Last updated on April 26th, 2019. Posted in Web Design For Business.
SEO may seem like complex subject, but it's actually fairly straightforward once you have a handle on it. While it may seem somewhat mystical or shrouded in the dark arts, you just need an understanding of basics. It's important too to know what you can safely ignore. In this post, I'll give you my top three methods for implementing a solid SEO strategy. I call this my Small Business SEO Checklist. I'd love to jump into it, so let's go!
Alright, now before we dive in I should mention that this post is much more strategy-based or tactical. If you don't yet have a full understanding of SEO, what it is (and isn't), and how search engines work, then I strongly suggest that you check out my post SEO For Small Business Owners — An Introductory Crash Course. There, I lay out all the important foundational aspects of SEO that you need to know first.
Sound good? Okay now, as mentioned, this post is much more tactical. As you might guess, there are a whole bunch of things you can do to improve your website's SEO. And it's easy to get overwhelmed. So here what I want to do is share my top three techniques -- the three absolutely most important things -- for successful SEO. Even just these three methods can make a huge difference for your business. So by the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a clear set of tasks to improve your website's search rankings.
Alright, let’s jump into small business SEO!
What does publishing content have to do with SEO? Well in my previous post, we talked about narrowing your focus down to specific longtail keywords and keyphrases. My first checklist item for you is to begin creating lots of valuable content related to that specific topic that you narrowed your focus down to. So, if it's treat bowls for pets, or Formula 1 Ferrari race cars, or whatever else, start creating some content around that topic.
What kind of content? Really, there are just three choices: Written content, video content, and audio content. Think blog posts or articles, videos demonstrations or recorded webinars, or podcasts or audio interviews.
So what I'm talking about here is starting a blog, a YouTube channel, or a podcast. I can hear your objections already! Yes, video production hard. So is podcasting. And do you have to do them all? No, not at all. Writing articles and frequent blog posts is easy to do, so start there. Write about your products, your customers, how they benefit from your services, and so on. Interview them. Publish product reviews, and so on.
Stick to your unique and specific topic or theme, and create lots of useful content for your visitors. After a period of time, your content will start showing up on search results pages because it's loaded with all that yummy SEO juice -- keywords and keyphrases.
And I need to be clear on one important point here: You're doing this primarily for your visitors and potential customers, not for Google, not for Yahoo, and not for Bing. You're not doing this for SEO first and foremost. You're doing it for your audience. Write and create content for humans, not for machines. Give your audience lots and lots of great, helpful content. This helps establish you as a valuable resource and as a recognized expert in your field. And that's what's going to draw people to your site, and get them to stay for a while.
So how does this relate to search engine optimization? Strong SEO is the cherry on top. Remember that I just said that your valuable content will be loaded full of juicy keywords that the search engines are gonna love. Remember, the search engines are looking for websites who are authorities on a set of keywords or keyphrases. So if you do this right, your site's going to get picked up. And the search engines love regular, fresh content.
So, frequently posting valuable, insightful content on your blog is a great way to provide value to your target audience. That's the most important thing, first and foremost. Next, that high value content is loaded full of keywords for the search engines to index. They love that. And next, the search engines start to recognize you as an authority as you continue publishing regular, fresh content. You win, the search engines win, and most importantly your target audience wins.
So creating regular, high quality content is our first checklist item.
The next checklist item we have is to include a sitemap. A sitemap is simply a list of all the pages and posts you have on your website. What this does is gives search engines an easy to find list of all the pages on your website, making it easy for them to crawl through your site and index your content. Essentially, what you're doing is giving the search engines a crawlable structure of hyperlinks for your website.
Actually building and adding a sitemap to your website is beyond the scope of this post, but know for now that there are a few different ways to set one up. You could create one manually, which I suppose is fine. Or you could use a website add-on or plug-in to create a sitemap for your site. Thirdly, you could use an automated sitemap generator if you like.
Sitemaps also come in a few different file types, but I'd suggest you stick with what's called an XML sitemap. They're the most widely used and accepted.
More importantly, for the moment at least, is the idea of setting up a sitemap for your website. In a future tutorial, I'll detail out these options and show you how to set one up for your site.
So, setting up a sitemap is checklist item number two.
The third and final top SEO checklist item might not sound that important, or even relevant to SEO, but it's huge. We have to make sure your website works on smartphones and tablets. In dorky web design terms, this is called responsive design, or mobile design.
How does making sure your website works well on mobile devices relate to SEO? Well, back in 2015 Google updated it's search algorithm to prefer websites that are mobile-friendly. Why did Google do this? Well, prior to responsive design, websites often had two or three different versions of their site to work on different kinds of devices. I remember those days...it was a freakin' headache! This of course created loads and loads of duplicate content...and duplicate content created a big problem for Google and other search engines.
Firstly, duplicate content meant more pages that bots had to crawl through and index, creating a huge strain on resources. Second, how can the search engine tell what content is legitimate and what's fraudulent? After all, couldn't website owners just create four or five duplicates of the same content in an effort to get higher rankings? So Google solved these problems by changing it's algorithm to prefer mobile-friendly websites.
That solved Google's resource and duplicate content problem, and made mobile or responsive design a key ingredient in successful SEO.
So in short, if your website doesn't adjust and respond to different screen sizes and devices, Google will penalize you by ranking you lower than websites that are mobile-friendly. So, as you begin building your website design and layout, you'll want to make sure it functions well on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.
And note too that this isn't just about SEO. It's also about your visitor's experience, too. I don't need to tell you that more and more people are spending their lives on their phones, surfing the web, searching for content, and shopping online. So, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly serves your audience, too.
And that wraps up our third and final SEO checklist item.
So there's a look at the three most critical SEO tasks you can get to right away. Again, start publishing high-value content for your audience, set up a sitemap for your site, and finally, make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
Again, SEO isn't complicated or difficult -- you just have to have a way to separate the wheat from the chaff and figure out what's most important. And you might be sitting there wondering about other aspects of SEO that you may have heard of, like alt tags, titles, and heading levels. That's all important stuff too, but not nearly as important as our three-item SEO checklist for small business that we just went through. I feel a big part of my job is to help you separate the wheat from all that chaff -- and we just did that!
And, if you didn't give SEO For Small Business Owners — An Introductory Crash Course a read, definitely check it out.
Alright, I hope you enjoyed. See ya soon!