Note: this is a lengthy article and assumes some knowledge of SEO concepts. If you need a primer on SEO, the following post Search Engine Optimization Explained may be useful.
For small businesses to dominate the competition and win the search engine war, they must focus on optimizing key website ranking factors such as site structure, page content, links, keywords and meta tags. Ignore these things and you risk getting lost in cyberspace! For this reason, there is a big rush for many SMBs to acquire an expert SEO consultant.
A well-trained SEO expert will be able to identify the keywords that best describe the company and its products, then get them listed and ranked on the major search engines. When searching, people usually use keywords or phrases to find what they want. These keywords are important, especially for small businesses, to stay competitive.
In the coming years, small businesses will need to be even more aggressive to compete in their market as the consumer turns to the Internet for shopping and small business sourcing. Thus, setting aside budget for SEO should be a high priority. Small businesses do not have the same capitalization as their larger competitors, but if the techniques for implementing a well-planned SEO campaign are adopted, success will be easier to achieve. Since the Internet presents a level playing field for both large and small companies the best solution for a local business to compete and win against their larger rival is to be visible on Google. Forbes wrote a great article on 7 reasons that small businesses should care about SEO, read it
Small businesses may not have the same capitalization as their larger competitors, but if the techniques for implementing a well-planned SEO campaign are adopted, success can be easier to achieve. Since the Internet presents a level playing field for both large and small companies the best solution for a local business to compete and win against their larger rival is to be visible on Google. Forbes wrote a great article on 7 reasons that small businesses should care about SEO, read it here.
SEO success starts with a focus on the major ranking factors
Statistical analysis of the top ranking factors used by search engines gives us a reasonable view into the top factors for ranking, and their weighting has remained relatively constant for years. Focus on these points, and spend your efforts building a better, attractive, more easily navigated, and more informative website. Remember, we are building websites for real people, not the Google bot.
Let’s start with the all important 40/40/20 ratio. Through statistical analysis of thousands of sites, search engine analysts have discovered that 40% of rankings are a result of on-page factors. Another 40% are a result of off-page factors including backlinks and intra-site links, and 20% are a result of the URL naming convention. Note that the exact percentages vary slightly between engines, but the general balance of factors remains consistent.
Following are three key factors for ranking. With discipline, focus, and patience if you work on these critical elements you will be nearly guaranteed to see your search engine results improve.
The first ranking factor is called ‘on-page,’ where you must identify the optimum keywords to use and place them in the right location, with the proper density.
If you don’t know where to start with your keyword development, there is no better resource than Google and the Keyword Planner is an excellent tool to discover what people are searching for. You can access the Keyword Planner at https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner
For example, a site owner that sells home decoration products might type in ‘home decor’, ‘wall decor’ or ‘interior design decorations’ and the tool will return all the permutations of those phrases that your customers may use to find your site.
Develop pages following the 40/40/20 formula for each of the terms you identify in the keyword planner, focusing on a few keywords or phrases per page. What are the right places and density to add keywords on a page? The best is in the title tag, the description tag, and the keywords tag. But, DO NOT STUFF them, be elegant and think about your reader.
Remember that we are building pages for humans, not computers (search engines). Which even if your page is not penalized by Google for keywords that appear too frequently, keyword stuffed content will not be as readable, or the message may be jumbled, which will not help with conversion. You may be tempted to think, “I’ll add my keyword in just one more place,” but using the keyword LESS may improve your rankings just the same. Put simply, don’t overuse keywords, and stick to regular sentence structures.
You can read a blog post that I wrote on the topic here http://seorankeragency.com/stop-spamming-add-value-engage-readers/
Let’s look at some of the latest data for the sweet spot for on-page ranking factors. It turns out that 10 to 20% keyword density for the tile and 10% density for the meta description is optimal. As for placement, adding the keyword at or toward the beginning of each field is preferred. As an example, if we want to use our keyword ‘home decor’, an optimal title tag could be ‘vintage home decor accessories’.
For the keyword list on each page, you can enter up to twenty words or phrases placing the highest value words at the beginning. Note that all words should appear in the body text of the page. Also, make sure the description field is well written and attention grabbing as it will be shown in some organic search result records. You want it to be customer friendly as well as easy for Google to understand.
