If you’re an SEO beginner or simply a small business owner trying to get your website to rank, it can be difficult to know where to start. But fortunately, the two things you can do that will have the most effect on your site’s ranking are also two of the simplest things to do:
- Create great content
- Earn links to that content
Understand How Keywords Improve Your Rank
So, you have a website and it’s started to provide you with new leads and new business. You may even have started attracting some followers on social media. If you’re beginning to feel comfortable with online marketing, it may be time to dive a bit deeper.
Once business owners have a bit of experience with online marketing, they start to realize they’re only scratching the surface of the web’s potential. Long tail keywords and niche marketing mean that you can pursue very small markets that would not be cost effective to go after with traditional advertising.
For example, I got this email from a client today:
This client wants to rank for a variety of specific keyword phrases his website was not initially built to target.
We helped this client develop a website for his catering business, and he’s now realized there are a wide variety of search terms he could be targeting that his site is not currently ranking for.
Well, there’s good news for this client and anyone else who wants their website to rank for more search terms – all it takes is time and effort.
The Basics of SEO Aren’t Complicated
Search Engine Optimization is a field that can be totally mystifying to people who are just learning about it for the first time. It is filled to the brim with jargon and so much debate over tactics that, to people on the outside, SEO seems totally arcane.
But the thing is that most of these discussions are about squeezing a bit more domain authority out of a website in order to gain a tiny edge over competitors in highly competitive fields. In most industries and in most cities, smaller local businesses are only competing with other small, local businesses.
It’s much easier for local businesses to rank well just by making sure they’re getting the SEO basics right. And straight from Google, the most important things to be working on to improve your website rank are content and links.
You don't need to be a tech wizard to influence the search results anymore.
SEO isn’t dead, but the popular conception of SEO as an attempt to fool search engines is no longer accurate. We are in an age where Google is harnessing artificial intelligence to accurately assess the topic and quality of each website they index.
These days, you don't need any tricks to make your website rank well. By focusing on actually improving the quality of your site and making it more valuable for visitors, you’re increasing the confidence Google has in your site. The more confident Google is in your website, the more likely they are to recommend it.
Create Great Content (As Much As You Can)
The primary goal of SEO is to demonstrate that your website is a good resource. You want to convince Google and the other search engines that when someone searches for something related to your business, your website is the most relevant result. That’s how you improve your website ranking!
So how do you convince Google that your website is relevant? Through creating content. You can find blog post after blog post today talking about how content is king or how content is the key to great SEO. This is because the content is the primary way that search engines determine what websites are about.
The client that emailed me wants to rank for a wide variety of terms related to catering. The first step in ranking for any of these topics is creating content. If you want your site to be one of the top results for a search like “location catering,” you need to have a page on that topic that Google can link to.
But ideally, you won’t have just one page – you should create a content ecosystem on your website: A constantly growing and branching collection of high-quality content, with links back and forth between pages, covering the topics that are important to your industry. Your goal is to make your website a trusted authority on whatever topics you want to rank for – for my client above, this means he needs to be creating content about catering for film production.
And when you create great content, you're also building an audience that trusts your brand.
This is why businesses have blogs – they’re a simple, trusted format for regularly publishing new content and adding it to your site. New blog posts can link back to relevant older blog posts, and you can go in and edit old posts to include links to your new content. You can focus on whatever topics you want to rank for, and over time you will build an archive that will serve as the foundation of all of your SEO efforts.
And just as important, producing great content is the best way to earn links.
Build links – Quality Over Quantity
While content is critically important, the other side of the SEO coin is linking. Google and other search engines use links as a signal that other people consider your website useful or informative.
In the past, SEOs tried to scam search engines with all kinds of black hat link building schemes. Thankfully, search engines have caught on and are much better at evaluating whether links are genuine or not. If you want to succeed at link building, you need to get actual links from real people, and this is easiest to do when they legitimately want to share your work with their audiences.
This is where your attention to routinely producing great content will pay off.
The only way to consistently earn new links to your website is by continually producing great content that people want to share. And the great thing is that local businesses have a major advantage here – you don’t need to get links from the world’s biggest websites in order to rank locally. Instead, you can get links from other people and businesses in your area, and that’s much easier.
Anthony Randall wrote a great post about local link building techniques, but the takeaway is that by creating relationships with other businesses and organizations in your area, you can virtually guarantee yourself a steady stream of incoming links.
My client who sent the email about catering would benefit from reaching out to film industry people in his community, especially those who are active online. He could ask them to share posts he had written about how to choose a menu when feeding a film crew, or the logistics of catering a shoot in a remote location – posts that their own audiences might find useful.
He could also spend a bit of money sponsoring local organizations or supply free food for community group meetings in exchange for links on their websites. Links from reputable websites are always helpful, even if they aren’t necessarily in your industry – especially for smaller local businesses where four or five good links can be the difference between the number one result and the number two result.
Win the Local Search Game
As complex as SEO can be, many small businesses can excel online by just covering these two fundamentals. While some cities’ local search results are much more competitive than others (if you live in New York or London, for example, it’s going to take a lot more to get to the top of page 1), the vast majority of small business owners will see great results from simply producing high quality content and getting links.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but at the end of the day, it’s an achievable task for even the busiest business owners and entrepreneurs.
For most small businesses, all it takes to improve your search ranking is time and the motivation to keep at it!