Everyone is on the web, and everyone is searching for everything on the web. It’s crowded. There’s a lot of competition, and no matter what business or industry sector you’re in, you have competition. That means it’s harder to rise to the top and get found than ever before. There are no magic bullets or secrets for getting that top spot on Google, despite what those unsolicited emails and phone calls might tell you.
And the whole business of search engine optimization (SEO) is big business. You can spend a lot of money hiring inside or outside help to really dig down deep and get every little edge.
But if you operate a small business or non-profit, that sort of thing probably isn’t in your very tight budget. And if you can afford SEO help, you might end up choosing the wrong person.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days mulling over various reports on SEO and what search engines like Google may or may not be looking for. The folks over at MOZ have their latest update on what SEO experts believe are the most important Google ranking factors, and there is a lot of interesting stuff in there, especially when compared to past reports. One of the things that stands out in my mind is that there is a major shift underway; a shift away from some of the more traditional SEO factors, toward a number of newer factors. As Rand Fishkin says in his presentation,
Complexity continues to increase; there’s no single dominant factor.
The pendulum is swinging, and while factors like link authority continue to be important, their importance is waning. Meanwhile the importance of social cues, branding features, and actual user/usage and traffic metrics are on the rise. But what does all that mean? Sure I could spend some time defining all that and sussing out all the implications of what is really informed speculation, but I’d rather give you a few actionable tips that can be done on a very small budget. A few key items that in most cases, will take more time than money.
1. Be on the web
OK, so when I said cheap and small budget, this is the one item that will cost you something, but it doesn’t have to be a lot. Have a website. The number of businesses that don’t have websites is mind-boggling. Even having a Facebook page is not a substitute for a website. And I’ll go a step further: have a GOOD, well constructed website. If you have one but haven’t made any changes or updates in a few years, chances are you probably need a new and updated web site. I understand that there was a time when having a site was a luxury, and an expensive luxury at that. But, that’s not the case anymore. It is possible to get a good site on a small budget. If you’re not sure how, you can feel free to contact me. I’m not a web designer, but can direct you to some very affordable options. Not having a website means that the only presence you have on the web belongs to others, not you.
2. Be social
The role of social media is growing, and while most of its relationship to SEO seems to be more correlative than causal, there are indications that that is changing. When I say be social, I mean have a strong, fully integrated presence on important social platforms, and use them. Be active. About 25% of all the traffic I get here on the blog comes as a direct result of social media. When you take into account the number of those visitors who become regular readers or subscribe to my blog, the role of social is even more important. It’s not an overnight thing, it takes time, but being active on social and getting known on those channels is very important.
3. Be a good web citizen
Don’t just be on the web and on social media, but be a good citizen. Be courteous. Share the work of others. Link to others. Don’t just think in terms of promoting your own business and work, but promote the businesses and work of others. People will notice and not only will it draw them to you, but they will be more likely to link to you and your site and other properties. And above all, use your online presence to provide great customer service that will get people talking about you.
4. Create content and blog
I try to hammer this home all the time, but blogging on your website regularly and consistently is one of the best things you can do for your business. Search engines love the quality content that can be found on blogs, and it shows in search results. Strong content is becoming increasingly important in terms of SEO, particularly in terms of regularly changing and updated content. Your website shouldn’t be static, and a blog is the best way of making sure it isn’t. Again, if you’re not sure how this would work for you or how to go about it, don’t hesitate to contact me. Blogging doesn’t have to be a burden. You can blog about those things that are relevant to your business and your customers and still have plenty of time for the real business of your business.
5. Integrate everything
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Every property you have online should be connected to every other property. Your website should point people to your social channels, and vice versa. Also, make sure you integrate your offline and online marketing efforts. The more you integrate, the more opportunities you have to connect to the right people at the right time.
Do these things, and a lot of that SEO stuff that seems like mumbo jumbo to you will take care of itself. You don’t need to spend all your time learning about things like domain authority, back links, page level keywords, and the like. Those things are important, but good, solid, common sense business practices online can take care of a lot of those things for you.
How important is SEO to you, and what are you doing to make sure your small business or nonprofit organization is getting found online?
- Social Media May Soon Drive More Traffic to Your Site Than SEO (v3im.com)
- “I Don’t Need a Website, I Have Facebook!” (aikenwebsolutions.com)
- 5 Simple Steps to Improve Your Local SEO (inklingmedia.net)
- 5 SEO Tools You Should Try (v3im.com)
- Are You Listed? Optimizing for Local Search (inklingmedia.net)