Almost every small business owner decides to give search engine optimization (SEO) a try at some point or another. It’s not hard to understand why: with more than 4 billion searches a day, Google can send you more business than you could ever get from a billboard, mailing campaign, or referral network.
While the benefits of a strong SEO effort might be obvious though, the path to a high Google search ranking isn’t so clear. In fact, most of the new clients we talk to will admit that their past campaigns yielded little or nothing in the way of results. That’s true despite the fact that many of them put a lot of time and money into improving their search visibility.
We don’t want to see you put your resources into a project that doesn’t pay off. So today, we want to share a set of easy steps you can follow to get huge value from your small business SEO campaign. It’s not difficult, but it does take a bit of focus and patience. Let’s take each of the things you’ll need to do one at a time…
Know Your End Goal
We meet too many entrepreneurs and managers who don’t have concrete goals for their search engine optimization plans. To be sure, they want to see more visits coming from Google, but many can’t identify the end business result they are hoping for in any kind of specific or measurable way.
To have any value, your search engine optimization campaign has to result in something that moves the needle for your company. That could be more phone-in leads, foot traffic in your store, online inquiries, new appointments, or something else altogether. Without an end goal that means something, though, you’re just creating more work without any definable positive outcome. That’s not a good use of your energy or resources.
Design an Online Sales Funnel
There isn’t any law that says more traffic to your website will generate new revenue for your company. People can come and go looking for information without ever sharing their email address or credit card number. That’s why you should have an online sales funnel in place – a series of steps or offers that brings someone from their first stop to the outcome (that sale, lead, or visit we mentioned before) you’re hoping for.
Your sales funnel can be simple or complicated, depending on how expensive your product or service is and how long it takes a buyer to do their research. Either way, though, you don’t want to leave things to chance. Leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs prospects can follow and you’ll end up with more conversions from the search traffic you’re going to bring to your pages.
Begin With the Basics
Many business owners like to jump straight into what they consider to be the “work” of search engine optimization. They want to see keywords being added to their pages, for example, or meta descriptions being altered to fit search terms precisely.
Those steps are important, but only after you’ve taken on the basics. Specifically, we’re referring to keyword research and website auditing. Research is useful so you can figure out what it is your customers are actually looking for, and what your competitors are up to. By auditing your website, you can figure out what your technical strengths and weaknesses are, and determine what your existing search visibility profile looks like.
Without these important prerequisites, your SEO campaign will always be haphazard and based on luck. That’s a good way to waste time and money, which we’re trying to avoid.
Get Into the Code
At this stage, it’s time to start actually making changes to your website. You (or better yet your web designer) can go in and make changes to page titles, headings, internal links, and many other parts of your pages.
This is the easiest step in the search engine optimization process to understand, and it’s the simplest from a strategy perspective. However, if the other pieces aren’t in place – or if you work with a web designer or SEO consultant who rushes through the work – it isn’t going to make a long-term difference in your search visibility. And unfortunately, you probably won’t see much of a return on your investment.
Consider Testing Everything
After your website has been optimized for search visibility and conversions, you might want to strongly consider testing your SEO campaign. The best way to do that is with pay-per-click (PPC) search ads.
With just a few dollars, you can run text ads that target the search engine optimization phrases you’ve researched. That way, you can get prospects on the same pages organic searchers would see and find out how they react to your content and messages. Best of all, you can do it without waiting for Google to catch up to your SEO efforts and see what the market thinks of your website and business.
You might find that your PPC ads generate positive feedback from customers right away. Even if they don’t, though, you’ll be gaining valuable information and insights that can help you cut time and money from your SEO campaigns later.
Create a Content Plan
Optimizing your existing web pages for visibility on Google, Bing, and the other search engines is just a first step. In order to grow your profile and attract lots of traffic, you’re going to have to publish new content on a regular basis.
For most business owners, that means generating blog posts or hiring someone who can write them for you on a weekly basis. However, you can also use video, infographics, and other forms of content to attract visitors and search spiders.
In order to be sure your content feeds into your overall conversion plan, and to stave off writer’s block, it’s a good idea to plan your posts ahead of time. Consider kicking off your SEO campaigns with an editorial calendar that extends out at least a few months into the future.
Watch Your Web Metrics
Once you optimize your website, test your campaign elements, and begin publishing new content to your website regularly, traffic will begin to flow your way. That’s a good sign, and an indicator that you should keep up the good work.
More visits to your pages means more information about what buyers want. So, as your website gets busier, be sure to keep a close eye on your web metrics to find out how visitors are arriving, which pages or topics they are gravitating to, and how often they are turning into sales or leads. The information you get will be crucial to improving your website going forward.
Grow and Adjust Your Website
As your search engine optimization campaigns get to be more and more effective, you might want to take on new areas of the market. That means starting with this process again from the beginning, looking for ways to boost traffic, visibility, or revenue.
Additionally, you need to remember that Google’s algorithm isn’t static. Search engine optimization best practices are changing all the time, and keeping ahead of your competitors means staying informed about new trends or observations. It helps if you can keep producing content in the midst of all of this. If that sounds like a lot to handle, then consider our final piece of advice below.
Get Help From an Experienced Online Marketing Team
Despite what some of our competitors might tell you, you can put together a winning search engine optimization campaign on your own. There are some technical details and finer points to be mastered, but improving your Google visibility is mostly about finding the right targets (in terms of search terms and customers) and then developing great content.
However, the level of focus and precision that’s needed can be overwhelming to most business owners, especially considering they already have too much to think and worry about. That’s why almost every successful SEO effort is guided by an experienced and committed online marketing team.
If you’re tired of hearing hype from vendors and want to work with a web design partner who will make bottom-line improvement in your business their first priority, we are ready to help. Call or email us today to set up a free consultation and see how we’ve helped other small businesses to make the most of search engines, social media, email, and so much more!