Small businesses should be focused on implementing marketing strategies that will increase brand awareness and revenue. But, many small businesses make the mistake of thinking they won’t be able to do much marketing because of their limited budgets. Fortunately, businesses of all sizes can benefit from SEO, which just so happens to be the most cost-effective type of marketing. Here are some of the reasons why your small business should be investing in SEO: Stay Competitive Chances are your competitors are already implementing effective SEO strategies. What does this mean for you? When your potential customers search for keywords that are relevant to your business, they will find your competitors, not you. If you choose not to work on SEO, you’re practically waving the white flag to your competitors and allowing them to take a large share of the market that is still up for grabs.
If you’ve been through the process of building a website, writing blog posts or crafting new website content to improve your search engine rankings, chances are you’ve had some experience with developing a keyword list for your website. Whether you’ve been actively involved in the SEO keyword research process in the past or you’re just implementing a program for the first time, it’s a good idea to review and update your target keyword list annually, as changes in your business, competition, and market may shift your strategy. Before you write content for your website or blog, or even plan out your sitemap, you should have a search engine optimization strategy in place. Here’s a simple plan to get you thinking about the right words to include in all of your content:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve your websites chances of appearing at the top of first page rankings in organic search engine results requires a combination of elements within your website, and a long-term strategy of off-site marketing. While you may receive hundreds of emails from companies offering quick-fix solutions and ‘guaranteed’ first page rankings, you can rest assured that these are about as quick-fix and ‘guaranteed’ as a magical weight-loss program that doesn’t require exercise or a healthy diet. There are many things you can do to improve your website’s rank in organic search, which will lead you to new customers and a greatly improved return on your marketing budget, but you should be aware that these take time and effort. You will see incredible results if done correctly, but it will take some time to achieve. To get started, here is a simple SEO checklist to be sure your website and online marketing channels are primed for success. This is a great list to begin implementing at the end or beginning of a year, so that you can track your results each month.
If you ask any successful inventor or entrepreneur how they discovered their Big Idea for success, whether it was a product or a service, I guarantee they’ll tell you that they realized a need and found a way to fill it. Sounds pretty easy, right? Sure. Find a need that people have, figure out how to solve it, and then sell it to them. After all, that’s how the sports bra, Spanx, disposable diapers, online dating services, the telephone, and pretty much every other successful product or service came to be. Someone paid attention, came up with a way to fill a need or improve an experience, and sold it to make millions.
We’re all very busy, and unfortunately one of the first things we let slide is updating our own content, and managing our own marketing programs. At Grapevine Marketing, we’ve been guilty of this as well, and that is why we are always looking for simple ways to update and promote our programs without adding on hours of additional work to our already-insane schedules. So if you’re like us, and most of the businesses we speak to, you know how important it is to write content for your blog and develop new marketing campaigns. You just don’t have enough time in the day to reach these goals while also keeping up with daily tasks and client work. Not to worry, we can make it easy for you. The 3 tactics below can be used at any time to create and publish content for your blog, and help you easily manage your distribution and promotional efforts, since you’ll have access to plenty of new content that you can promote via email newsletters and social media. And you can do it all without adding a ton of extra work to your schedule. Here’s how.
1. Get Others To Do the Work For You (and I promise, they’ll be happy for the opportunity!Want to add new content to your blog, keep things interesting, double your exposure and traffic, and give your clients and business partners a unique opportunity to achieve all of these goals for themselves? Then ask them to write a Guest Post for your blog. They’ll get exposure to a whole new audience, an opportunity to promote their message, show their expertise, and drive new links and traffic to their own website. You’ll achieve all of the above goals, PLUS you’ll have provided a valuable bonus to your clients and partners, and you’ll have helped to build your relationship with them. Once the Guest Post has been published to your blog, ask your Guest to share the post with their own email list by including a link to it in their own newsletter, and ask them to share the post via their social media channels. Promote the post to your own audience via email and social media, and be sure to give full credit to your Guest.
