SEO Strategies for Small Businesses to Compete with Big Brands

Although there are many ways to get your site to the top of the search engines, search engine optimization is the perfect way. Search engine optimization is a range of strategies that all have one goal: to increase the amount of visitors and new visitors to your website. These strategies need to be both on page and off page as relevance and importance is what the search engines require. Organic SEO is dedicating time and effort into growing your site popularity with zero spend for advertising or marketing; this in turn will lead to a high return on investment. If you are a small business, search engine optimization is the a key way to compete with the big brands. Without SEO service, small businesses will find it extremely difficult to even get their foot into the intense and competitive market of today. It will take many years at a slow pace for them to even be capable of competing with bigger brands. With SEO, small businesses are provided with the opportunity to increase both their relevancy and significance in the market. This is achieved through low cost and budget but effective methods that will be beneficial in the long term. SEO can act as being the underdog for small businesses and in turn have the chances of providing them with extra advantages and perks over the bigger brands. A really important aspect of SEO for small business is that it will enable them to optimize a much better ROI. This is because a lot of the strategies that are used in SEO practices are very low cost compared to other marketing and advertising techniques. These include social media integration, on page content formatting, link building and local search optimization. In addition to this, it also enables small business to find their target audience and their wants, needs and requirements through analytics (most commonly Google Analytics). This all leads to the saving of costs and budgeting that can be used in other areas of the business.

Importance of SEO for Small Businesses

Small businesses have the ability to build simpler, lighter websites that larger corporations cannot necessarily do. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, but when creating an SEO campaign, a small business can capitalize on this. Large corporations are often desperately trying to squeeze every last bit of SEO onto their site, and when trying to alter the relevance of a particular page, many times it can simply be too much. This does not happen to small businesses. With the ability to go back and quickly make changes, sifting through various on-site optimization tactics, small businesses can often times run large corporations into circles in terms of SEO progress.

In industries where a large corporation has decided to dip its feet into online business, small businesses often have no chance of ever making it to the top five pages of search engine results pages. This can be devastating for businesses that heavily rely on new customers, as they know that as long as they could just get a potential customer to the site, they would be able to provide them with the exact right service that would retain them as repeat customers. Long-term, this is what SEO does for business. By gaining customers at the end of a search engine result funnel, customers can save money on advertising and other methods of customer acquisition on the same customer who, in turn, is more likely to come back.

Using a website to its full advantage will not only make customers aware of the existence of a company but also make it easier to do business. For small businesses, creating a successful website can mean the difference between being found by customers and being unknown. By taking the time to learn the basics of SEO, some small business owners can conduct their own in-house SEO campaign and gain significant control over their rankings. For small business owners in competitive industries, this can be the key to sustained success.

Challenges Faced by Small Businesses in SEO

Never considering a small business and their website. Without employing the help of a search marketing professional, these companies often make wild decisions affecting the visibility of their website. When a company decides to change their URL or a part of their website, a lot of the time they will fail to implement a redirect plan. This results in a lot of 404 error messages and ultimately reduces the flow of traffic and subsequent loss of potential and existing customers. Both of these scenarios provide an excellent opportunity for a small SEO provider to offer their services, and this can often be quite lucrative. An emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that mistakes in SEO that occur on a large company can just as easily occur on a small company. Step forward to your clients and make it known that avoiding a SEO disaster ultimately saves money, time, and quite a few headaches.

When it comes to SEO strategies, the uses and implementation can vary quite differently, often depending on the size and scope of the business. A small business has very different SEO needs than a Fortune 500 company. This article is specifically aimed at small businesses with limited budgets and provides a simple step-by-step process that will get your website noticed by prospects and customers. There are two main points from a search marketing perspective that need to be considered. These are to understand that a ‘One size fits all’ SEO strategy is unlikely, and this isn’t a bad thing. Too often big corporate decisions are made to redirect their entire website into a new URL, or to launch a new website altogether. Next time this happens reconsideration outweighs rebirth. This is a daunting task at the best of times; essentially with the amount of factors involved in a migration.

