SEO Ideas for Small Businesses On A Budget
Search engine optimization can be defined as “everything you do to improve your visibility in search engines.” But SEO has evolved beyond mere on-page optimization and link building. Once unrelated fields like social media and content marketing have become necessary ingredients for a successful search engine optimization strategy. So, here are nine ideas for improving your visibility in the search engines—on a budget, of course.
1. Get Started With Social Media
Social Media And SEO
Although Google doesn’t use social media activity as a ranking factor, there’s a strong correlation between the two. In one case study, a company’s website rankings increased by 6.9 percent after their Facebook Page received 50 likes and 70 shares.
What’s more, in February, Twitter struck a deal with Google to make tweets visible in Google’s search results as soon as they’re posted. According to TechCrunch:
Twitter estimates that there are some 600 million people who already land on Twitter pages as “logged-out” (that is, unregistered) users, compared to the 288 million registered monthly active users it has today.
2. Give Your Website A Facelift
According to a 2014 survey, nearly 40 percent of SMB websites are built by “myself, a staffer, a friend or family member.” But owning a camera doesn’t make me a professional photographer. Which is why most small businesses are not succeeding with their current site.
Making a website look pretty isn’t that difficult. Getting it to perform well in search engines and converting visitors into buyers requires a professional touch. Here’s what you must do to take your site to the next level.
3. Play Nice With Mobile Users
On April 21, Google officially made “mobile friendliness” a ranking factor. That means websites optimized to display properly on a mobile device will rank better in the mobile search results. This change, according to their Webmaster Central Blog, “will have a significant impact on our search results.”
Mobile Is Critical For Both Local And Non-Local Businesses
I’ve written extensively about why mobile is now mission-critical. Google’s recent move has made it even more so.
How To Check If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly
Checking your site on a smartphone is the obvious answer. If you want a more in-depth analysis, SEO PowerSuite has a handy tool to check if your site is mobile-friendly.
Tools To Quickly Mobilize Your Existing Site
If you need a mobile website on the quick, there’s plenty of mobile website builders to choose from. While this may not be the ideal long-term solution, it will get you a mobile website that meets Google’s standards for “mobile-friendliness.”
4. Look Under The Hood
Search engines use automated software programs (called bots or spiders) that search the web looking for content. When they find a site, they “crawl” through it, following the links to each page, then add the content to their database.
Sometimes these spiders encounter an error that prevents them from successfully crawling the entire site. Unfortunately, unless you “look under the hood,” you’ll never know if these errors are occurring.
5. Get Listed, Get Found
If you’re a local business, then having your business information listed across the numerous online directories and local search portals is a key factor to getting found online.
The more places your business is consistently and accurately listed, the more confident Google and the other search engines can be that your business actually exists and that the information they provide to its users is accurate.
6. Leverage Offline Relationship For Inbound Links
The Playing Field Is Not Level
In Google’s ideal world, links are earned naturally, simply by creating high-quality, unique content. In reality, all other things being equal, recognizable brands will always outperform small business websites because they attract more links.
What’s more, search engines favor brands because their user data tells them people tend to click on brand websites more than non-brands. And as these sites rank better in the search results, people will continue clicking on (and linking to) brand websites more than non-brands. And so the cycle continues.
Link building is hard work. But it can be less painful if you start with existing offline relationships, activities and promotions. These can be leveraged into inbound links.
For example, a sports chiropractic firm could earn a valuable EDU backlink by sponsoring a university’s annual 5K run.
Likewise, hosting local events or a local promotion like a Groupon can generate links.
Searching for mentions of your business name online may reveal organizations that have mentioned you on their site, but failed to link back. Ask them to do so.
7. Get Customers Talking About You
Reviews are another local ranking factor. All things being equal, a business with more reviews will tend to outrank a competitor who has none. Most local search experts believe Google favors Google+ reviews.
How And Why Reviews Became A Ranking Factor
Google dominates the search market because it’s determined to give its users the best possible experience. That means anything searchers use to make buying decisions will eventually become a factor in Google’s search algorithm.
Unfortunately, businesses have been blissfully ignorant about the effect reviews can have. Many have bad reviews on websites they didn’t even know existed. And the only way to offset bad reviews is by getting more positive ones. Welcome to Reputation Marketing 101.
8. Become A Content Marketing Rock Star
Once upon a time, SEO was a purely technical endeavor that involved optimizing the pages of your website and obtaining incoming links. But no longer. Enter “content marketing” into the mix.
Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you. – Copyblogger
I talked about social media earlier. Blogging is the other side of the content marketing coin. It’s fine to share others’ content, but creating your own accomplishes two purposes:
Drives traffic directly to your website
Establishes your credibility as an expert in order to generate leads
9. Go Viral With Video
Video Affects Ranking and Generates Traffic
- Your website is 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google if it contains a video (Forrester Research)
- 75% of consumers visit the company’s website after watching a video (DigitalSherpa)
- 73% of consumers are more likely to buy after watching a video that explains the product or service (Animoto Online and Mobile Video Study, 2014)
DIY Video Production
Professional video production can cost thousands of dollars. For a business on a budget, do-it-yourself video production is your only option.
With a smartphone, a few equipment hacks, and a little practice, you, too, can shoot professional-quality videos. Go have some fun.
A word of advice: this article is titled, SEO Ideas for Small Businesses on a Budget. For many small businesses, “budget” often codes for “I don’t have any money to spend, so what can I do for free?”
Keep in mind that “free” comes with a price—your time. Of all the ideas I’ve presented, setting up a website/blog will be the most time-consuming and requires the most skill. Over the years, I’ve encountered many business owners who thought they could save money by building their own website, only to produce an inferior product, or worse—never getting around to it.
Your website is the foundation of your online presence. So my advice is to spend part of your budget to hire a professional. Because, in reality, the only thing more costly than a professional is an amateur.
If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right—it is. Which is why marketing firms like us exist. But don’t despair. I’ve structured this article in order of importance. I consider 1 – 6 “mission critical.” (Non-local businesses can skip item 5.) Start with these. If you see an improvement, the others may not be necessary.
Depending on the competitiveness of your market, you may have to put in more effort to rank than others. Yes, it takes time, but a year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.
Have questions? Post them in the comments below.