Are you the owner or manager of a small or midsize business? Whether your business is new or well-established in your industry, it’s likely you’ve heard a lot about search engine optimization and search engine marketing in recent weeks. With Facebook having recently changed its algorithm and Google preparing to switch to a Mobile First index in July, 2018, SEO and SEM have been hot topics among entrepreneurs, business managers and marketers of late.
While many people use search engine optimization and search engine marketing interchangeably, the terms do not refer to the same thing. While the goal of SEO and SEM is the same – to increase visibility in search engine results pages – they differ from one another on a very basic level.
Search engine optimization is the practice of attracting website traffic from free, organic, editorial and natural search results produced by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. SEM refers to the process of increasing traffic through paid advertising like PPC.
SEM is an acronym people used to use to refer to both search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Today, SEM typically only refers to paid listings just like “paid search” does. Search engine marketing, which is also known as search marketing, now refers to both SEO and SEM together.
A Closer Look at Search Engine Optimization
Now that the differences between search engine marketing, SEM and search engine optimization have been discussed, it’s time to take a closer look at SEO and its importance to small and midsize businesses. You may be wondering, “Why should I care about SEO when it’s supposedly dying…again?” While rumors about the death of SEO are abundant, SEO is alive, well and constantly evolving.
In its earlier days, search engine optimization was really important for larger organizations. Now, any reputable SEO company will tell you that search engine optimization is just as critical for small and midsize businesses at it is for their larger competitors.
To have an even firmer grasp on SEO than the definition provided above, it’s helpful to think of it as the sum of two halves. The first half of SEO is on-page SEO. On-page SEO consists of all the activities you do to improve your website’s individual pages so they rank better in search engine results pages. Working keywords into your content naturally, formatting your content, creating URLs, making your site easy to navigate, improving your page load speed, blogging on your website and using a responsive web design are all things that are part of on-page SEO.
The second half of search engine optimization is off-page SEO. Off-page SEO encompasses anything you do away from your website to improve your ranking in SERPs. Writing articles, engaging your company’s followers on social media, guest blogging and creating business profiles are all off-page SEO activities. Link building is also an off-page SEO activity and it’s probably the one that’s best known out of the bunch.
Both parts of SEO are important to your overall success. Through SEO, you can provide the best user experience possible, which will make search engines rank your website and its pages more favorably in SERPs. When you rank better in SERPs, it’s only natural that you can expect to gain more traffic. For many businesses, more traffic translates into more leads which, in turn, mean more conversions and sales.
Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization
SEO would be challenging enough if it were a static discipline. With SEO constantly changing and its best practices evolving in kind, search engine optimization is made even more difficult. While SEO is complex and intimidating to some, small and midsize businesses that want to remain competitive in today’s connected society cannot ignore it.
SEO is more affordable than conventional marketing. According to Search Engine Journal, inbound leads from activities like SEO are 61 percent less expensive than outbound leads produced by activities such as cold calling. To get leads at such a big discount, it’s imperative that you get started with search engine optimization now.
Here are some of the things you can do to put SEO to work for your small or midsize business:
Take Advantage of Local SEO
If you ask any SEO consultant about local SEO, the person will tell you that Google prefers local content because it provides added value for searchers. This preference can give small and midsize businesses that have an intimate familiarity with their surroundings a huge advantage over larger competitors that don’t have the same knowledge.
A lot of local SEO is dependent on the use of long-tail keywords that people use naturally to search for information using their mobile devices, computers or voice search. Instead of using keywords that include just one or two words, you’ll want to use keywords that include at least a string of four words. Rather than working “pizza place” into your content, for example, you’ll want to use something like “best pizza place near [town].”
To find the exact long tail keywords you should use for your local SEO, use a tool such as Google Keyword Planner. Be sure the long-tail keyword phrases you come up with describe your business and include your location. By using your chosen keywords in your content and creating material that’s based on them, you will rank better in SERPs over time.
Engage on Social Media
You can use SEO to drive traffic to your website and specific landing pages by sharing content from your website and blog, or some unique content, on your social media pages. Just like you have to add new posts to your blog feed regularly for it to make a difference, you also have to post on your social media pages often. You must engage with your followers as well and respond to their comments and inquiries in a timely manner.
Look for Link Building Opportunities
You don’t want to build links for the sake of doing so. You want to use link building as part of your SEO strategy to establish your authority as an industry and/or local expert. You can do this by preparing guest posts for respected, widely-read blogs, adding pages to relevant directories and creating content that your viewers will want to share.
Work with an SEO Specialist
Believe it or not, the steps discussed above are just the beginning when it comes to SEO. SEO requires an investment of time that not every small or midsize business owner or manager has. If you don’t have sufficient time to invest in SEO despite its importance to your organization’s survival, Beyond Custom Websites can help.
We offer a full suite of SEO services that can help your business thrive in an increasing competitive landscape. Read about our SEO services and contact us to learn how we can put them to work for your business today.