SEO

Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

Let’s consider the stages of a successful SEO campaign:

  • Setting goals and defining where you’re going, and what’re you’re planning to achieve
  • Research the competition and analyzing the market Analysis
  • Keyword research, which means selecting keywords with the best search-volume-to-competition ratio
  • On-site SEO, optimizing meta titles, creating correct robots.txt file, creating and submitting a .xml sitemap of your site, and a thorough analysis of your site’s content and structure
  • Link building
  • Results analysis

Now let’s look at those stages in more detail.

Competitive Research and Market Analysis

Be neither afraid nor ashamed of spying on your competitors and borrowing ideas from them. Surely you can create your own unique SEO strategy and stick to it, but remember that while innovation is adorable, it’s rarely successful. Statistics show that innovators only make use of around 2% of the total value of their innovations, the rest obviously goes to imitators.

If you look closely for a good technique or strategy to copy, there’s a good chance that you will surpass its inventor eventually!

The trick is to know whom to copy and on whom to spy. How do you do that?

To identify your true competitors and sites worth investigating, all you need is to type a couple of the most popular queries in your niche into Google, and the guys that occupy the top 20 positions in the search engine results pages (or SERPs for short) are worth studying and copying.

seo small business 01 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

When you get those top 20 results for your query, make sure you’ve got SEO Quake plugin for Firefox installed and turned on. It makes the Google results look like this:

seo small business 02 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

This plugin shows lots of useful information on a domain, but what’s most crucial is the Alexa rank. Alexa rank reflects the traffic to a site. The smaller the Alexa rank is, the better the site performs.

After you’ve found the sites with the smallest Alexa rank, go to Semrush.com and add your competitor’s URL. SemRush will give you the URLs of your competitors both in organic search results and in paid AdWords campaigns.

seo small business 03 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

It’s a very helpful tool, because it gives you an idea of the traffic you can hope for if you get to top positions in Google, as it also shows how much traffic your competitor’s site is getting from organic top 20 results.

When trying to outperform your competitors, also mind that other things that matter beyond keywords choice. Usually top 10 sites are trusted domains that were registered more than 2 years ago, have a good history and a rich back-link profile.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the stage that should be treated seriously.

Crucial rules essential for a quality keyword research:

  • Don’t focus on too broad and general queries, develop a list of long tail keyword phrase ideas based on your main subject.
  • Mind the competition! To get an idea of the certain keyword competition it’s enough to type it into Google. If Google fetches a couple of hundreds of millions results, and the top 20 is occupied by highly authoritative sites with solid backlink profile, good history and high page rank – forget about this keyword. That’s why we strongly recommend looking for good long-tail keyphrases rather than something like “jewelry online” or “online shopping”.
  • The third rule is relevance. It’s tempting to pick up a keyword that’s not exactly what you have on your site, but is damn close with a high search volume and low competition. But beware of such temptations! Your efforts at getting to the top for such keywords will be rewarded with very little conversion.
  • The rule of golden middle: Take keyword research seriously, and don’t hope to increase your sales promoting by a bunch of hype key phrases. The list of your keywords should be full and exhaustive, but don’t forget that you’ll have to optimize for all the words you’ve chosen. Be moderate and find that golden middle for your SEO campaign.
  • When searching, always tick the “exact” box in the Match Types menu, this will give you the closest to reality numbers. This rule is elementary, yet often misguides DIY SEOs.

seo small business 06 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

Hit the “Exact” box in the Match Types menu

  • Don’t forget about keywords your site is already ranking for. Be sure to include them onto your keyword list, they’ll be the first ones to get to the top and ultimately convert.

On-Site SEO

On-site SEO starts with choosing correct landing pages. By this stage you should already have a good revised keywords list. It’s now very important to stick them to appropriate pages of your site.

When choosing landing pages, cover as much of the whole site as possible. Don’t focus on the home page only. Home pages usually have more informational and navigational character rather than transactional. Category pages and even product pages can be considered perfect landing pages. It will be much easier to optimize them for buying keyphrases, and together with good calls to action, they’ll bring much higher conversion rates.

As for the home page, we recommend sticking the most general key phrases that have the highest search volumes.

