That way, you can meet their needs and exceed their expectations by providing relevant binge-worthy content.
In order to get noticed by search engines, you’ll generally need at least 15-20 posts to begin with. You also need to keep adding to that collection over time so that the website’s content doesn’t become stale and old. Remember, updating old posts with current information can help boost your SEO as well.
5. Provide a great user experience (UX)
Your goal here is to entice and enable your site visitors to spend as much time as possible on your site. Having visitors engage with your content as much as possible is critical.
What is a good user experience (UX)?
UX is a very broad topic, but for the purposes of creating an SEO strategy, the focus is to make navigating your website as easy as possible. Also, that your content is arranged and presented in a readable and easily consumable format. So you need to ensure the navigation is flawless and that you create visually impacting calls-to-action to enable your audience to travel with ease between your web pages.
At this point, you may have noticed the strategy is all about increasing the amount of time visitors spend on your site. The more time people spend on your site, the more on-page engagement you receive, which sends positive signals to search engines that you deserve a higher search ranking. In the eyes of search engine algorithms, the more time people spend on your website, the more valuable your content is perceived.
6. Create an advanced link building plan
Link building is just as important as any other on-page SEO tactic. It’s an integral part of any successful SEO strategy. Ironically, high-quality link building is also quite difficult to achieve when done correctly. As a general rule, you need to focus on getting links from high-authority sites.
For example, if you manage to get a link from Wikipedia, Inc.com or Forbes, you’ll become more prominent in your niche. One link or mention from a well-known website is worth much more than hundreds of links from no-name sites.
It is imperative to brainstorm ways on how to get more high-quality links to your site. One of them is to create a name for yourself as an authority in your niche. Google has announced that this strategy is something they look for. It’s called EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).
In practice, this means that if you stay up to date with the changes in your industry and create posts that provide solid information they should start to rank well over time.
At this point, I suggest reaching out to me for assistance on ways to add high-value content to your site. Getting the strategy correct upfront will save you a lot of time and content marketing later on!
7. Stay up to date with SEO
The next step in your SEO strategy plan should be to stay up to date with all the changes in the industry. Just like paid search (PPC), digital marketing and branding, SEO is constantly evolving. You need to know what works and what doesn’t work in order to be able to fully optimize your web pages.
Some of the best sites that keep you up to date with SEO changes are Search Engine Land, SEOMoz and SEOBook. Access them on a regular basis and read about the changes Google and Bing are implementing on a monthly basis.
8. Measure your results
Lastly, you want to know exactly how your site is performing after you make changes and start writing blog posts. Use tools like SEMRush to find out how you’re positioned compared to your competition.
To get help with your small business SEO strategy, please feel free to contact me. I’ll create a personalized SEO strategy for your business and guide you along the way.