2. Answer a QuestionWe bet your clients and customers have many unanswered questions. Perhaps you hear the same questions over and over at initial meetings, or concerns are brought up at the point of purchase. Whatever your business, you’re likely spending a fair amount of time responding to questions and concerns; and this means that there are MANY other prospective clients and customers who are wondering about the same topics. When thinking about your blog posts, try to answer at least one or two questions a month. By including the actual question in the title of your post, you will also be able to capitalize on search engine traffic from the people who are looking for answers online. It’s a Win-Win for your blog and search engine optimization!
3. Share your 2-CentsSaw a story in the news, in an industry publication, or on a social media page recently that you have a strong opinion for or against? Can you offer insight into a topic that people are actively discussing, such as pending tax increases, changes to laws in your field, or new trends in your, or your clients, industries? Use your blog to share your opinion on these topics, offer insight into aspects that people may not be aware of, or offer your unique expertise. If you can show that you are a credible source of information and expertise, not only will they turn to you when they have needs or more specific questions, you will also be more easily found within search engine results when people are looking for information. As with #2 above, this will help you to position your business as the answer to questions posed in online searches. And that will help you generate more traffic, better leads, and a higher quality of prospective clients and customers.
Disclaimer: Grapevine Marketing does SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) for a living. We also do a lot of other things, like design and develop websites, and manage online marketing campaigns. But today, we’re going to let you in on a little secret about our business, and the business of other Search Engine Optimization and Marketing firms you may meet.
Are you ready for it?
The secret is: there is no secret trick to SEO.Sure, there is a strategy, and there are tactics. There is absolutely a formula for best results. And there is plenty of time and effort that must be put into a program, over the long-term, to develop those results. There is tracking and monitoring, management and tweaking, and an adjustment of the strategy and tactics when needed. But there is no trick. There is no way to fool the search engines into thinking your website is something it’s not. Or into thinking your company is something it’s not. And there is definitely no quick-fix, magic bullet, short-term, or guaranteed solution to drive a website to the top of organic search listings for searches that are actually going to result in sales or leads. So how do we, and other SEO consultants, help you achieve results? We play by the rules that the search engines have created (see below), we monitor changes to search engine algorithms, and we help you improve the online representation of your business or organization. It’s not a quick-fix, but rather a long-term strategy that will generate results far greater than you could ever imagine. It’s an investment of time and effort that will serve you far better in the long run than nearly any other short-term solution.
Here are the Rules:
- Develop Great Content and Add to it Regularly (like, every day or weekly at a minimum)
- Make your Content easy to Find and Easy to Share
- Help People Get to Your Content. Real people.
- Make your Content so Amazing that Those People WANT to Share it with Others.
- Make sure your Website, Blog, and Social Media profiles are Well-Designed, Branded, and Attractive.
- Make sure each of those includes your most Important Tactics and Calls to Action. (what do you want people to know immediately when they arrive, and what do you want them to do?)
- Use PR (press releases, guest blogging, article distribution, etc.) to get your Content out to the Masses.
- Use Social Media to get your Content out to the Masses.
- Blog. Frequently.
- Comment and contribute to Online Conversations outside of your Site and Social Media channels (ie: on complementary business’ sites and channels)
- Request a FREE SEO Review of your current website and online marketing efforts. Because there is a lot more to this list than we have space to include here.
Learn how to Spot Shady Search Engine Optimization practices, and keep them from destroying your online marketing efforts.Have you received an email recently, probably from an obscure email address, possibly based in a foreign country, offering you a GUARANTEED, 1ST-PAGE, OR TOP-3 POSITION, search engine marketing program for your website? Was it really cheap, and required little to no effort on your part aside from providing your billing information? Have you received many of these emails over the past few years, and wondered ‘is it really too good to be true”? Well as you’ve likely already assumed, yes, this is too good to be true. In fact, these services are the online marketing equivalent of ‘lose half your body weight while still eating donuts and sitting on the couch’ diet schemes. But what’s more threatening, and confusing, to many business owners and marketing managers, are the less obvious, but nearly as harmful, shady SEO and SEM practices. So to help clear things up, we’ve compiled a list of the issues we run across most often, and the ones that seem to confuse business owners most often. If you have a concern or question that was not answered here, please ask in the comments below and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.
