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Search engine optimization (SEO) often sounds like a place where everybody has an equal opportunity; where rankings come naturally and are swiftly becoming more and more immune to being gamed. And, as we all know, there are over 200+ factors considering which Google ranks a web page, the most important one (yet) being links.

But let’s face it: big brands, thanks to their incomparable media acquisition, often bag rankings on most of the generally-searched keywords, and they can’t be eclipsed easily. This is what usually affects the bottom line for small businesses.

Here, I want to make a case that small business SEO is not as daunting as it sounds. Sure, there’s an uphill battle and budget constrains too, but if your strategy is right you can perform wonderfully in the SERPs.

Smart keyword research is a real must

It’s a myth as old as the time itself that generally-searched keywords are the best to go for. It actually depends on your business type. For small businesses, investing time and energy in such keywords is futile to the most extent or even a Sisyphean task. For them it’s about less-searched, non-branded, geo-based keywords which have less competition. For instance, the keyword “web design company Bristol” is better-suited for small businesses than “web design company”, because of more reasons than one:

  • As per the SEOmoz keyword difficulty tool, the former has way too less global and local searches than the latter – which means you’ve more chances of getting top positions in SERPs.
  • Geo-based searches usually lead to higher conversions.
  • Using geo-based keywords, the company can bag many top rankings on a small budget.

Don’t underestimate the power of engaging, sharable content

Think of yourself as the master of your trade? Prove it by producing insightful, valuable content that people love to share on social networks. You must go for guest posts if you haven’t yet (never pay for getting them published). And don’t particularly do them for links, but for exposure and for building authority within your community. You could experiment with different kinds of contents on your blog and for guest post – infographics, podcast, white paper, video content, comics etc.

And yes, don’t post anonymously anymore and make sure that you’re using Google+ authorship benefit – it might not benefit you much today but tomorrow it’ll quite probably have more value than links in SEO. Google’s Eric Schmidt recently said:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Focus on little but high-authority, relevant links

Today’s is the age of relevance and quality. It’s now a bad idea to go for link building activities for which Google gives little to no value; activities such as article syndication, directory submission, comment spamming etc. Remember, Google’s Webspam head Matt Cutts gave a little Christmas surprise last year when he said this in a Google Webmaster Help forum:

“Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.”

Though Matt Cutts’ statement triggered some debates over whether links from PRs are beneficial for SEO and some firm even went on proving him wrong, but it’s certain that Google is not likely to give value to such low-quality link building techniques in the long run.

Moreover, don’t fall for traps like “get 100 links in $50”, “enjoy 1000+ links per month at affordable rates”. Instead make sure that links you get are of high quality and from relevant sites. Curious to know some legitimate link building strategies? This article highlights around 131 of them.

Leverage local search

Local search is great in the present-day world that’s increasingly going mobile. It helps on-the-go searchers easily get your phone number or driving directions to your physical location. Google helps you upgrade to a local Google+ page through which you can share all that you want with your customers. You could also use premium local search features by Google: Adwords Express and Google Offers.

Conclusion

Finally, I’d love to reiterate that it’s not that hard to rank high for small businesses, provided their strategy is right – focused and targeted. Even with a small budget they can enjoy good rankings by targeting geo-specific keywords. Build authority domain by using legitimate link building practices. And increase their visibility by producing great content and by making the best of local search.

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Posted by Ruchi Pardal

Ruchi Pardal is the Director of Search Services at ResultFirst, a firm that helps businesses get found across search engines and give their audience an optimal experience.

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