How’s your small business Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program doing? What…you don’t have one? That’s a problem, because SEO continues to be one of the most cost effective ways to attract new customers and to remain engaged with your existing customer base. So, what’s holding you back?
If it’s a lack of a website for your small business, then unfortunately you have bigger problems than ignoring SEO. However, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that only 41% of small businesses had websites started in 2014 or earlier, another 13% launched their websites in 2015, 17% plan to start a website this year (2016), and the rest are either putting it off or have no plans at all to build one. The 47% of small businesses with no website is even more shocking, considering that another recent study found that 36% of people will not shop at a small business if it doesn’t have a website. That’s a pretty big number, and something to ponder… OK, done pondering? Read Tips for Launching a Small Business Website, and get started. It’s easier and less expensive than you might think.
Once you’ve jumped that hurdle, return to this post to learn about why SEO is such an important tool for driving traffic to your small business website, online resources you can use to learn about SEO strategies and tactics, and a free SEO software suite you can use to implement and monitor your own small business SEO program.
For the rest of you small business owners, let’s jump in now!
What is SEO?
Let’s begin at the beginning with a definition. (If you’re a SEO expert, feel free to skip ahead).
Webopedia defines Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as, “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine.”
The strategies, techniques, and tactics include everything from content marketing (such as blog posts, videos, and social media posts), to establishing authorship credibility in your marketspace and/or industry, to link building, to website optimization for specific keywords and key phrases, to designing sites that work well and look good in multiple browsers and devices—especially mobile devices.
Search Engine Land provides a great high-level, easy to understand overview in this short video:
SEO Statistics for Small Businesses
Now that you know what SEO is, you may be asking why it is so important for your small business. Other than the obvious answer that SEO drives customers to your website, the following statistics highlight why SEO needs to be a part of your small business marketing mix:
- The US SEO marketing spend (for companies of all sizes) will grow from $65 billion in 2016 to $80 billion in 2020. (Source: Borrell Associates study)
- Organic search drives 51% of all traffic to websites (Source: Dot Com Infoway)
- The first page of Google Search Results receives over 91% of all search clicks, with the top 3 results in the list getting 61% of all clicks. (Source: Dot Com Infoway)
- The link popularity of a specific page accounts for 22.33% of the components of Google’s ranking algorithm. (Source: Moz)
- Organic search leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound sales leads (such as cold-calls or emails) have only a 1.7% close rate. (Source: Dot Com Infoway)
- 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers (of all company sizes) use content marketing. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
- Only 25% of small businesses have a defined SEO program. (Source: 2016 State of Small Business Report)
- Companies with blogs have 97% more inbound links than companies without blogs. (Source: Stratabeat)
- 70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (Source: NewsCred)
- 81% of B2B purchases start with a web search, and 90% of B2B buyers say that they will contact the company when they are ready to buy. (Source: Earnest Infographic)
- 41% of B2B buyers read research papers and online postings from industry “thought-leaders.” (Source: Earnest Infographic)
- Long-tail keywords account for about 70% of all search traffic. (Source: Dot Com Infoway)
- As of May 2015 more US Google searches occurred on mobile devices than on traditional computers. (Source: Google)
- 40% of mobile users have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad experience with a company website n a mobile device. (Source: Google)
- 77% of B2B marketers, and 76% of B2C marketers plan to increase SEO-related content in 2016. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
SEO Resources for Small Businesses
Whether you’re interested in general SEO strategy or more specific niches such as link building, content marketing, mobile optimization, or keyword research, these resources can help. (And, in case you’re counting, there are 10 items here, but actually links to 13 distinct resources– call it a bonus.)
- The entire Search Engine Land website is an invaluable resource for everything search marketing related. Their Guide to SEO is one of the best places to start if you’re just beginning a SEO campaign.
- The Fundamental Guide To SEO In 2016 from Forbes provides an up-to-date analysis of SEO tactics, highlights important changes in the search landscape, and provides tips for staying current, relevant, and effective.
- The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. All Google wants you to know.
- Search Engine Watch is a great resource for everything search marketing related. Check out their SEO, Content, Mobile, and Video channels.
