SEO is an incredibly broad subject. There are many intricacies of SEO and how the Google algorithm works along with the latest algorithm update and different hacks to optimize your website or your copy. There is so much to SEO, but we want to give you a quick explanation of what SEO is and what you, as a small business owner, can do to dive right into it.
What is SEO?
SEO is Search Engine Optimization. There are many definitions and many more interpretations of this service. However, we will be giving you our definition of SEO that we have been able to develop and implement into four small businesses in local areas.
We define SEO as being the process of optimizing digital assets to maximize visibility in as many places as possible. Now, this can be misconstrued that SEO is a process of ranking your website to show up on Google. While this is very much a part of the definition, it is not as broad as we define SEO. For instance, you can use SEO philosophies and apply them to any search engine available, whether that is Yahoo, Pinterest, or Google. You can even use SEO philosophies to figure out how to get more visibility on social platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram. That is why we construct our definition to be broader to make sure that we have an all-encompassing mindset when discussing SEO.
Understanding the Algorithm
In order to get on the first page of Google, in the sense of the very traditional definition, we have to first understand the platforms that we are posting on. We have to understand the algorithm behind Google because that is what drives the platforms. Therefore we have to understand how Google actually delivers us results.
When somebody makes a search online, they type in a keyword phrase like ‘chiropractor near me,’ and then the results are given to them. If we understand the process of how that happens, we are better equipped to create assets that adhere to those high-quality philosophies. So, understanding Google’s algorithm is step number one.
Now, nobody knows Google’s algorithm. Google is very secretive about their algorithm and how they rank their websites. All we know is that Google updates its algorithm very frequently.
Oftentimes, they will release what they have been doing with that change, but sometimes they do not. That is why individuals have dedicated their entire lives and careers to understanding these algorithms, and by AB testing, have been able to predict changes of what is going to happen while also coming up with solutions and strategies to accommodate Google’s algorithm.
Therefore, understanding the algorithm is part one. There is a lot of research around it, but we can take apart certain pieces to understand how search engines work.
Search engines start working with somebody typing something into the search engine. These are called Keyword Phrases. That is why SEO experts do Keyword Research.
This is the foundation for every SEO campaign. It starts with an understanding of what phrases your ideal customers are typing in. There are a lot of research tools when it comes to keyword research, our personal favorite tool is Keywords Everywhere.
Keyword Everywhere is a Google extension. Once you purchase the extension along with some credits, then you are able to get access to live data as you type something into Google. This data includes, how many monthly searches there are for your keyword phrases and more.
So, if you type in ‘chiropractor near me,’ you can see this keyword phrase has ‘X’ amount of monthly searches. Now that you know this specific keyword phrase has search volume, you can integrate this phrase into your website to be able to optimize your site for that particular keyword phrase.
This is what most people are familiar with when it comes down to hearing the word SEO – they often think of keywords. However, the other thing to understand about algorithms is that they function off of rank signals.
A rank signal is anything a search engine might use to decide where to rank a website on their search engine results page. There are supposedly over 200 rank signals that Google uses to decide whether or not to rank a website. That is a large number and it may seem overwhelming, but we can break down those rank signals into two different categories – small business SEO and local SEO.
In particular, these two categories are on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is anything that a small business is doing on the website itself, for example, rank signals within on-page SEO are things like website content. A search engine is a machine, so having copy on your website tells a search engine what it is you do as a small business.
Google is able to look at your website and needs to understand who you are, what you do, and why you are the best at it. Google wants to know why you should be ranked above your competitors, therefore, Google depends on words for this purpose.
Having copy on your homepage, having a services page, being able to break down what it is you are selling, what products you have to offer, who you are, are all important to Google. Get the verbiage on the page by using keyword research and placing those keyword phrases into the copy on your website. That is what Google will rely on to decide if you are a source of authority to recommend to their users or not.
Other on-page SEO factors that you can implement into your small business are things like image optimization.
