For most seasoned website administrators, SEO remains the holy grail of any viable marketing strategy. It’s the key to Google’s treasured vault of 1.52 billion search engine users and by extension the definite trail to unlocking leads and creating conversions.

For you, a small business owner; however, it probably is just ‘Search Engine Optimization,’ the only route you know to reaching a bigger audience.  And if you look at it pragmatically, there’s really no need for it to get more complex than this.

While SEO can indeed become the anchor of a broader marketing strategy or the cornerstone on which a whole brand is built, for a small business without a mega marketing team and deep pockets, it’s usually better off being just a means to meet a clearly defined and simplified end.

If your goal, for starters, is to get things up and running with your website, and reaching a wider audience is your primal target, here’s how to get SEO to do just that for you.

Google (and your users) remember fast websites

A few decades ago a page load time of say 5 seconds was by no means out of the ordinary. In fact, a handful of major news publishing websites had load times that averaged more than 5 seconds. It wasn’t a big deal, and search engines weren’t making a fuss about it.

Today, however, on the backdrop of an internet space predominated by ‘impatient’ users, speed and faster page load times matter, a lot! Per eConsultancy, no less than 40% of visitors abandon a website with a page load time of more than three seconds. 80% of these visitors won’t return to that site, ever again. It comes as no surprise then when search engines blacklist slow websites, placing them foot side of organic search engine rankings in preference for better performing websites. Google implemented the protocol to do this way back in 2010.

The key takeaway for you as a small business owner is that fast websites are a must, not a negotiable luxury. Assess your site, make sure its returning content to users in lighting fast speed. If this is not the case, make conscious efforts to optimize it for better performance

Quality content is still king, forget what anyone says

When developing content for your site, it’s easy to get caught up in a keyword and content optimizing frenzy that borders on intentionally fine-tuning everything for web scripts and Google crawl bots. While this approach was at one time effective, SEO has long gone past that phase. We’re in an era where quality content, the kind that attracts real-life users and drives engagement rules over that created to essentially tick all the checkboxes of Google bots.

Don’t get me wrong, keywords still matter. But rather than base the content of your website on emphasizing a specific tranche of keywords, it’s usually a better strategy to develop content that appeals to users. Search engines have a way of compounding several metrics to see if the content on your site is actually value-creating as opposed to merely keyword-harvesting.
The first step to developing quality content is understanding the needs of your target audience (consumers). Will they love visual cues more than text-based material? Are you better off writing in a professional, friendly or conversational tone? What topics in your niche pulls the crowd? These are the sort of questions you need to start answering.

Inbound linking is still the undisputed Queen

Inbound links, i.e. links of your website on other websites remain one of the most surefire ways to gain accelerated visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). And no, we’re not encouraging you to go on a link farming spree, that’s black hat SEO, and even though it might deliver some results in the first instance, it’s almost always tailgated by a backlash of punitive measures from search engines.

Instead practice link building the right way, the way it was intended to be practiced. Focus on creating high-quality content that engages the audience and attracts other content curators. If you don’t relent in this game of churning out killer content, other sites will in time start incorporating bits of your work, before invariably proceeding to give you credit by way of inbound links.

The best part is this process is more of a positive feedback mechanism – the more quality inbound links, the better your reputation and authority; and the more other sites feel inclined to link more web pages to your site.

Make use of all the tools you can lay your hands on

One good thing about SEO today is that unlike in the past, it’s no longer a game of hide and seek. You can proactively monitor, track and micromanage every aspect of your SEO drive with a growing selection of SEO tools.

Need to know how your site is performing on Google search, Google Search Console, Google Analytics and a slew of other analytics software are just a click of the button away. Confused on what keywords need to be integrated into your content, take your pick from apps like SEMrush, Google planner and Google AdWords. If you need to know what visitors are doing on your website when they come online; there are apps for that too.

One app we’d certainly recommend over and above is Yoast SEO. It’s a lightweight and intuitive content moderation solution that keeps you on top of your SEO game, content-wise. Yoast SEO allows you to specify everything from your Meta description, slug, title and alt SEO text with consummate ease and in line with current industry best practices. Best of all there’s a free version for users who are on a budget.

Don’t underestimate social media and other traffic sources

With a heightened (and justifiable) focus on search engine traffic, it’s easy for small business owners to sideline other valuable traffic sources. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket. Cultivate a social media following and improve your brand image – together these two work to deliver a steady supply of both new and old visitors to your site.

It, however, goes past just ushering in new web visitors, aside from guaranteeing more predictable and less volatile traffic volume, social signals - the way people interact (likes, pins, shares, views, votes and everything else) with your social media content - play a big role in your overall search engine performance. It’s on the record that SEO experts Moz.com moved to the top of SERPs for the key phrase ‘Beginner’s guide’ only after their guide was tweeted out by The Smashing Magazine.

Finally, if you don’t have a Google My Business account, now is the best time to get one

How do you easily outrank the so-called authority websites for broad, established and competitive search queries? I’ll give you a hint; the answer is not related to link building, onsite SEO optimization, fast webpages or quality content. Yes, you guessed it right, it’s the rather simple easy-to-effectuate solution you’ve been ignoring for too long – your Google Business Account.

In its last few search engine updates, Google has increasingly placed a heightened emphasis on local businesses. By virtue of this, registered businesses have a higher SERP priority especially in local searches for keywords related to the service they offer. Simply register your business and get a part of the SERP juice you deserve.

I hope these tips have helped you understand how to better use SEO in your small online business.

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