Search engine optimization can be a confusing and frustrating topic for an entrepreneur. He or she probably knows that SEO contributes to online success but may not always understand what it entails or how to best approach it.
Consumers turn to search engines when they look for products and services online, so positioning your website so it can land higher in search results can prove beneficial. Search engine optimization involves improving elements on your website's pages as well as increasing the number of inbound links (from other sites) to raise its ranking in nonpaid search results.
A new business can be inundated by offers from SEO agencies from every corner of the world, all promising the same outcome: top rankings in search results. Some digital agencies will quote five-figure monthly retainers. Or overseas companies will promise the world for a monthly stipend of a few hundred dollars a month.
But overpaying for a service that doesn’t deliver on its promises can quickly deplete a marketing budget; selecting a poor service can result in a website's penalization by Google. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is contract for a low-quality SEO service in an effort to save money. The cost of cleaning up the mess created can surpass the steep fee for hiring a more experienced agency at the outset.
If your business doesn't have the budget to hire a SEO agency, then take a deep breath, grab the SEO reins and follow these tips to handle your search engine optimization process internally for a while.
Optimize on the page level first. Many businesses forget one of the most important elements of search engine optimization: focusing on the text within a page of a business website.
This involves making sure that website elements are properly optimized to make a given page worthy of a high ranking on a search engine's results for a desired keyword. (See an example on my company's site.)
Create blog posts. Not only should your business website have a blog that's updated regularly, you can assign posts to staffers that hit the keywords you're trying to target for SEO. Have one employee manage the blog and delegate writing assignments throughout the company.
Curate a social media presence. A website that has its content shared across social media will attract social signals (tweets, "likes" and shares) and also receive visits from various social media channels, which will contribute to its ranking by search engines.
A business needs a social media footprint from its birth, and while you might not be able to afford a full-time social media manager or agency, that doesn’t mean the company's social presence should be neglected.
One startup I know would designate a single employee to be the “social king” for the day. (Yes, the staffer wore a crown.) That person would be responsible for running all the social accounts. This included posting the new daily blog posts across the company's various social profiles, interacting with followers and handling any customer-support inquiries arriving via social media. The company had only a shoestring budget to begin with but got creative and made things work.
Look for guest blogging opportunities. Guest blogging on industry-related sites that receive a lot of traffic is great for brand exposure but can also result in other sites' taking notice of your company and linking back to your site. This is a type of natural link building that Google loves when ranking websites.
Seek out industry blogs with the potential to provide your business some exposure and traffic and then offer them guest posts. The tasks can be spread out thoughout your company at first. Have a contest that rewards the employee who lands the most guest posts and reward the staffer who creates the guest post driving the most traffic to your site. This kind of competition can produce great results while building camaraderie, which is very important for a new business.
Later on, when your business becomes more successful, then you'll be able to bring on full-time content marketers or hire an agency to handle the creation and distribution of such content.