When the list of keywords is matched to the landing pages, proceed to on-site SEO or on-page optimization.

Title Tag

Meta tags remain the key aspects of on-site SEO. Title and description tags are still important factors for search engines, unlike the meta keywords tag that’s now totally ignored due to its vast abuse.  Most SEO’s today acknowledge that Title tag is the most important ranking factor. Seriously, sometimes creating a good optimized title is enough for the page to pop up in the top 10 results!

The title tag you put onto the page is displayed at the top of most Internet browsers, and the underlined text within the search results page forms a hyperlink leading to your website. So besides important SEO value, title tag can be a very powerful call-to-action tool.

Basic rules to observe when creating title tags:

  • Put the most relevant keyphrase or several key phrases to the left of the title and end it up with the brand name e.g.

<title> Baltic Amber Jewellery, Mammoth Ivory and Gemstone Handmade Jewelry at Amberexpert </title>

The title should be grammatically correct, readable and good for SEO. Also remember that only the first 70 characters of the title are visible in Google results.

  • To avoid duplicate-content concerns, every single page of the site has to have its own unique title
  • Avoid keyword stuffing, use 2 to 3 keyphrases.

Description Tag

The next tag to be necessarily optimized is the description tag.

Description tag denotes the information displayed in the SERPs, right under the page title and it forms the «snippet» of the page. This tag isn’t as significant for the search engines as the title tag, but you should optimize it well. Otherwise, search engines may pull the description from anywhere on the page or even pull it from any other sites it considers authoritative, mentioning your website, if you don’t bother to optimize your description tag yourself.

Tips on meta description tag optimization:

  • Remember the snippet is only 150 characters long in the SERPs, so fit into it the summary of the webpage described + call-to-action + a couple of keywords
  • Create unique description tags on all significant pages
  • Make it different from title tag, and remember those two will be displayed together, so they should match each other naturally.
  • Mind that the use of competitor brands in meta tags is illegal in most countries

Text Optimization

The tag that carries some significant SEO value is the <h1> tag. This is a sub-heading marker, and if you include relevant keywords into this tag some positive effect is guaranteed. There are also <h2>, <h3>, <h4> and etc. tags, but their value is slender.

Some tips on <h1> use:

  • If you use various headings (h1 and h2), use different keywords in each of them,
  • Make h1 different from the title so you’ll cover more target keyphrase variants
  • Use CSS to reduce the huge font h1 tag creates by default

Text mark-up features like bold, italics and underline have little to no SEO value. Yet bolding is the most effective among them. Don’t overuse these formatting options as you can confuse your visitors, mind that underlined font is usually used for hyperlinks and italics for quotations.

As for the text itself and its volume, ideal volumes for SEO are 350 to 500 words of pure content per page, but don’t get fixed on that. The main things about the texts on the pages are uniqueness and relevance.

Hyperlinks

The most significant mark-up feature in the text is hyperlinks. They’re good for both SEO and usability.

To get the most out of hyperlinks:

Use hyperlinks with the relevant anchor text. Rather than something like «click here» or «see more» put your keywords into the anchor text and point the link to the relevant landing page
  • Try to use the same relevant anchor text both in the navigation menus and in body copy
  • Make the link useful for the user, they should follow it naturally and intuitively

Since we’ve touched upon internal linking of the site, it’s worth mentioning outbound linking too. Some business owners have adopted a very negative attitude towards linking to other websites. Here again the key is moderatation.

  • Outbound links to trusted, highly authoritative resources will make your site more attractive to search engines
  • Try to keep the overall number of links per page (both external and internal) 100 or under
  • Link to non-competitive relevant third-party sites that are helpful to your visitors

Link Building Campaign

This is the most difficult and yet most significant stage of the SEO campaign, as it’s off-site optimization. Basic things to start from for any small business:

  • Directories submission give low value back-links, but if you approach it wisely and thoroughly by choosing relevant directories in your field and country you may get up to 300-500 links that will give a first push to your site in the search engines
  • Social bookmarks submission is a great option to promote long-tail keywords with little competition and also serve a great way of speeding up the indexation
  • WordPress themes sponsoring is a shrewd way of getting thousands of free permanent backlinks that appear gradually over a long period of time. However this way requires patience as you won’t get a quick boost in rankings

There are other ways of getting backlinks to your site, some webmasters look for relevant do-follow blogs (by «do follow», I mean the default link tag to outbound links which pass link juice as opposed to no-follow tags) and post leaving backlinks to their sites. However, if you chose this way don’t get carried away and end up spamming bloggers with some gobbledygook nonsense comments that irritate the community.

