Search-engine optimization (SEO) has gone through a series of evolutions over the years. Older tactics, which focused on keyword-based optimization and black-hat practices, have become obsolete, and modern strategies, which focus on user experience, have come to replace them. Throughout its history, SEO has been a cost-efficient and incredibly valuable strategy for business owners of all industries.
But despite the strategy’s simplified development, many business owners are still too intimidated by the perceived difficulty of SEO to follow through with it. SEO is a time-intensive strategy, and it does demand significant attention, but it has reached a point where it’s no longer difficult. With the right mentality and a sound commitment, any business owner can start building an SEO campaign -- and reaping the many benefits.
The roots of the misconception
To business owners unfamiliar with the technical side of web development, the idea of Google’s algorithm often seems extraordinarily complex -- truly, the algorithm itself is extraordinarily complex, but that doesn’t mean you need an extraordinarily complex strategy to be successful with it. These business owners typically think about the advanced engineering and coding that go into the maintenance of this algorithm and the development of complex websites, and think how impossible it would be to construct something of that scale with limited knowledge.
The misconception here is that sophisticated structures require sophisticated strategies if they’re going to be harnessed to their full potential. However, despite a sophisticated backing, the tenets behind Google’s search algorithm are simple, and simple strategies are sufficient to achieve positive results. Google’s goal is to give users the best possible online experience, which means giving them the most appropriate, relevant and valuable results.
The basics that anyone can master
The process Google uses to calculate search rankings is extraordinarily complicated -- and search experts don’t even understand it fully because Google has never published the inner workings of the algorithm. But we do know that you have to fulfill two requirements to rank high for a given query: you have to be seen as an authority, and you have to publish what people are looking for by giving them value. The sites that fulfill these requirements the best will rank the highest.
Fortunately, fulfilling these requirements can be done with basic strategies that are implemented consistently over time. The more you implement them, and the more consistently you implement them, the more your authority and online presence will grow.
Onsite content comes in two main sections. First, you’ll need to optimize the body copy throughout your website to ensure that Google can recognize the purpose of your site and the industry niche of your business. To do that, make sure your site pages are in order.
You’ll want to feature the most important pages (such as “Home,” “Products,” and “Contact Us”) with strong headlines and several paragraphs of compelling copy. Include words and phrases that describe your business accurately, but don’t try and stuff your content full of them. Focus on writing naturally. Optimizing your title tags and meta tags (which can usually be done simply through your site’s content management system) is also extremely helpful, especially at the start of your campaign.
Next, implement an ongoing blogging strategy. Write at least one 1,000 word (or more) blog post every week, scaling up as you gain more traction. Write about topics your audience wants to learn about, answering their potential questions in as much detail as possible. This will help you become the resource your searchers want to find, and you’ll rank higher as a result. The more questions you answer, the more potential queries you’ll have the answer for.
Inbound links. Building authority means having a strong online presence, and that means having quality inbound links pointing to your site. Building these links is relatively easy -- you can put links pointing back to your site in the body of an external guest blog post, a forum comment or citing your affiliation within an interview for a publication. Just be sure to diversify your strategy. Use many sources, link to many different internal pages of your site, and always ensure your links are relevant and add value to the conversation.
Social and local integrations. If you don’t already have a social-media presence, it’s time to get one. Claim your profiles for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other channels you think would be appropriate. Post regularly, engage with your audience, and your credibility as an online business will greatly improve. You’ll also want to claim your business profiles on local directory and review sites such as Yelp, and ensure that all your information (especially your name, address and phone number) is accurate. The more positive reviews you get on these sites, the higher you’ll rank for local search queries.
The true challenges of SEO
While these basic strategies are easy to adopt and consistently execute, SEO is not without its true challenges. As you get started with your basic strategy, you’ll likely encounter these obstacles.
Finding appropriate targets. You might be lost on what types of questions to write blogs for, or what keywords to include on your website. The best way to address this problem is to find honest answers. Summarize your business as simply as you can, and use that summary to describe your business in your onsite content. Ask your customers directly what they’d like to read on your blog, and write about it.
Investing time. The time factor is a major hurdle to overcome, especially for entrepreneurs of small or new businesses. It’s tough to manage an SEO strategy on top of all your other responsibilities, but remember, you can always hire an outside expert to help you shoulder the load. There are ways to measure your return on investment so you can ensure you don’t lose money on your campaign efforts.
Adjusting your strategy. Knowing what to adjust and when can be a major problem, even if you accurately measure the initial results of your campaign. Overcoming this problem is difficult, even for industry experts, but the only way to move forward is to do some research, make an educated guess at the root of your problem, make an adjustment to your campaign, and see what the result is.
Strategies to keep SEO on “easy mode”
If you’re trying to keep SEO as easy as possible for as long as possible, try these strategies to avoid overcomplicating the work.
Read SEO news. Subscribe to multiple SEO-based news feeds and forums. Read up on developments as often as you can, preferably daily. While some of it might be over your head to begin with, eventually it will start to make more sense. The only way to make SEO culture easier to understand is to immerse yourself in it.
Watch your competitors. Keep a close eye on your competition. You can monitor their blogs to see what topics they’re writing about, or use tools such as Open Site Explorer and SEMRush to see what kinds of links they’re building. Doing so can help point your own campaign in the right direction, or provide new insights for you to develop in your ongoing strategy.
Perform monthly reviews. Take a look at your metrics on a monthly basis. Any more frequently, and you might drive yourself crazy looking at random fluctuations. Any less frequently, and you won’t have a good read on the health of your campaign. Use Google Analytics and other free online tools to measure metrics like your keyword ranks, organic traffic and visitor behavior.
While SEO is likely easier than you think, don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort it will take. You’ll get out what you put into it, so if you only spend a few minutes a day, don’t expect to climb the ranks on a national scale at any noticeable pace.
If you’re concerned about the ROI of the strategy, or if you’re still nervous about the steps of its execution, start small. Implement your strategy at a small scale, measure the results and gradually scale up until you’ve reached an ideal balance of cost, risk and reward. After a few weeks of implementation, you’ll likely find a perfect pace for development.