SEO Basics for Small Businesses

by Hillary Gamblin     Wednesday, April 11th, 2018.

Search engine optimization (SEO) can quickly become complex and technical. But don’t let that keep you from learning more about it. It’s worth a small business’s time to learn the SEO basics. If you’re a small business looking to start or improve your SEO strategy, begin by focusing on:

  1. Keywords
  2. Content
  3. Code

#1. Identify the right keywords

Keywords are the foundation of any SEO strategy. (Focusing on the wrong key words is like using the wrong fishing bait.) So if you’re trying to optimize your business website, take the time to identify popular search terms.

There are lot of tools to help you do this. If you have the budget, you can hire companies to identify those keywords for you. And if you’re a bootstrapping company, there are DIY SEO tools out there too! We recommend this amazing Keyword Research article to help you get started with this process, and we also recommend testing potential keywords with a trusted SEO search engine, like Moz, Google’s Keyword Planner, or SEMrush.

Even if you went through this process a few years ago, re-evaluating is a good idea. You need to keep those company keywords fresh! After all, language and technology develop and change. For example, marketing professionals are currently monitoring how the phenomenon of voice app searches are affecting SEO strategy. (“Alexa, what are you doing to my SEO strategies?”)

#2. Create helpful and keyword-rich content

In order for that keyword research to yield rewards, you need to include them. Try to use keywords and phrases in:

  • Headlines (also referred to as title tag, H1, H2, and H3 tags, etc.)
  • Photo tags and alt text
  • Website/domain URL
  • Site text (the earlier the keyword shows up in the text, the better)
  • File names (the names of files uploaded onto your website, like images or videos)

While you should use your keywords, don’t over-do it. Finding the right balance of including keywords is a tricky. You know how your teacher could tell when you wrote your essay sitting next to a dictionary? Readers of your website can tell when your content is “spammy” by pushing products, keywords, and internal links.

Perhaps the most important tip with creating content today is regaining trust with your audience. With recent news stories about companies breaching customer data and trust, consumers are particularly disenchanted and skeptical of sources online. (“Wait, Facebook isn’t the product? I’m the product?”) Subsequently, earning customers trust is poignantly valuable—and difficult. One way that you can build trust with your customers is with earnestly helpful content.

How? Don’t be spammy. Make sure you have the right motive. My colleague wrote a brilliant article about helping small businesses kick off a digital marketing strategy, and he also emphasized this point. “Good content doesn’t sell. The main motive for your content creation should be helping the customer, not moving product. . . If you still want to plug a relevant product or service, include a little ad at the end, or provide a helpful link in the text.”

You should really check out the rest of the article. It includes other content SEO tips; not to get too meta, but it’s a great example of earnestly helpful content.

#3. Clean up your code   

“SEO is more than title tags and keywords, people often overlook how bulky code can have negative effects on your overall SEO efforts. At Jive we have spent a lot of our time trying to optimize our code and eliminate as many server requests as possible. This strategy has paid off so far, we have seen positive movement in our rankings and an increase in our website leads.”

—Cliff Painter, Jive’s Senior Graphic Designer

A few months ago I was confused about our significant SEO improvements. (I wasn’t drastically changing my SEO strategies, so what was causing the increased success?) I’m amazed that we’re crushing our 2018 team goals because we cleaned up our website code. You could say that I’m a believer now: I’ve seen firsthand how clean code optimizes my content.

It’s easy to only focus on the words on a screen with an SEO strategy. Don’t do this. Don’t implement an SEO strategy that fails realize the full scope of search engine optimization. The code that makes up your website is just as essential and rewarding as keywords and content.

Back to SEO Basics

There are a lot more factors and techniques that can improve your SEO; this article only discussed the macro of on-page SEO. (We didn’t even touch off-page SEO techniques!) So if you want dive in to more of the complexities of SEO, we recommend the educational materials produced by companies like Moz.

Even if you love embracing the complexity of SEO, it’s helpful to have a refreshing birds-eye-view of a complicated topic. Whether you’re trying to learn the basics to start a strategy for your business, or you’re a large company with an existing complex and intricate strategy, it’s always helpful to return to the basics. Refocus your strategy by reviewing the SEO basics: keywords, content, and code.

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