No matter which way you chose – follow these 4 simple tips to maximize your effort:

  • Use your keywords for the anchor text of your backlinks everywhere possible
  • Chose sites relevant to your niche for linking
  • Pay attention to authority rather than page rank. For example, if you have a chance to put your link on a 0 PR page of the Independent magazine, it’ll pass more value to your site than some PR 4 backlink from a god-forgotten-website.com. Don’t get me wrong, low-value backlinks won’t hurt you site, but they may not be worth the effort of adding them.
  • Think about the variety of your backlink profile. Getting site wide links is a great thing, go for them if you can, but remember that 100 links from a single site are worth nothing compared to 40 from all different resources!

Besides, there are also ways of getting natural backlinks through on-site optimization.

Depending on the niche of your business you may try:

  • Offering buying guides, tutorials, authorized comments on bright events of your niche, product reviews – all sorts of unique and resourceful content
  • Link baits of different kinds related to your industry – videos, images, downloadable widgets, humorous content and etc.

Don’t forget to equip all these with easy sharing options and socialization buttons to increase your site’s citation on the web.

Monitoring and Results Analysis

So now that we’ve optimized our project both on-site and off-site, and perhaps even started to receive first calls and orders, is it time to rest on the laurels? Certainly not! To fully understand all the causes and effects of the campaign, we strongly recommend installing a complete set of Google Analytics’ tracking code onto your site. It shows you where your visitors came from (through search engines, referring sites or type-in), what queries they used, how long they stayed on your site, what goods they purchased, how many pages they viewed, their exact path to the checkout page, and loads of other useful information.

To be fully aware of what’s going on and where your SEO campaign is, you should monitor your site in Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools regularly. We also advise you to check your site rankings in the search engines at least once a week. Combining your rankings data with your Google Analytics statistics, you can reveal weak chains in your campaign, keywords that aren’t bringing in the traffic and that need to be reconsidered.

To check your site’s rankings you may use various free online tools like SEO SERP or a free plug-in for Firefox - Rank Checker. SEO SERP allows you to view the first 1000 positions of global and any local version of Google, whereas Rank Checker allows you to view only the first 200 positions, but for all Google versions plus Yahoo and Bing and you can check up to 100 queries simultaneously.

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Besides your site’s monitoring, it is also very useful to peep into your competitors sites from time to time to see if they maybe adopted some interesting changes that might be useful for you too.

Alternative ways of small businesses promotion and new trends in SEO

The techniques I’ve mentioned earlier are traditional and effective for any business online. But recently some additional ways to promote websites, mostly in Google, have appeared (as the most progressive search engine), and you can attract additional traffic to your site besides traditional web search.

Google (and be sure that Yahoo and Bing will follow) in their aspiration to give the completest answer possible to their users queries has introduced alternative ways of search such as:

  • local search
  • shopping search
  • video search
  • images search
  • books search
  • blogs search

etc.

Promotion in these kinds of searches does not have that huge traffic potential as the traditional web search does, but it will take less effort to get to the top, as the competition is much lesser in those fields.