- Issue: You have a list of keyword phrases that you integrate into nearly every page of your website, and all blog posts, regardless of whether that page or post is specifically related to those keywords.
- Concern: You may be over-using keywords (a big SEO no-no) and/or cannibalizing other pages of your own website. Or your keyword strategy may not match up to your actual on-page content, which can hurt you in the eyes of search engines.
- Resolution: First, request a review of your site from a well-respected and successful SEO Consultant or Online Marketing Firm. If all is well with your overall content throughout the website, then don’t continue using those exact same keywords in your blog posts and new pages. As long as the words you use fit your overall strategy and the topics/conversations that exist throughout the rest of your site, then the search engines are advanced enough to index your posts along those topic and keyword lines. At this point in your content development, it’s about maintaining and supporting the strategy you’ve already executed throughout your website.
- Issue: An SEO Consultant or Web Developer optimized the meta data throughout your site (ie: page titles, meta descriptions, meta keywords), but your on-page copy was not edited throughout the site to incorporate your keyword strategy.
- Concern: This is old-school SEO at it’s finest, and will do little, if anything, to enhance your indexing or overall credibility. Search engines are concerned about the content on your website matching the search terms their users are seeking. SEO Consultants trying to game the system without putting in the effort of optimizing the actual content within site pages are not helping your online marketing strategy.
- Resolution: Check the content on your site. If it’s been a while since it was updated, or if your site’s copy doesn’t flow well with the keywords you’ve identified as important, it’s probably time to rewrite those pages.
- Issue: You don’t have a regular, ongoing, strategy to add new content pages to your website.
- Concern: Search Engines (and your visitors) want to see new, fresh content regularly added to your site. If it’s not updated regularly, your site will start to lose ground (ie: search engine positioning and exposure to new visitors), and there’s little that can be done to organically promote a website with no new content.
- Resolution: Blogging (within your site’s primary domain, ie: site.com/blog or blog.yoursite.com) is one of the best and easiest ways to regularly add new content. If you already have a blog, try setting up an editorial calendar to be sure it is updated regularly with fresh new content.
- Issue: You don’t have an inbound link-building strategy.
- Explanation: An inbound link-building strategy generally consists of a combination of: email marketing with links to pertinent pages of your site, profiles on directories and social media channels, online PR distribution, publishing articles and blog posts on external sites that link back to you, online conversations/comments with bloggers and online publishers linking back to you, securing links from organizations you belong to, publishing and sharing content on social media channels, getting your visitors to share content for you on social media channels and bookmarking services, etc. etc.
- Concern: Without inbound link development, you are seriously limiting the opportunities for new visitors to stumble on your website from other/referral sources, and search engines place a high priority on the quality and quantity of your website’s inbound links when determining your search engine positioning against your competitors.
- Resolution: Start building up your inbound link-building efforts by working through the list of opportunities published in this post.
- Issue: Your inbound link-building strategy consists of an SEO Consultant “pushing hundreds or thousands of links to your site”
- Concern: This is a trap we’ve seen many business owners, especially those who don’t have a strong grasp on SEM or don’t have time to manage their online marketing efforts, fall into. While there is a certain amount of ‘directory distribution’ that should be included in your online marketing efforts (see details of inbound link-building above), there are many shady firms out there who do nothing but post spammy comments to blogs with your links embedded in them, or worse, setup ‘link farms’ with thousands of links pointing to different websites. These two issues are some of the most harmful to your site, and could potentially cost you credibility, positioning, or even cause your website to be blacklisted.
- Resolution: Be sure you have a detailed understanding of what your SEO firm is actually doing to market your site, and that all ‘distribution’ is being handled manually, rather than via automated (ie: spam) methods. If the response you receive is questionable, request screenshots of some of the actual posts or profiles.
- Issue: This post is completely new to you, and you don’t know where to start.
- Concern: Your website marketing strategy may be lacking vital positioning and lead-generation strategies.
- Resolution: Request your FREE SEO Review from Grapevine Marketing. We’ll pinpoint the areas of highest priority and provide insight into efforts you can make to start developing your strategy.