The requirement for the quantity of body text needed to rank is contested among SEOs. Some feel the number of words on a page does not contribute significantly to ranking, while others declare any fewer than two or three thousand words is needed. But in general, everyone agrees that 1000 words should be a minimum target. Keep the keyword density around 2%, and if possible make sure keywords are spaced out in the article at the beginning, middle and end.
There are dozens, if not more, keyword density analyzers that you can use to measure this metric. My suggestion is to find one you like and ignore the rest. You’ll get conflicting reports from various sites which can be misleading and confusing, causing you to think that you must re-tweak other factors. But don’t fall into the trap. You’ll only spend hours optimizing for that tool, just to discover the next tool provides a different answer.
SEO dominance is not about getting one single ranking factor perfect, but rather balancing all the key factors so that Google sees your site as being of higher quality or informational value than your competitor. Remember, ranking is a competition, but where the competitors are not every website on the Internet, only those who also are competing for the same keywords. One tool to help with keyword analysis on your site is the Google Search Console https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home
Other notable on-page factors include image alt tags, H1-H6 tags, bold and italic text, and the number of outgoing (inter and intrasite) links.
Image alt tags matter as a condition for ranking which is why you want to get your keywords placed in these fields. But do not stuff them. Also, H1-H6 tags are excellent ways to call attention to what your page or article is about, make sure to utilize these valuable heading tags. Bold and italicized text though not as strong as ‘H tags’ may contribute to ranking. But again, use them naturally. You want your page to read normally and not be one sea of bolded black text.
On-page links are an important contributor to ranking, and some go so far as to say they are one of the single most important objectives. The idea for valuing external links as of critical importance is because they are a metric that is difficult to manipulate and therefore is the central method for a search engine to determine the popularity of a website.
Off page factors for ranking include links from within your site as well as ‘backlinks’ from external websites. Backlinks are required to rank well, and this is probably the most challenging aspect of search engine optimization.
PageRank, the algorithm developed at Stanford University by Larry Page (Google co-founder) counts hyperlinks as votes to determine the popularity (or ranking) of a site. Twenty years later, this algorithm is much more sophisticated, yet it still includes the notion of external links as being votes for ranking a websites popularity. For this reason, SEOs often talk about their “linking strategies” and some consider this to be their protected intellectual property not to be divulged except under threat of death. There are many good articles to read on the topic, but this Moz post is a good place to start.
Search engines don’t know what your page looks like but your visitors do care, and the major search engines are now tracking how long a user stays on the page. The search engine is also recording whether the visitor return to the search results to find another page, which would suggest that your site did not provide the value they were seeking. For this reason, you should strive to make your site clean, useful and engaging, as this will benefit your rankings. To help analyze how your site compares, Google Analytics can be a useful tool to gather information on session time and dozens of other relevant data points. You can register your site to use Google Analytics (or GA) here https://analytics.google.com
To win at SEO, you must be continuously acquiring backlinks, or your rankings will stagnate, or drop. But again, remember, we want everything we do to appear as natural as possible. Optimally, you’ll place a few links a day, with a steady increase in the total number.
Options for obtaining links:
1- Link exchange is where you request links from other sites that are topically relevant where you swap links to pass power between both websites.
2- Blog commenting is a good way to place links on high authority websites. The key is to keep your comment relevant to the blog post and don’t be too promotional. Make a value added statement with a link to a reinforcing blog post on your site. You’ll be surprised at the power that is passed from the referring site to yours with a simple blog post comment.
3- Directory placements are another way to get backlinks. Every area will have a local business directory, and every industry has websites dedicated to promoting members of the industry or ecosystem. In many cases, these sites are free to register with, and they can represent a powerful “push” to your site.
4- Press releases. The value of a press release has been diminished by the Internet, since PR is no longer an “event” but rather with every blog post, directory comment, social share, etc. PR is occurring. However, when you issue a press release via PRWeb or PR News Wire, it can get picked up by dozens or hundreds of websites who re-post your release, whereby giving you an instant boost.
5- Guest blogging can be an excellent way to improve your credibility as not only will the authority of your author name be improved, but the website will benefit too. High profile blogs are hungry for content and many welcome outside contributors. Business Insider is an excellent place to start, as is Inc. or Huffington Post.
6- Third party article distribution services such as http://quuu.co can be an excellent way to promote your blog posts and get links on hundreds of other websites.
