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Mastering SEO basics: DIY checklist for small businesses

Did you know that less than one-third of small businesses have an SEO strategy? This is partly because SEO can take time to deliver results, and it requires consistent effort (and a little know-how) to ensure success. Instead, many small business owners prefer to focus their time on more immediate revenue-generating activities, like sales promotions and other events. 

However, no company can afford to ignore SEO if they want to attract more sales leads and customers. The good news is, even understanding and implementing some of the basics of SEO can have a big payoff — and you don’t need a full-time webmaster or SEO strategist to get there. 

Consider that more than half (53%) of small businesses began their SEO efforts in just the last three years. And most of them are doing it on their own — without help from outside SEO firms or consultants — so it’s possible to achieve results within your budget and time constraints.

Think of an SEO strategy like a healthy diet and exercise: You don’t have to radically transform your life to achieve impressive results. Even a few modifications, such as walking every day and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can have big health benefits. The same is true of SEO. You don’t have to be a full-time strategist to make SEO work for you. 

Here are some of the top benefits of SEO and how you can start achieving them today.

Improve your company’s online visibility and traffic 

Every business wants to be at the top of a Google search engine results page (SERP), and for good reason. The number one Google search result on a Google SERP gets 32% of clicks, while the top three organic search results get 75% of all traffic. 

Achieving this high ranking doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen, even for small businesses. Here are a few basic SEO strategies that can help: 

1. Keyword research and placement. 

There are a variety of keyword research tools to help you find out which search terms and long-tail keywords people use most frequently to look up certain topics on search engines like Google and Bing. Once you have a list of relevant keywords, you can strategically insert them into landing pages, meta descriptions, blog posts, and other web pages to help searchers find you and improve search engine rankings. 

Read this blog to learn how to create high converting landing pages.

2. Local search engine optimisation. 

If your business has a physical location, you definitely want to ensure customers searching for your types of products or services can find you easily. To start, make sure you have an updated business listing in Google My Business, as well as on review sites like Yelp. Other local SEO ranking factors include social media check-ins, relevant local content on your website, online reviews, and mobile clicks-to-calls. All of these factors help to rank your website higher in local search queries.

3. Mobile optimisation. 

Mobile optimisation ensures that users can easily access and view your website from a phone, watch, tablet, or desktop, and delivers the same experience regardless of screen size. Overall, mobile optimisation requires your website pages to load fast and have a clean and efficient design that’s easy to read and navigate. This is important for SEO because Google will prioritise page experience in its SEO algorithms starting this summer.

4. High-quality content. 

Prioritising the user experience is an essential part of any SEO strategy. This is why simple SEO tricks are not enough to get Google or Bing to send people to your website. Once users arrive, you have to engage them by answering their questions (especially the ones that helped them find you in the first place). Knowing your target audience, what they are looking for, and how you can help them is critical to creating compelling content and promoting it with a detailed content marketing framework.

5. Link building. 

Link building is basically the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. As more external sites (especially reputable sites) link to your content, the more search engines will view your website as an authority and increasingly drive organic traffic to you. Over time, as you acquire more backlinks, you will start to rank higher in search engine results. Note: It’s important to earn these links by creating high-quality content. Relying on spammy, duplicate content or manipulative SEO tactics can potentially get your site penalised by search engines. You can also improve your SEO by creating internal links to your own content between resources. For example, you could create a backlink to your recently published guide in your next blog. 

Reduce advertising costs 

A good SEO strategy is one of the best ways to improve your visibility on the web while decreasing advertising expenses. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, SEO is a free way to increase organic traffic to your site. In fact, as much as 53% of web traffic comes from organic searches. While PPC campaigns can sometimes make sense in the short term, paid advertising may not make long-term financial sense for many marketers or small businesses. Such is not the case with SEO, whose effectiveness grows over time with consistent effort. Plus, when business owners manage their SEO strategy internally instead of outsourcing that role, they can achieve a higher ROI from SEO than from paid advertising.  

Attract (and track) more qualified leads to your site 

In addition to lowering your advertising costs, a good SEO strategy can help reduce your customer acquisition costs by driving highly qualified leads to your website. And, with SEO tools such as Google Analytics, and keyword tools like Clearscope, you can identify who’s visiting your website, what they’re looking for, where they came from, and how they’re navigating your site. 

Google Analytics helps you to easily configure and track a variety of factors such as page views, completed orders, website ad clicks, and click-to-calls. What’s more, Google Search Console helps you understand how people find your website, search terms that improve your site ranking, and how you can improve your search volume. It also helps you to evaluate overall site performance and fix website issues.

Click here to learn which SEO tools are the best for your small business. 

Build brand credibility and trust 

As mentioned previously, backlinks help build your website’s search engine credibility over time. This is of course a good thing, but you also want to build brand credibility among people, not just search engines. Ranking high on SERPs is a great way to establish initial trust, but users then have to have a rewarding experience once they get to your homepage or website. To optimise SEO and provide a great user experience, review your own site regularly to fix any broken links or outdated content. You also want to continually provide fresh, relevant great content (blog posts are a great way to do this) so both search engines and users know that your site is current and regularly updated.

Focus on the user experience

Fortunately, personalised experiences not only help you improve customer loyalty, they also help your SEO results. By focusing on the needs of your customers, you can quickly understand what they want to know or which types of products or services they need. Delivering this personalised great content requires a solid content marketing strategy to help you deliver the right content, at the right time, to the right audience. 

By combining high-quality content with other user experience factors such as page speed and simplified navigation, you can quickly reduce your bounce rate, boost your SEO performance and drive more quality search traffic to your website — and your business.

Learn more about SEO marketing — check out our beginner’s Guide to SEO Marketing for Small Business!