Basic SEO Help for Small Businesses

Online Marketing, and in particular, Search Engine Optimization, confuses many business owners.  Usually their #1 question is "How exactly can I rank higher on Google when people search for my business?"

SEO has changed drastically in the past 2-3 years and here are a few tips for small business owners who would consider themselves “novices” or just don't know where to start:

SEO For 2013:  What NOT to Worry About

Last week I was at the Chamber of Commerce’s kick-off party for Gainesville Restaurant Week.  I was talking to a small business owner that had hired an SEO firm out of Tampa.  According to him, they were “automatically updating his ‘stuff’, adding keywords and submitting his website to the search engines”.  He asked my opinion and I simply told him that nothing he had said has anything to do with effective search engine optimization.  He was a bit shocked.

Here are a few SEO tactics that you should not be concerned with:

  • buying links back to your website

  • repeatedly using your keywords into your website’s content (known as stuffing)

  • buying many different website names and pointing them to your website

  • automating your SEO

There are no silver bullets in online marketing, you just have to put in HARD WORK.  Companies selling quick, dirt cheap SEO solutions can often times hurt you more than help.  Google's not only developed ways to identify SEO "shortcuts" but they've gone a step further and begun penalizing companies that buy into link networks, run automated tools and engage in other spammy techniques.


So what should  you be doing?  Lets take this one step at a time:

  1. Think about what your users want and find relevant - all Google and other search engines are trying to do is mimic how we process information and determine relevance and usefulness.  By spending time up front researching your visitors and determining what they find relevant in various stages of your buying cycle you can create GREAT content that search engines will love when those users are searching for those keywords.

  2. Include relevant keywords - in your Page Titles,  Headers and Sub-heads and in your copy.  Note:  I didn’t say “stuff”, but just included them.  This helps people as much as it helps search engines when your page comes up in search results understand that the content is what they are looking for.  Here is an example:

  3. Get Social - Share your content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks.  Social signals (likes, tweets, pins etc) are increasingly important to SEO.  So much so that in the recent 2013 survey of ranking factors at MOZ, experts felt that social signals would increasingly play a bigger role in how you rank. 

  4. Build Links - when other websites link to your website, Google sees this as a vote of credibility.  All links are not created equally and some of the most authoritative links are links from .EDU, .GOV and other very established and popular sites.  For example, if you are involved with a student group that has a website that is part of the UFL.EDU mainsite, getting a link from there to your website would help immensely.  Are you a Chamber member?  Organizations like BBB, GAWN, FPRA and even Rotary will often link to your website from your profile and these links will not only help your SEO but will often times send high quality traffic to your site.

  5. Get a Technical Audit - there are many technical website best practices that you can follow.  The focus of these tactics is to make your website both fast and accessible and are often some of the easiest ways to immediately help how your website ranks.


Small Business SEO: a Final Bit of Advice

Businesses that win at SEO tend to think less about SEO and more about how to provide value to their customers.  The more time you spend on creating engaging, compelling and USEFUL content for visitors, the higher your R.O.I. will be.  Because, after all, the end goal isn’t just to get someone TO your website, we want to convert them to a customer, right?