SEO for Small Businesses: Does it work?
Search engines process an average of 8.5 billion requests per day, and while most of these requests aren't related to your business, appropriately positioning yourself can secure you a large chunk of the market share instead of random marketing. Search engine marketing is undoubtedly one of the most efficient marketing strategies you can employ when pushing your company's growth.
However, as a small business owner who can't afford many trials and errors, you must ask yourself, "Does SEO work for small businesses?
Let me show you how much you stand to gain by leveraging the popular search engines (Bing, Yahoo, and Google Search) to upscale your organization and the steps to take to ensure optimal results from your marketing campaign.
Why SEO Matters for Small Businesses
Let's go straight to answering the burning question that led you to this article. While the benefits of SEO for your business growth are plenty, it can be primarily identified as providing your website with visitors while potentially filling up your sales funnel (prospects - leads - customers).
To achieve this, SEO grants your business the following:
Marketing is all about making your services known and available for your audience so that they can choose you for their needs. SEO improves your brand visibility such that the effort you put into sourcing leads is significantly reduced.
Increased visibility equals a better digital presence and getting your content out to more prospective customers.
Improved brand reputation
Your brand becomes synonymous with quality as long as you keep churning out helpful and relevant content with a well-positioned SEO campaign. Your audience now prefers reading articles because they consider you an expert on the subject matter.
This goes a long way in your company's growth, as these word-of-mouth reviews are vital in driving your organic traffic before anything else.
The third reason search engine optimization is essential to your business is the long-term effects of your content. Search engines reward excellent content above everything else.
However, these results take time to compound. One of the steps that might help fast-track this process is when larger companies with an established reputation link your work to their content.
5 Steps To Get Started with SEO for Small Businesses
As a small business, you're no doubt searching for a cost-effective way to improve your content ranking and command more website visitors. Well, here's a step-by-step guide to steer you in that direction:
1. Identify your target audience and keywords
No matter what kind of campaign you're embarking on, your target audience is the most crucial aspect of the entire campaign. And to ensure that you generate a decent amount of online traffic, you need to target the keywords that resonate with your audience the most.
You can use free keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner or the more popular tools like Ahrefs, Keywords Everywhere, and Semrush to identify your keyword's search volume and density. This, in turn, helps you plan accordingly and ensure you get a good spot for the keyword ranking.
Pro tip - While ranking for general industry keywords is nice, try being as specific as possible for your services.
2. Optimize your website content and structure
It's safe to say relevant content is your most important ranking factor in SEO. However, if said content is put out with a structure or plan, it will perform better than expected.
You must adopt the best on-page SEO optimization techniques and fix any website issues affecting your user experience. These include ensuring a mobile-friendly website, optimizing page speed and broken links, adding external and internal links, using headings and subheadings for page structure, etc.
An extra reason for optimizing your website is to drive the conversion of website visitors into leads for your business. After all, making sales is the end goal of all marketing campaigns.
3. Create off-page SEO content and strategies
Besides the on-page techniques, you can augment your search engine rankings through an off-page SEO strategy. Where on-page centers around optimizing your content and website, off-page SEO deals with the activities you engage in outside your website.
These strategies include guest posting, social media marketing, local SEO(Google My Business), attending live events and forums, positive reviews, and link building/backlinking.
In case you're wondering what off-page SEO does for your content, it's the part of your campaign that helps build your brand reputation, as search engines would now attribute expertise and authority to content from your website.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide on SEO for general contractors to learn more on how to leverage local SEO as a small business owner.
4. Utilize social media platforms to increase reach
Social media platforms are another excellent avenue to increase your online presence. You get to build a follower base that could lead to a customer base, attend to inquiries and requests in real-time, monitor your reputation by seeking clarity on negative reviews, etc.
Also, even though you're a small business owner, social media brings a bit of leveling to the playing field filled with larger companies. Ensure you follow and reach out to social media accounts of relevant sites you'd like to partner with.
The more your content garners traction on social media, the higher your number of website visitors (which in turn increases your search engine rankings).
5. Measure and analyze your SEO efforts
Finally, you monitor your campaign to ensure things are running smoothly and see where you need to improve. Popular SEO tools for this are Google Analytics, Semrush, Ahrefs, etc.
What do you monitor when engaging in SEO for small businesses? Click-through rates, organic traffic, keyword ranking, website authority, bounce rate, conversion rates, backlinks, SERP visibility, etc.
These are all critical criteria that determine whether your SEO campaign is up to par or if you need to tighten the management reins.
How long does it take for SEO to work?
SEO results take time, so you must treat each campaign as a continuous project. It's important to understand that SEO is not a one-time task. The timeline for seeing results depends on factors like the age of your site, the quality of your marketing strategies, how relevant/helpful your content is, and the consistency of your efforts.