- The Searchmetrics Ranking Factors Infographic 2015 shows the most important aspects for top search result rankings on Google.com. For more in-depth information, read the complete whitepaper. And, use this infographic to compare the Searchmetrics findings with Moz findings. You might also want to check out The Ultimate Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet.
- Semantic Search (based on intent and context, not simply keyword string analysis), is the new normal for search engines. This infographic (from a Portuguese web marketing company, no less) provides a nice high-level overview. How to Improve Your Rankings with Semantic Keyword Research, a Moz post from Neil Patel, is a great place to learn the basics.
- Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide from Backlinko. Finding the right keywords to optimize around is critical to a successful SEO program. This guide is a great place to start.
- Link Building Resources That’ll Increase Your Search Rankings, also from Neil Patel, provides tips and techniques you can use to get links to your website that will not run afoul of Google’s penalties for link schemes.
- If you’re more of a video person, check out The COMPLETE ** 2016 ** SEO Guide – Basic to Advanced Course, a comprehensive, hour and a half YouTube tutorial.
- PaySimple’s own SEO series: SEO Basics: What it is and Why it’s Important for Your Business, Get Started with SEO in 4 Steps, and Technical SEO Fundamentals for Your Website.
A Free SEO Suite for Small Businesses
Knowing and researching is one thing, but actually doing is another. There are a number of robust paid tools available that can help you manage and implement a SEO program. You can also research industry niches yearning for content, unloved long-tail keywords, and companies linking to your website, completely on your own using nothing more than a search engine. But, there is a free software suite than can make your initial (or ongoing) foray into SEO just a bit easier to handle.
Download the free version of SEO Power Suite here. It contains the following 4 separate programs (you can install any combination of them; simply de-select the ones you don’t want in the install wizard). Scroll to the bottom of the download page for a useful getting started guide, and access video tutorials here.
- Rank Tracker: Use this tool to find keywords to use in your SEO campaigns, and to check your site’s ranking for those keywords in Google, Bing and Yahoo. See the full feature list here.
- Website Auditor: Enter your domain name, and this tool will find errors on your webpages that can hurt your search engine rankings, and will tell you how to fix them. It will also provide advice on keyword use for your pages, and will let you know how they rank for Social Media shares. See the full feature list here.
- SEO Spyglass: Enter your domain, and the tool will return a list of all other sites (up to 1,100) that link back to you, along with the type of link (follow or no-follow), and information about the linking site. You can use this list to identify valuable links, and those from low-quality sites that may be hurting your site rankings. You can also use this list as a basis for a content marketing campaign (contact sites that linked to your content and offer to create unique content for them, or with them). You can also use it to see who is linking to your competitors’ websites. And, if your site has lots of backlinks that get excluded from the free search, try entering a specific page or directory into the tool (i.e. paysimple.com/blog instead of paysimple.com) to get a more complete report. See the full feature list here.
- Link Assistant: Enter your domain and a list of keywords that apply to your site, and the tool will help identify other sites that may accept your links, or your content. You can use the tool to track your effort to reach these sites, and to track your link building success. See the full feature list here.
- NOTE: The installation package automatically checks the box to also install BuzzBundle, an additional social media monitoring suite. You can read about that product here, but it is a rather large install so you may want to skip it.
Functionality is limited in these free editions. For example, only a random 1/3 of your sites pages will be included in SEO audits, reports are capped at 1,100 backlinks, and link management projects are capped at 50 pages . The biggest shortcomings of the free edition are that you cannot save any of your project configurations, nor can you print or export reports. However, there is nothing stopping you from using a screen capture tool like the Snipping Tool that comes with Windows, to copy your project configurations, results, and reports and paste them into another program (such as Word) to save them and print them.
But, if your projects are relatively simple (as they likely will be for most small business websites) then re-recreating them each time you want to run them isn’t much of a sacrifice to get such robust functionality for free. At the very least, install it and give SEO Power Suite a try. If you don’t like it, uninstalling is easy, and it doesn’t appear to leave anything unwanted on your computer.