With search algorithms ever-changing, where can you go to get the small business SEO tips you need to stay on top of your search game? PaySimple is committed to providing our vast audience of small businesses with resources they can use to make better business decisions and, ultimately, grow their businesses. With those two goals in mind, we sought out two leaders in SEO (search engine optimization) strategies to share some of their best small business SEO tips with you – Let’s meet the experts:
What recent changes in the SEO world affect small businesses the most?
Chris: Local is extremely important for small businesses, but can be a real mess — especially if there is confusion with your NAP (Business Name, Address & Phone Number). You can hire an agency to help sort this out and then manage your NAP for you, but it’s ideal to have an in-house resource that has a basic understanding of local optimization. They should keep their finger on the pulse of the company’s local profile, know login information for major accounts, know which sites are driving traffic, and know the general “rules” of local search. To get up to speed – and stay up to speed — Local Search Forum is a great place to begin and get answers from industry experts.
Scott: Substantially more weight is being given to social signals, and I see this trend continuing. There is no stronger factor in search engine rankings today than social proof. This is what the search engines look at when it comes to determining what sites have authority, where certain topics are being discussed, and what websites people are sharing. You must have a top quality social media strategy today if you want to out rank the competition in organic search. Think about what your audience is interested in and why they might want to share that information. Sharable – and easily sharable – content wins.
What’s the biggest mistake you see small businesses making when it comes to their SEO strategies?
Chris: Lack of proper planning when launching or re-vamping a site. This ranges from being sure all pages are properly redirected to checking your site developer’s work. Website designers/developers usually do not have a checklist they go through to ensure your site remains SEO-friendly. If they do, they may still not always check their work. Don’t cut corners — especially if your site is getting traffic from quality search terms. We see businesses that have built years’ worth of valuable rankings and traffic lose both – sometimes overnight.
Scott: Honestly, it’s the same as it’s always been: hiring the wrong firm. We’re constantly hired to fix damage caused to great businesses by less-then-reputable firms. I just ask that any small business do its due diligence prior to engaging with a search partner (and it IS a partnership). Algorithms and what’s acceptable changes so often that, unless you’re truly a data scientist who can run your own experiments, you’re likely using out-of-date techniques that can do more damage than good. The moral? Do your research, get referrals and references, and find a firm that will truly partner with your business.
What’s ONE THING small businesses can do today — and themselves — to help with their SEO?
Chris: Familiarize yourself with Google Analytics & Google Webmaster Tools. Understand how much traffic your site is getting, which keywords are driving traffic, and on which pages your site’s visitors are landing. If your site is getting a decent amount of qualified traffic, try Google Experiments (in Google Analytics) or another conversion optimization tool to make the most of the traffic you’re already getting.
Scott: Produce top-quality content that makes a difference in the lives and businesses of your audience. If you produce useful content that people find interesting, then they will be more likely to share it. This is invaluable for earning those backlinks (other sites that link back to your content) that the search engines use to determine how much of an authority your site is. Bad content = bad rankings.
If a small business were considering hiring an SEO consultant, what questions would you recommend asking to vet potential firms?
Chris: I could try to make a list of the most ideal questions to ask, but in my opinion Google has already provided a pretty good list of questions to vet an SEO firm. Not all questions are applicable to all businesses. To me THE most important question on this list is, “How would you measure our success?” From an agency perspective, it is sometimes surprisingly tough to get clients to answer this question.
How can inbound marketing tactics help a small business achieve better search results?
Chris: Inbound marketing tactics can help generate brand awareness and traffic to your site. You’ll gain new readers, which can turn into new subscribers. Those can turn into referral sources and new customers. Other traffic may link back to one of your ‘linkable assets’; this is a win even if they don’t turn into a lead. That link will help your site’s search engine rankings and may also generate new traffic from the linking site.
If someone is seeking small business SEO tips and best practices and wants to stay on top of the newest information, what sites would you recommend they read and follow?
Chris: I have some great beginner resources, and I’ll let Scott share his ideas for blogs to follow. There are great learning resources and SEO tips small business in Google’s SEO Starters Guide, Google’s “How Search Works”, and seoMoz Beginners Guide to SEO.
Scott: In addition to Chris’ suggestions for beginner resources for those SEO tips for small businesses, I think the most powerful industry information is coming from Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land. But the best is from the horse’s mouth – Google’s own blog.