Conclusion

So to sum it all up, let’s outline the main takeaways:

  • SEO is a perfect tool for small businesses promotion
  • plan your SEO campaign carefully, monitor and spy on your successful competitors
  • spare no effort on keyword research as it is the foundation of your future success
  • examine your landing pages and optimize them both for search engines and real visitors
  • pay attention to the content — the text of the title and body needs optimization first of all
  • treat link building seriously, be patient and get great results in the long run
  • follow the latest trends in SEO, optimize for alternative ways of searches
  • track, monitor and analyze your performance regularly
 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

Anna Korolekh (Moseva)

International marketing manager at Promodo
Anna Korolekh (Moseva), specialist of Promodo online marketing company. Anna started her career in SEO in 2009 from content-writing and link building and eventually evolved into an efficient SEO analyst. She successfully promoted sites of different scale starting from several small to middle jewelry online stores and ending up with prominent hosting providers’ sites. Currently she manages all marketing activities for international department of Promodo.
 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites
 Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

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17 thoughts on “Building of SEO Strategy for Small Business Sites

  1. I would be hesitant to encourage site owners to copy other sites’ SEO campaigns. Sure, it makes sense to check in on the competition and see what they are doing. It gives you a good idea of where you stand and what niche you can carve out for yourself. I think it’s okay to borrow some ideas, but never directly copy someone’s strategy. That strategy has been created for their site, to meet their goals. There is no guarantee it will work for you too.

  2. Great article, very comprehensive. Definitely enough for a “DIY SEO” to get started. That tip about exact matches in the Google Keyword Tool will help people avoid wasting a lot of time on keywords that don’t get a lot of traffic.

  3. Good list here. I would add, if it’s a local brick and mortar store, to set up and optimize your Google Places page and built citations for it which is just like link building. For link building, “relevant” directory submission is important. Don’t just submit to any directory that will accept you. Also, one of the first links a small business should be going after is your local chamber of commerce and any other local places like that. Go after your local market first if it’s feasible as it’s going to be quicker and less competitive.

  4. Most small business owners don’t even realize how much SEO really matters. They think a website is all you need. Thanks for some tips I picked up in this article.

  5. I’m on the fence with Nicks comment above. I agree with Anna’s post regarding looking for a technique or strategy to copy and I think for small business sites it’s a great way to get involved with SEO and understand how it works but I also agree with Nick. Perhaps copy is the wrong word. I think small businesses should look to draw from competitor techniques and once they have a handle on what’s working, improve upon it. Nobody would want to see hundreds of sites popping up all cloning the number 1 search engine result.

  6. Don’t just look at competitors in your area for ideas. If you’re living in a smaller city it’s unlikely that many of your competitors have invested much in SEO. But if you look at somewhere like London you’ll find more sites that have been well optimised.

    For keyword research i tend to look for keywords without my location to get an idea of which ones are the highest traffic.. If you use Googles keyword tool to find out how much traffic there is for ‘wealth management lowestoft’ it will probably return 0 results.

    When you research your competitors look for things they’re not doing as well as things they are. For instance, you may see that everyone is targeting Norwich and Norfolk related keywords but no one is targeting East Anglia. Of course you should check first to see if there is any traffic for East Anglia…

  7. My experience with small businesses has been that beyond some basic on page optimization through things like title tags and a good internal link structure (e.g. providing lots of links to the home page within the site’s pages), most don’t have the time to do anything else. Link building campaigns and regularly monitoring rankings are great, but just not practical for small businesses who also have to worry about their day-to-day operations and other business obligations. But in a perfect world these are good things to do/use. The only thing I would caution about is using Alexa to rank your competitors. Alexa rankings are generated by people who have the Alexa toolbar (usually people working in the Internet-centric fields). Consequently they don’t necessarily reflect actual consumer behavior and preferences.

  8. Most businesses aren’t going to buy the “long-tail keyword” idea. Optimize for their MOST IMPORTANT, MOST RELEVANT keywords, and the long-tails will follow naturally.

  9. This post is enlightening for small business owners who loves to optimize their business on their own. List of free SEO tools that can help them make their optimization more accurate and economical.

  10. This is a great overview. I’ve been doing SEO for a few years now but I was able to pull out some great tips on on-page optimization as well as my link building campaign. Thanks for sharing, Anna. I’m glad I started following SEJ!

  11. Chris is I think correct most small business owners think gotta have a website and thats it. Its like they all saw that film “build it and they will come”. I have a good friend and when I asked her how many visitors she gets to her small business website she looked at me blankly. My friends website looks great, then it should she paid a guy in a suit more than £2,000 for it.
    My thoughts are good original content and links from long standing websites, yes there is much more to it than that but to keep it simple and not overly time consuming.