Keyword Research and Optimization

Keyword research is a fundamental practice in any business aiming to include SEO strategies in their online presence. It provides a roadmap for the creation of new and optimized site content. This is particularly important in small businesses where there is probably not a big budget in trying to compete with big brands in a wide market area. Optimizing content simply means to write content that contains specific keywords or keyphrases in a manner that will yield higher search engine rankings. An often overlooked strategy is that of niche keyword research. By using various tools, it is possible to find and target keywords that are not as competitive and therefore easier to secure higher rankings. This is often referred to as long tail content. By using this strategy, a small business can take the first steps in competing with big brands. A great source for keywords is always competitive intelligence. See what keywords your competitors are targeting and what brought them success. These keywords can be filtered into different categories: those that have a high likelihood of success and can bring quick traffic, and those that are more strategic in nature, taking longer to achieve results. High-level competitive keywords will always be active, so it is important to have someone who can continuously monitor these keywords and your progress in the search rankings.

Identifying Relevant Keywords for Small Businesses

There are a number of tools that can be used to identify keywords. One of the best-known and widely used tools is the Overture keyword selector tool. This tool is free to use. It is useful for generating and comparing common search terms with their related statistics. This can be a good indicator of what searches are more popular. However, due to the fact that this tool is widely known and used, it also means that the competition it generates helps to drive up the cost of bids for keywords on Overture’s pay-per-click search engine. Another PPC search engine that also offers information about keywords is Google Adwords. This tool is similar to Overture’s and it offers more functionality and flexibility. Data can be based on Google search results only and can be limited to specific geographic regions. There are also many other programs and services that can be used to determine keywords. They have various cost arrangements and functions. KeywordDig offers a tool that generates keyword combinations from two lists of keywords. Users of the services are asked to write what their product or service is about and then enter a list of keywords that are related to their product or service. KeywordDig conceptually combines the two lists to suggest more keywords. This is particularly useful for those who have difficulty expanding their list of keywords. Overture and Adsense charge per click on keywords and Yahoo’s site match charges a fixed price, but pay-per-click tools are useless for small businesses if the suggested bids are too high.

Identifying relevant keywords is the first step in the SEO process. Without an understanding of what keywords are actually important, it is difficult to optimize web pages effectively. For small businesses, this is particularly difficult. Small businesses face the problem of competing with big businesses, who often have a lot of resources to invest and have already established so-called authority for their products and services. It is important for small businesses to select keywords on which they can compete. This generally means going for more specific, or ‘long tail’ keywords.

Optimizing Website Content with Targeted Keywords

Once you have identified your target keywords, you can begin to optimize your site. On-page search engine optimization is an essential part of the keyword optimization process. Each page should be dedicated to a single keyword. Make sure that the keyword is included in the URL, page title, H1 tag, meta description, and throughout the content. You can also internal link between the pages that are dedicated to the same keyword to improve the keyword relevancy.

An important component of keyword research will be to recognize that it is not all about ranking an excellent search volume keyword. If a keyword is too competitive, then your chances of ranking in a reasonable time frame are small. Great keywords consist of two main attributes: to bring in your target market and to have a realistic chance of a high search engine ranking.

Utilizing Long-Tail Keywords for Niche Targeting

Long-tail keywords are great for on-site optimization as well as anchor text for link building. It’s easier to provide high-quality content that targets a specific audience. High-quality content will eventually lead to organic links. With anchor text, using a long-tail keyword is a relevant way to redirect to a specific page.

The cost for bidding on PPC for these keywords is trivial in comparison to broad keywords. These keywords have low competition and are low cost, and they convert much better than broad keywords. This is mainly due to the fact that the visitor knows what he is looking for. The search volume may be low, but the targeted nature of the search makes it so that the visit is a higher value one.

Long-tail keywords account for the majority of web searches, meaning that if you package the same information as the larger firms into a series of long-tail keywords, you’ll have a higher chance of search engine visibility. Long-tail keywords are basically key phrases that are highly specific and generally speaking, consist of 3-5 words. Think of them as a token that gets your webpage entry into a specific sweepstakes.

Before, it was mentioned that small businesses wouldn’t be able to compete against the larger firms with regards to optimized keywords. This is only the case with broad keywords. Long-tail keywords can actually level the playing field to a large extent and are a great strategy to employ when discussing niche targeting.

On-Page SEO Techniques

Organizing content structure is very important. A good structure will increase reader attractiveness to the content. Creating a good content structure requires a good title and sub-title that are relevant to the content. Web pages that consist of short paragraphs and bullet lists are preferred. Usually, a short paragraph consists of 4-5 sentences.

