SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is absolutely essential for the modern business owner. A strong SEO rating can help prospective customers find you without taxing your marketing budget, making it one of the most sustainable ways to acquire new customers.
That said, many business owners do not know where to begin an SEO campaign. Professional agencies can help you make sure that your entire operation is SEO-optimized, but it can be beneficial to handle some of the basics yourself. The following tips may be put into practice by any entrepreneur, regardless of previous SEO experience.
1. Selecting The Right Keywords
Keywords, or the exact term or phrase that you want to rank well for, form the heart of SEO. They teach search engines and prospective customers who you are and what you do, so it’s important to rank for the right words.
The rights words are your company’s name, the core products or services you provide, and your local area. Your name is obvious, but it’s important to avoid conflating your core competency with everything else you offer.
Let’s say that you are a burger place advertising fresh hamburgers and thick milkshakes. If one webpage attempts to rank for both items, search engines won’t be able to tell if you are a restaurant or an ice cream parlor. Instead, create a separate page on your site for each item to ensure that search engines sort you correctly.
Finally, lesser items (such as soft drinks in the example above) may be omitted from your keywords entirely. It’s counter-intuitive, but anything that gets in the way of advertising your core competencies should be omitted.
2. Targeting Your Local Market
If you think that your neighbors are still using old-fashioned Yellow Pages to find local businesses to patronize, think again! The modern consumer is using the internet for everything, including local businesses. This is why your local neighborhood is a great keyword to use, as many of these customers type in something like “burgers Denver area” when looking for a restaurant in Denver.
You may be tempted to rank for “near me” as a key phrase, but don’t do it. Search engines determine what is near their users through GPS tracking, not keywords, so it won’t work. Even if it did, how is a New Yorker getting to Denver by dinnertime for a hamburger?
3. Providing Useful Content
Keywords are the first step to improving SEO rankings, but quality content is vital to your ultimate success. Nobody likes sales pitches, so anything that reads like “buy buy buy!” is likely to scare prospective business off. Worse, search engines will take note of how quickly they left and decide that you aren’t a great authority, after all, hurting your ranking.
Likewise, cramming your chosen keywords two times into every sentence will hurt your content’s readability. If you write with a human as your intended audience instead of a search engine’s algorithm, you shouldn’t have a problem on this front.
The best content is material that your target audience is legitimately interested in. The latest scientific research, insights into your industry, or a behind-the-scenes look at what you do are all strong options. Many consumers find the video more engaging than the written word, so try to include video in some of your posts as well.
4. Keeping NAP Data Consistent
NAP Data includes your Name, Address, and Phone number. Many search engines use this material to determine whether any given business is still in operation, as a business with inconsistent NAP data is probably one that may safely be ignored when compiling rankings.
That sounds fine in theory, but in practice, the algorithms are way too precise. If you list your address as “Denver, CO” on your website but “Denver, Colorado” on an online business directory, the discrepancy will be enough to teach the search engine that your contact information is inconsistent.
Therefore, you should regularly double-check your contact information (including things like office hours that don’t fit into the NAP acronym) across your entire digital footprint to make sure everything is up-to-date.
5. Using Social Media
Most people see social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram as nothing more than fun time-wasters, but they actually represent an excellent opportunity to connect with your target audience in a personal manner. Research consistently shows that consumers are more likely to patronize a business they can attach a face to over a generic corporate logo, so any personal connection you can make is to your advantage.
For best results, try to have somebody providing real-time responses to social media inquiries as they come in. You should also avoid getting into a fight with anything or anyone on social media, as doing so just makes you look unprofessional.
Finally, make sure that you follow the rules of every social media site you use. Minor grammatical mistakes, “re-gramming” somebody else’s picture without their consent, and other violations of social media etiquette are frequently forgiven on personal accounts, but business accounts are held to a higher standard. The site can terminate your profile in a worst-case scenario, immediately severing the connection with your target audience that you worked so hard to build.
6. Handling Reviews
The number and content of your reviews impact your SEO performance, so you need as many positive ones as possible. The best way to get one is to just ask, perhaps via email including a link to the platform you would like the review to appear on. This makes sharing a kind word as convenient as possible for your customers.
Some negative reviews are inevitable in any business, but there are steps you can take to mitigate their impact. For example, replying to every negative review creates the impression of a business that deeply cares about its customer base. Offering to fix the problem even if it wasn’t your fault (a product damaged during shipping, for example) can also go a long way toward turning a negative review into a positive one.
That said, you should try to steer the conversation away from a public forum to avoid airing any dirty laundry. Again, fighting with a dissatisfied customer only makes you look small.
Armed with the tips above, you should be able to launch your very own SEO campaign. Good luck!