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11 Ways To Improve Rankings

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11 Ways To Improve Rankings


How would you rate your small business SEO performance, and what should you focus on next for greater success?

SEO is the process of optimizing your site to rank higher in search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

Your goal is to get in front of the searchers who could become your customers.

It’s important that your business appears in different types of search results, too – Google Maps, organic, Featured Snippets, images and videos, and more – in order to maximize your visibility.

Small business SEO is uniquely challenging in that you probably don’t have a dedicated SEO team or a lot of time to stay up to date on all the latest developments in search.

You’re competing not only against other small businesses but also publishers, big brands, and all kinds of other informational sources that appear in search results.

And, you definitely don’t have the budget those larger rivals do.

What’s a small business to do?

In this article, you’ll find an 11-point SEO checklist for small businesses that help you prioritize and focus on those SEO tasks that will really move the needle for you, including:

  • What to address.
  • Why it’s important.
  • The tools to use.
  • The time commitment involved.

1. Nail Down What Problems You Solve For Customers

Before jumping into SEO, you must first understand how people search. You can waste a lot of money in paid search targeting the wrong people, or delivering the right people the wrong message.

Knowing who you’re trying to reach and what problem you’ll solve for them is essential.

Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • How, when, and where do customers determine they need your product or service?
  • Is it away from home, using their cell phone? Is it at home using a desktop computer or tablet?
  • Is it driven by a personal desire, like good food to eat or a great place to spend some time?
  • Or is it caused by a disruptive event like a home or personal issue?

These questions color the language your customers will use to find your business.

This information will drive your keyword research and content creation, among other tasks.

(You can use these free keyword research tools to get you started.)

2. Fix Your Technical SEO Issues

Your small business website might look fine on the outside, with great graphics, colors, and fonts.

But if there are technical problems “under the hood,” it will likely impact your rankings and traffic.

Before embarking on a content or link campaign, spend time fixing the foundation.

You need a solid website structure so search engines can properly crawl and index your webpages.

Some of the most common technical SEO problems have to do with:

You’ll learn more about what it takes to conduct a technical SEO audit here.

3. Optimize Your Pages

On-page optimization is more than just putting a target keyword in strategic places on the page.

It’s important to develop properly structured, high-quality content written in natural language that incorporates your targeted keywords.

Use every reasonable (i.e., non-spammy) opportunity to add your targeted keywords appropriately on your website.

Otherwise, you’re missing important ranking signals. In other words, you must optimize your:

  • Title tags and subheadings.
  • Images and videos.
  • Meta description.
  • Body content.
  • Internal links.
  • And more – get the On-Page SEO Guide to learn more.

4. Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Your GBP strategy should be a focal point for any small business. It’s free, easy to update, and can make a big impact.

Screenshot from search for [san diego candy shop], Google, January 2022

Ideally, your Google Business Profile will provide all of the information a potential customer needs to call you, get driving directions, order online, or otherwise convert directly from the listing.

The first step toward optimizing your Google business listing is claiming and verifying it.

Be sure to fill out as many fields as you can and include photos and videos to enhance your listing.

Your category selection is super important. Be sure to choose the correct categories for your business.

The primary category guides which attributes and other features are available to you.

If you want to get more advanced with your Google Business Profile, take the time to create questions and answers.

What does that mean?

In local search results, there is a section on your listing where people can ask questions and get answers.

As a small business, it is important that you stay on top of these questions.

You can even create your own questions and provide the answers to proactively provide information that might help searchers convert.

Read The New Google Business Profile: A Complete Guide to learn more.

5. Find Out What Competitors Are Doing & Do It Better

Competitors online might be different than the competitors within your local area.

For SEO purposes, we are the most concerned with the websites that are showing up in the top five to 10 positions of Google search results for your targeted keywords.

Those are the competitors you want to analyze.

When doing a competitive analysis, use tools to find out:

  • What those sites are ranking for.
  • How many pages they have indexed.
  • Their website structure.
  • The quality of their backlink profile.
  • Whether they’re ranking for long-tail keywords you could target.

Also, we know page speed is a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Run their landing pages through page speed tools. Look for areas of weakness.

Google’s own Page Speed Insights is a great place to start.

An analysis by Google's PageSpeed Tool.Screenshot from PageSpeed Insights, January 2022

For example, are their pages running slow? Are there keywords they have missed that you can target?

See 3 Ways to Quickly Compare Your Website With Your Competitors for more helpful tips.