Creating SEO-Friendly URLs and Meta Tags

Creating SEO-friendly meta tags is fundamentally the same as creating a sales pitch. Let’s not forget what they are; they are a snapshot of what the page contains. With meta tags, you can control what is displayed when your site appears in the search engine results. Combine this with well-written content, a matching title, and URL, and you will be set up for increased traffic and a higher click-through rate. This delivers the ultimate goal of each and every page: to entice the user to click and actually visit the page. This is often overlooked in small business SEO.

A URL such as: [Link] can be modified into: [Link]

By default, URLs tend to be unattractive, especially those containing database parameters and other “code-like” characters. This can make it difficult for search engines to crawl content on your page and can also be off-putting for potential visitors. As a small business looking to gain ground in the SERPs, this is undesirable and is where URL optimization comes in. A clean, simple URL which includes relevant keywords not only helps a search engine understand the page but also has a higher click-through rate when displayed in the search results.

Optimizing Heading Tags and Content Structure

To understand how to effectively optimize heading tags for search engine optimization, it is necessary to understand what purpose heading tags serve. A heading tag is an HTML coding tag used for creating headings on a webpage. Heading tags range from h1, the largest, to h6, the smallest. Using heading tags is beneficial to the overall structure of the webpage. The heading tags signify to the reader and the search engine what is important on the page. The reader can use the heading tags to help determine the main points of your page. The search engine uses the heading tags to determine what is on your page, and how that relates to the user’s search query. So, when the heading tags relate to the theme of the page, and the keywords embedded in them are in alignment with the rest of the page, this provides for an effective means of on-page search engine optimization.

Enhancing User Experience and Site Speed

User experience is a significant part of search engine optimization. Google has begun to calculate site speed and include it as part of the search algorithm. Increased site speed also has a number of benefits for users, and this is why Google has included it as a ranking factor. It has been shown that a user is more likely to leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. This is highly likely to increase the bounce rate from your site. A high bounce rate can tell search engines that the page is not relevant to the user, possibly due to the meta tags not accurately reflecting the content on the page, and can result in lower search rankings for that page. Google also provides data showing the time taken to load the page and the percentage of visitors that return to the site. This can be a very useful gauge of the effectiveness of an SEO strategy and the relevance of content on a site. This is because a faster site speed will generally have higher visitor return rates, higher page view rates, and generally higher on-site times.

Implementing Schema Markup for Rich Snippets

There are rich snippets for all types of media and content. Whether you have articles, music, videos, or photos, there is a rich snippet waiting to be utilized. This makes it an opportunity for all webmasters as long as they have quality content worth sharing. My favorite type of rich snippet is the review. When searching for information on products or services, I’m always more drawn to search results which provide reviews or ratings. This is a great way to increase your click-through rate if you have reviewed products on your website. It’s also a niche which has potential to draw traffic and sometimes the chance of people clicking ads.

Search engines have more space and info to showcase rich snippets for given content. Rich snippets are very interactive and give a clearer picture of the information being portrayed. Implementing rich snippets can have a drastic impact on your SEO efforts. If you can get your articles to appear in the search engine results with a rich snippet, you’re likely to see an increase in click-through rate. In the world of SEO, increasing your click-through rate can have a big impact on your overall traffic. Rich snippets can have such an impact on click-through rates that I’m surprised it isn’t talked about more in the SEO community. But maybe my experience just doesn’t translate well to the larger community. I’ve seen rich snippets nearly double the CPC income for a number of long-tail terms in articles using schema markup. Rich snippets can also allow your website to have better visibility within search engines. This is great for new websites which haven’t yet achieved first-page rankings for their targeted keywords. Rich snippets provide a backdoor onto the first page of search results.

Off-Page SEO Strategies

Step cautiously with backlink exchanges. While asking relevant sites for reciprocal backlinks is generally harmless, the realization of link exchanges with link building firms can result in a negative impact on site ranking. This is because the exchanging of backlinks is often done with irrelevant sites, thus making potential visitors question its relevance. In particular, links that are automatic or off-topic can damage a site’s reputation. Automatic backlinking software and web rings share a similar risk, thus it is important to avoid all methods that manipulate backlink rankings in an automatic, irrelevant, or unscrupulous way. Always keep in mind that backlink acquisition takes time and resources, but when done in a methodical and responsible way, it can have a lasting effect on the position of your site in search results.