7- Paid placement on high authority sites is another option that should not be overlooked. Source Market is an excellent avenue for finding link hosting sellers. http://market.source-wave.com/
Tips regarding article distribution. Articles should be of high quality, readable, and provide helpful information to prospective customers. Don’t start a link scheme that will give you 500 in a single day, then zero for the next month as this will do more harm than good.
Caveats about links. Links from within your site should be text links, with the keyword in the link. For example, a body lotions site could use the term ‘body lotions’ in all the links to their essential lotions page. Off-site links should use keywords in text links, but not always the same words. Mix it up, about 30% of your links should just include the web page address which will help your backlinks appear naturally created.
A final note on backlinks, all pages are not weighted equally. The older and more relevant the page or website, the more weight that link will garner. If your site is selling home decor products, links from an interior design website will be more beneficial than those from a health and wellness site. Make sure all referring domains that connect to your site are topically relevant.
Let’s discuss the other 20% of factors for ranking and that is URL naming convention. Web pages with the keywords in the domain or URL, be it the homepage or any other page on the site, will rank better. If you’re just starting a site, getting your primary keywords in the URL is useful. Though not a requirement for ranking, if possible, obtaining an exact match domain (EMD) can give you a quick start to a higher ranking for your biggest keyword. Here is where working with an expert internet optimization search marketing company can save you much time, energy and wasted resources.
Unfortunately, however, there are few niches left where the major keyword is not already registered. Getting a major keyword in the domain is nice, but you should know that it can cause issues with your on-page SEO since it will be easy to get overoptimized by using the keyword too frequently.
For this reason, some SEO experts suggest NOT using an EMD. The key to remember is that it appears more “natural” to Google if the file does not have only keywords in it, such as the title and meta tags. If you already have pages without keywords, you could create new ones and use a 301 redirect from the old pages to maintain any ranking status that the original pages had. Do a little research to get this right. Search engine ranking criteria change regularly, and some engines are quicker to appreciate your optimization efforts than others.
SEO Rule #1 – be patient. It can take months to see results of search engine optimization. Don’t think you made a mistake just because nothing happened the first time a spider visited your new page. Keep working on your accumulation of backlinks, and resist the temptation for a “quick fix” and you will be ranking in no time.
Visitors are only one part of the equation
A well-designed site, product mix, and pricing, with a clear call to action and value proposition, are all essential for business success. SEO and Internet marketing are critically important activities for all businesses, especially local, but SEO alone will not determine your success. The construction of your website is the skeletal structure that SEO must reside on, but without a strong skeleton, the lead engine of a website plus SEO will not be as powerful as we wish it to be.
Some local business owners of service companies don’t know how many leads their website is generating. Tragically, many business owners look at their website as an expense instead of a revenue source. A small business website is an asset, and a good website works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But one of the most challenging questions is where to start if your website isn’t working for you. Consider the following elements as important pieces of your Google domination strategy.
1. Traffic. How many ways are you driving traffic to your website? Are you relying on a single “killer” method? Traffic to a website is about balance and tracking. When you have a balance of sources, like PPC, SEO, and even print media you won’t get stuck relying on a single source. Track each source to minimize your costs and maximize your profits.
2. Conversion. What methods are you using to convert traffic to leads? Do you offer people an easy way to start a relationship with you? Do you offer multiple ways for people to contact you? In less than 10 seconds ask yourself is it easy for people to decide what action to take? To improve may mean a new landing page, or it may be that your messages are confusing and need to be simplified. Often, less is more. You don’t need to tell me everything about your company or product, just give me the one thing that will cause me to “want more.” Then make it easy to take action on wanting more. SEO will increase your traffic, but only you can convert it.
3. Follow-up. Not everyone will be ready to buy when they visit your website. For this reason, you should have a newsletter form where those who may not be willing to buy, but would appreciate receiving updates or relevant information, can do so. A converting small business website should include a mechanism for tracking who came to your site so you can stay in touch. Just be sure you aren’t spamming your visitors, add value, and they will respond, perhaps by calling you first before making a buying decision.
Improving your website is a process. There isn’t a silver bullet, but with proper planning and the help of a trained search engine optimization specialist and web developer, your website can become a powerful profit booster.
Watch this short video on the value of local SEO, and if you would like more information, just click the link to learn more about top rated search marketing firm SEO Ranker Agency.