6. Manage Local Business Listings & Citations

In addition to Google My Business, you need to control the accuracy of your local business data.

Consistency is crucial.

Data aggregators (e.g., Neustar Localeze, Factual) share information about local businesses, including the name, address, and phone number (NAP).

Make sure your business’s NAP information is consistent and accurate. Local business listings and citations (i.e., online mentions of a business) can help improve your local presence.

It can be helpful to sign up for a service or use a local citations tool that will distribute your NAP information and monitor for inaccuracies.

7. Get Links From Websites In Your Local Area

Most small business owners never think about links.

However, getting links to your site can help improve your rankings.

That can mean more sales and more customers.

My approach to “link attraction” has always been more of a publicity angle.

What can we do to spread the word about our business, educate others, and get involved in the community?

You’ll find lots of tips and suggestions for local link building here.

8. Add Schema Markup

Schema markup helps search engines signals better understand different page components, such as:

  • Business name.
  • Address.
  • Phone number.
  • Ratings.
  • Business hours.
  • Currencies accepted.
  • Area served.
  • Number of employees.
  • And a lot more.

Using this markup can help you appear in rich snippets in the SERPs.

Local schema markup example.Screenshot from https://schema.org/LocalBusiness, January 2022

Check out all of the different types of schema available for local businesses here.

9. Focus On Getting Reviews

Even my kids are conditioned to look up reviews before making a purchase.

Local reviews were one of the leading local search ranking factors in 2021, according to Whitespark’s Local Search Ranking Factors report.

Plus, you can improve your conversions by putting effort into getting reviews and feedback from your customers.

Platforms can help you organize and manage a review campaign.

Or, you can simply encourage customers to leave reviews on the major online review sites.

These techniques can help you get more local reviews.

Make sure you respond, too. Your answer (or lack thereof) is not only visible to the person who asked the question but to all other local searchers who see the review in the future, as well.

Even negative reviews are an opportunity to connect with the customer and show others you care.

10. Create Videos & Images For Competitive Keywords

Websites need content, which means words, so that search engines understand what they are about.

Content goes beyond words, though, and should include images and videos.

In fact, if you are struggling to show up for competitive keywords, why not try a properly optimized video or an image?

As SEJ’s Anna Crowe wrote recently in her image optimization guide:

“Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities.

And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.”

11. Mix Paid With Organic To Get Going

If you’re just starting out with SEO, it can take a while to see results.

SEO is a great long-term play, but sometimes you need to start generating leads right away. That is where paid search can really help.

While you are building up your SEO work, set aside a budget for paid, so that you can keep the leads coming in.

Even after you have a steady flow of organic traffic to the website, you might still consider running a paid search campaign in conjunction.

PPC ads can help augment your organic presence by giving you placement where you just haven’t been able to break into the top organic search results due to the competition.

Read more and find 10 tips for local paid search success here.

Summary

Even if the list of things to do seems overwhelming, the important thing is to just get started.

Begin with the first goal you know you can accomplish.

In time, you’ll discover local SEO tools that can make quicker, easier work of the tactics that are making a difference for you.

You’ll build more inbound links from relevant, reputable local sources.

You’ll add new blog posts and other content to your website, helping you rank on a greater variety of search terms.

And, once you’ve worked through the introductory items on this checklist, you’ll be ready to take your SEO strategy further.

I highly recommend Maddy Osman’s Complete Local SEO Checklist when you’re ready for that next level.

More resources:


Featured Image: Deemka Studio/Shutterstock





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SEO

Balancing paid and organic search strategies for optimum success

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Balancing paid and organic search strategies for optimum success

30-second summary:

  • Even though it is evident that SEO and PPC are great tools, these two disciplines work in silos
  • In fact, these teams and channels mostly work on their own in silos and are often handled separately
  • Accenture Song’s SEO Manager, Michael McManus discusses how businesses can combine paid and organic SEO to function as one value-add unit

SEO and PPC are a must-have in your arsenal when planning your marketing strategy. Depending on what they are looking to do, most companies tend to choose one over the other, if they are looking to increase their rankings and get traffic from organic search, then they will go with SEO,  whereas PPC focuses on getting instant “paid for” traffic from such areas as search, social, and display.

Both SEO and PPC are great tools to boost your site/brand’s authority as well as help generate more traffic and sales for your business. But these two teams/channels tend to work on their own in silos and are often handled separately.