When it comes down to optimizing your images, you can do something called compressing your images. We use a tool called Tiny PNG to make them smaller and easier to load throughout the website, so the images on your site are fast to load, but still high quality in resolution.
You can also title your images so you can add keyword phrases. This gives Google a context clue of what it is you are doing. Other things you can do for on-page SEO are things like tags and meta descriptions. Meta descriptions also give you the availability to write in some persuasive copy to convince your customers to click your site over your competitors. When your customer is looking at those ten blue links on Google, you also want to make sure your site is mobile-optimized as well – for this you want to have something called an SSL certificate.
SSL certificates are a very recent algorithm update in which Google wants to make sure that customers’ data is protected. Having an SSL certificate accomplishes Google being able to deliver safe and secure websites to its users. So, this is an easy rank signal that you can cross off your list.
There are many other on-page SEO optimization techniques, such as, adding schema markups and making sure your page is crawlable and indexable. However, these are more technical terms that we will discuss when we dive into technical SEO. But for now, let’s dive into off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO is anything that happens off of your website. Some key rank signals when it comes to off-page SEO are things like having a Google My Business Page – this means you are registered for that free directory that Google offers to be able to upload your business information (such as your name, address, and phone number).
You want to make sure you sign up for all these directories, such as Google My Business Page and Yelp. Yelp is a directory listing that you would want to acquire, or you can go specifically towards your industry and get on those directories.
For instance, if you’re a health professional, make sure you are on Angie’s List. If you are a contractor, get on industry-specific directories. It is also important that your business information is consistent on all directories and platforms. Therefore, if you have moved locations recently, or changed a phone number it is important to update that information as soon as possible.
It is important to keep your information updated and consistent because Google wants to be able to deliver results that people can trust. They want to make sure you are a real and legitimate business, so having consistent business information on all those directory listings is important.
Having positive reviews to go along with your directory listing is also significant. Positive reviews are one of the biggest rank signals that Google uses to determine whether or not you are in authority. Reviews are like the checks and balances of search engine optimization because we can do as much technical optimization as possible. We can write perfect copy. We can optimize the perfect site. We can have the perfect online presence. But if you are not getting positive reviews, then Google is going to pay attention to that and say, ‘Hey something is off here.’ So reviews are something that Google is able to use to be able to balance out all of those optimization techniques.
The primary aspect of off-page SEO is something called a backlink. A backlink is whenever another website links to yours. There are many backlink techniques for small businesses, such as writing a press release, getting featured on a local news outlet, getting accredited by the BB, joining a chamber of commerce, or writing a guest blog post on your competitor’s website. This tells Google that other people are talking about your business so it must be legitimate. This causes you to rank higher in the Google algorithm.
Backlinks are one of the hardest, most important aspects of search engine optimization. However, when it comes to backlinks, it is quality over quantity. It is always more important to get quality backlinks than just getting a backlink. So making sure that you are prioritizing what is right for your business, and what is right for your industry, is going to be the key difference when it comes down to ranking you online. Ultimately, being able to think about on-page and off-page SEO is a really good start to thinking about how you can maximize your online visibility.
How to Implement SEO for your Small Business
The key takeaways for you are to write some copy, put some copy on your website, and start a blog. Blogging is a great way to get in front of your ideal audience through search engine optimization. This is because you are talking about things that you’re an expert on. Optimize those images, get an SLL certificate, make sure your site is mobile-optimized, get a Google My Business listing, attain some positive reviews. Make sure your information is consistent and sign up for more directory listings. You also want to make sure that you are on different social media platforms.
Sign up for those platforms, and optimize those profiles so it can help Google understand who you are, where you are located and why you are a legitimate business. Then, think about backlinks – who are your business partners? Who can get you a link on their website? Can you do something charitable, something newsworthy to get featured on the news? What are different online publications you admire? Can you be a guest author for those publications?
All of these different things are a step in the right direction to optimizing your digital assets and ranking on the first page of Google. We will be diving deeper into SEO as we continue this journey on The Succeeding Small Podcast. Tune in next week to learn more!