A Quick “Do It Yourself” SEO Guide
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most frustrating terms for marketing departments in the small-to-medium business sector. It is tricky and difficult, and it is a game where rules are changing almost weekly.
So how do you stay on top of changing SEO guidelines? Hiring an agency is not always the best solution; it can be costly, and results are never 100% guaranteed. Several years ago, I decided that maintaining SEO using only internal resources is best for any business no matter its size. This is one of the anchor statements I bring with me to whatever company I work for. Today, I’ll show that it is possible and not that difficult to handle your own SEO needs with a little time and effort.
Still not convinced?
As a marketing consultant, my husband worked with a company that hired a local SEO firm with outstanding Google reviews and a good pool of customers. They decided to allocate $4,000 a month to SEO in their marketing budget, which apparently was a very small deal for the SEO firm compared to their other customers. For six months, the SEO firm was running a minimal SEO program. Their monthly reports were showing great progress, but the Sales Department had a gut feeling that the program wasn’t working the way it should. When my husband shared this with me, I asked to look at those reports and the company website. It took me 15 minutes and a couple of free online tools to figure out that the high ranks the SEO firm was reporting related to keywords with 0 search volume. In other words, the company was ranking highly for search terms that no one was using. Therefore, they might as well not be ranking at all.
Don’t throw $4,000 away. Here are few very easy tips to tackle SEO without hiring an agency or becoming an SEO guru.
Optimize Your Website
If you have a website and you want it to be a primary online destination for your current or future customers, then you need to make sure it is searchable. In other words, make it easy for Google and other search engines to find your website, and they will make it easy for your customers. Make sure the following is properly set up on your website:
- Your business name (I don’t mean logo).
- A simple explanation of what your company is offering to customers. Your services are your keywords.
- Your physical address or geographical location(s) where your services are available. This is super important for small local businesses. By doing this, you narrow down your target audience to people who can actually purchase from you.
If your website is on WordPress, there’s several easy-to-use, free plugins for SEO management. The easiest and probably most popular one is Yoast. It will tell you what needs to be improved on every single page of your website to properly optimize it for search engines.
Maintain Your Relationship With Google
Google is the biggest search engine in the world. Unless you run your business in very specific countries, like North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia or Russia, where local search engines need special attention and special knowledge, you may dedicate 100% of your SEO focus to Google. Since this post is meant for businesses in North America, let’s talk about how to make Google your best friend.
- Create a Google Business page for your company and make sure to fill out your locations, business hours, phones, website URL and other helpful information. Start here and follow Google’s instructions to set it up.
- When your Google Business Page is set up, ask your customers for positive reviews. This short video shows how one can leave a Google review for your business.
- Make sure you create a Google Analytics account and generate a search ID for your website. All you need is a working Gmail account to sign up for the Analytics platform. Start with this page and follow Google’s instructions.
- Make sure that your Google search ID is properly placed in your website. You can ask your web designer to do it for you; it takes a minute and they all know how to do it.
- Google Search Console (or Google Webmaster Tools) is another platform that helps Google bots crawl through your website easily and rank your pages higher. Make sure to sign up with the same Gmail account you used for the Analytics platform. Start here and follow Google’s instructions.
Manage Your Online Presence
Your website is not the only online residence for your business. In fact, there are many businesses today that live solely in social media to avoid the headache of maintaining a website. Your business probably has multiple online listings that include all your social media accounts, Yelp, YP and other aggregators. For the best search results, all your listings should be complete and consistent.
This easy online tool will help you find and analyze all your online listings.
Collect Online Reviews
Online reviews are the new references and word-of-mouth recommendations. The more positive reviews you have, the higher your search ranking will be. If you have multiple accounts that allow online reviews (Google, Yelp, Facebook, YP, etc.), then try to address all of them more or less equally.
How do you get reviews? Ask your customers to write them just like you ask them for referrals or testimonials for your website. The best moment to ask is when the customer is happy with your service. For example, you can ask right after completion of a project or a new system implementation.
If there are no projects on the horizon but your customers are generally happy with how you maintain their IT system on a daily basis, you may still ask for reviews, although, you may not meet a lot of enthusiasm on their part. If you decide to motivate them with discounts or other incentives, I must warn you that it is regulated by the FTC guidance in the U.S.
Keep it Simple
While advanced SEO is very complicated, you may see significant improvement just by addressing simple things like those mentioned in this article. Pay attention to the information on your website, especially where keywords and contact information are involved. Maintain your online presence, including reviews in various locations. Finally, take advantage of Google’s tools and use them to make yourself more accessible to potential customers. This little chrome extension will help you have a quick SEO analysis of your (and any other!) website at your fingertips.