To ensure the visibility and ranking of your website, it is important to consider your competitors and the keywords you are targeting. Tracking results and refining strategies based on data will help determine progress.
If you have all those factors in your favor, you can anticipate seeing results within a timeframe of six months and above. However, consistency is crucial in SEO as it’s a campaign that requires investment. Over time, prioritizing sustainability over speed will lead to long-term rewards.
Factors That Impact Search Engine Ranking
As a small business owner who's just starting with SEO, there are two crucial factors you should always watch out for when crafting content. How well it answers your audience's questions and relevant keyword usage.
While off-page ideals are also excellent in promoting your content and brand, you should watch out for these two on-page SEO tips the most.
Relevant Keywords in Content, Titles, and Meta Descriptions
The idea of ranking on a search engine is based on how well you can leverage your target keywords to create SEO-optimized content.
This SEO strategy involves using your selected keywords in spots like title tags and meta titles, URL slug, section headings (H1, H2, H3), meta description, and a couple of times in the content.
A bit of advice, though: when using long-tail keywords, you don't necessarily have to use it in the exact way your keyword tool brings it up. You have to use the most grammatically correct version of that keyword as it makes your content more smooth and natural. Also, since search intent is now quite important when search engine bots crawl your website for content, they'll pick up on your keyword usage as long as it answers the question concisely and relevantly.
Without good content, your SEO policies, campaigns, and techniques won't amount to much. Relevant, helpful content your audience can relate to is the cornerstone of your SERP ranking.
Whether you're writing a product description or detailing customer reviews of your services, ensure your content always revolves around helping your customers create a solution to their problems. One of the advantages of this is that it positions your brand as a credible source of information that always has the reader in mind; this immensely contributes to your organic traffic.
SEO myths debunked
Now, let’s highlight two of the popular misconceptions many people have regarding SEO for small businesses. While the notions behind them might be true in theory, reality might just be a tad different.
An increase in website visitors translates to automatic sales
This statement is one of the most popular and heinous misconceptions about SEO. But as I said in my introduction, they're valid in theory.
That you now have a significant increase in your website visitors doesn't guarantee profit-making. This is because your website might not be attracting enough relevant visitors.
An excellent strategy to bypass this is adding a location demography to identify the traffic most relevant to your business and then focusing efforts on that end to maximize sales opportunities.
Keyword is more important than search intent
While keywords might be responsible for your rank on a SERP, the searcher's intention ultimately determines whether they're a lead or just another website visitor.
First, identify what searches website visitors that went on to become leads made; then, you can use this as a yardstick to see what kind of keywords you'll incorporate in your content.
You have to rank for specific keywords
While this might seem like a piece of very strategic advice, it can sometimes be different with SEO. You must have a niche as a small business, but don't just put all your efforts into ranking for that particular keyword because the search engine policies determine what you rank for.
It'll be very painful for you to have invested thousands of dollars in ranking for a particular keyword (especially if it’s a competitive keyword). Then, Google brings a new system that upsets everything you've worked so hard for.
So, what do we do in this case? We go back to the drawing board for excellent, relevant content.
What is the difference between local SEO and standard SEO?
Standard SEO targets keywords related to a particular product or service without affiliation to location. In contrast, local SEO focuses on using specific keywords and phrases to increase visibility within a specific geographic area.
Basically, local SEO is regular SEO but restricted to a particular location.
How do I conduct local SEO for my small business?
Some of the tips you can imbibe when creating a local SEO strategy include setting up a Google My Business page, identifying and leveraging local keywords in your blog posts, adding a Google Map of your location and service areas to your website, securing citations and local backlinks, prioritizing customer reviews, etc.
How much does an average SEO campaign cost?
There is no average cost when it comes to SEO campaigns, and this is because budgets vary according to companies. While some businesses have a budget of up to 10k dollars per month, others have significantly less. However, as a small company, allocating a minimum of $500 monthly towards SEO is recommended to see results.
Even though you might not be able to compete against larger companies as a small business owner, SEO is one of the few avenues where the playing field is level. Your content is at the core of your entire campaign, so you must have an excellent content strategy to keep you appropriately positioned for search engine rankings.
You shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket when going on an SEO campaign. In addition to standard SEO best practices, engage in local and off-page SEO. Also, remember that SEO is not a sprint, and some results might only be seen in the long-term effects.
Finally, while running an entire SEO campaign by yourself as a small business owner is quite possible, it takes a toll on the body, not to mention the possibility of being less effective. Hire an agency with SEO professionals dedicated to your company’s growth. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be top-dollar, cheap might not be your best option since it doesn’t instill confidence in the agency’s expertise.