An increasingly effective way to acquire high quality backlinks is to contribute to a blog or online community. Take the time to find a popular blog that is hosted in the same country as your site, and seems relevant to your site’s content. If the blog has a significant number of readers and the content appears to be current, contact the blog owner and suggest you provide a guest post. A guest post is essentially an article or blog post that you provide for free. In return, you may request a few backlinks to your site, in addition to gaining the increased audience. This same method can be utilized by offering an interview, which is also a great way to get the readers area involved. Offering either an interview or guest post costs little to nothing and can provide high quality backlinks that can drastically impact the success of your site. Be certain that you only ever get involved with backlink schemes that involve receptive to relevant content and never force a backlink upon an uninterested party.

Introduction Backlinks are vital to the success of any off-page search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. Simply put, a backlink is a hyperlink to your site from another site. Footprints show where your audience has been online; however, backlinks show the web where your audience is going. It’s important to keep in mind that search engines take into consideration the content of the sites that are linking to you. They do this to ensure the content on the pages you are directing your audience towards is relevant to your site’s content. In doing this, they are also able to appraise the believability and relevance of your own site. Because of this, finding high quality backlinks is a very important aspect to off-page SEO.

Building High-Quality Backlinks for Small Businesses

By developing a cyclical plan to market your brand through creating quality content, establishing yourself as a reputable source of information, and networking with other businesses and websites within your niche, the development of high-quality backlinks can become a very natural and a very successful extension of an ongoing content marketing campaign.

Again, remember even an incredibly small number of backlinks from high-quality sources can yield big results for a small business, so don’t spread yourself too thin in the pursuit of quantity.

Before submitting your site for a backlink, ask yourself whether you believe the site reflects the professional image which you are invested in portraying for your own brand. Would you be proud to tell your customers that your business was mentioned here? If the answer is yes, then it is likely to be a good quality link for your site.

However, the benefits that can be reaped from getting your small business featured on a large, well-respected site within your niche can be absolutely massive and make a dramatically increased impact on the visibility of your small business.

Constantly strive for quality over quantity. Just like any other aspect of your business and marketing plans, quality should always be your number one concern when looking to market your business through backlinks. While attempting to get as many backlinks as possible, it can be incredibly tempting to attain backlinks from low-tier sites with a lower page ranking because they require a significantly smaller time and effort investment.

Leveraging Social Media for SEO Benefits

Social media provides a two-way street with its own benefits for both off-page SEO and on-page SEO. A site’s articles are more likely to obtain natural backlinks if there is an established social media audience. If an article is available through social media buttons, it can potentially ‘go viral’ and gain many more links from other websites. This increases the site’s backlink profile and ultimately can improve its search engine ranking. A page that attracts many natural backlinks is considered to have high linkability and valuable content. These are two of the criteria for the Google PageRank algorithm. By using social media, a site can also increase its personal PageRank. Social media profiles are often ranked highly in search engines due to their high link popularity. If a site has its own social media profiles, it’s likely that they will also rank. The act of engaging with social media can increase a brand’s reputation. By receiving a large amount of retweets on Twitter, a site’s link can rank for the brand name and the content will too have higher visibility.

You might wonder why the application of social media, which seems almost unrelated to SEO, affects a site’s search engine ranking. The connection isn’t too clear at first and results aren’t very apparent. This is an upcoming trend and the connections between social media and SEO are becoming stronger with time. Recent studies state that 90% of marketers see SMO (Social Media Optimization) generating more exposure for their websites with 75% of them claiming that it actually increased traffic.

Engaging in Local SEO Practices

The approach and appeal to local consumers must reflect upon a business’s website and citations (where a business’s NAP – name, address, and phone number is listed). The proliferation of mobile device usage means that it is likely that a local consumer is making a spur-of-the-moment decision to purchase a product or service, and often times such decisions are based upon local search results. Gone are the days of simply hoping to drive traffic and revenues through online sales. It is now imperative that small businesses create a way for local visitors to directly engage with the in-store experience.

An understanding of the industry and market area is essential. To ensure that businesses can showcase both their relevance and the value of their product to local consumers, it is crucial to correctly target the right keywords, and simultaneously avoid the temptation to hijack higher volume keywords. Rightly or wrongly, the perception of certain products and services is likely to vary depending upon geographical location. A business will need to refine their keyword strategy by constantly reviewing and reassessing which keywords are the most relevant and advantageous to their site.

In order to dominate search results and organic traffic, small businesses must quickly master the competitive landscape. One of the best ways to do this is to identify and engage with local search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. There are several foundational concepts to incorporate in the quest for SEO, although the advent of personalized search and the impact of mobile usage implies that new tactics are required to reach and engage with today’s consumers.

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