Now while both of these options can and do work well on their own, having both teams work together can be a powerful strategy for any business. Instead of working apart and potentially fighting for budget, time, resources, and rankings. By bringing both departments together so that they can collaborate and work as one, they will benefit from different insights and learnings that they would otherwise not get on their own. These insights will allow them to produce amazing results in both campaigns.

These two marketing channels aren’t meant to operate independently, yet that is the case almost every single time. But instead of looking at both channels as separate entities and you bring them together, you’ll see that they can help you achieve better results across the board than having them work on their own.

The data and insights that you can get from PPC campaigns are extremely insightful and powerful. When you take that data and combine it with your SEO strategies, it will give you the insights that you can use to create content that will make a big difference to your organic search traffic.

Balancing organic and paid search strategies for optimum success is a key challenge and lots of businesses need to catch up as they are typically only using one of these strategies.

How SEO and PPC can work together to boost your business

Along with large amounts of keyword and conversion insights that SEO can use by working with PPC, another huge benefit that companies can achieve when they bring both SEO and PPC together is the potential to consume a large portion of the SERPs, where they can showcase ads at the top of the page while owning the organic listings below.

This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked as it gives you more chances to capture the user, who might be looking for your brand or something that your brand has to offer. For example, let’s say you are running PPC and SEO campaigns separately and a user does a search and your ad appears, but they skip over it and go right to the organic listings but you are not showing up for that particular search, you are potentially missing out on capturing that user.

So now if you are using both PPC and SEO together and you use your PPC data to gather insights as to what the users were and are searching for, where your ads are showing, but not your organic listings. You can then take that data and start to create great content for those terms and optimize your site for that phase of the user’s journey. Now you can potentially have your site’s PPC ads showing at the top of the page as well as your site showing up below those ads in the organic results. This means that if a searcher were to skip over your ad and go directly to the organic results, your site will also be listed there winning you greater brand discovery.

Bringing both PPC and SEO together and working side by side, and taking over the SERPs for a given keyword will not only allow you with getting more exposure than what you would get if you only used SEO or PPC, but you now also increase the visibility of your site and the chances that a user will click over to your site.

Another added benefit from combining both SEO and PPC and taking over the SERPS is that users, searchers, and potential customers are more likely to see value and trust in a brand that is well represented across the SERPs.

If you were able to help guide and encourage users to click through to your site, wouldn’t that be an effort worth the implementation?

Getting SEO and PPC to work for you

Well, you might be asking yourself “ok great now I know that I need to have both SEO and PPC work as one, how do I go about this?”

Here are some practical tips to have both SEO and PPC work together.

Keywords

Keywords are important to both SEO and PPC as each one is reliant on them to help with creating the proper content for each strategy. They are both going to want to target the proper and relevant keywords in order to show up in the SERPs when a user is searching for information, shopping, looking for a brand, etc.

Using the keyword data and insights from your PPC campaigns and providing that information to your SEO team, will allow them to then create content that a user is searching for and thus be able to be in front of the customer throughout their journey.

Creating ads

Paid social media ads as well as retargeting ads are a great way for you to get your content shared across different platforms that will help with getting backlinks that will help your site’s content rank organically. While this is happening, you can create retargeting ads that will help to capture users’ attention once they have left your site.

PPC data

As we mentioned earlier, PPC campaign data has a plethora of information that you can use to help create highly targeted content to help get your site’s pages to rank organically. From your PPC campaigns, you’ll be able to see things like keyword search data, impressions, CTR, and so much more.

This will allow you to better optimize your site’s content and create content that might be missing, as well as help with creating highly targeted and optimized page titles and descriptions.

Conclusion

It’s no longer about SEO vs PPC anymore, or at least it shouldn’t be after reading this article. Now that you are aware of the potential benefits of combing both your PPC and SEO efforts, it’s time to go out and implement this new strategy.

Armed with all the data that you have at your fingertips from your PPC campaigns, use this new data and insights to help with creating better SEO strategies, that will give you a competitive advantage and help you with reaching your customers at every step of their journey.

It’s time to stop treating SEO and PPC as silos and time to bring them together so that your site can benefit from the added data and insights so that your site can dominate the SERPs.

Remember SEO and PPC are each other’s most powerful tools.


Michael McManus is SEO Manager at Accenture Song. Michael has hands-on expertise in branding strategies, website structure/architecture and development, SEO strategies, and online marketing campaigns. 

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