I’ve got a confession to make.
I started several small businesses in the past, but struggled to generate leads and sell my products.
At the time, I didn’t know much about SEO, and how to take advantage of it to drive organic customers.
Sadly, I gave up.
The rest they say is history. Having dipped my feet deeply into the search waters, I’ve had my own fair share of success, too.
My websites now generate a lot (and I mean a lot) of targeted users from Google.
You might be stuck right now, not knowing where to begin, or how to scale your small business and generate leads into your sales funnel, I want to show you 7 proven SEO strategies and ideas that have worked for me.
Of course, I haven’t implemented all of them yet, but I’ve a few friends, clients, and partners who grew their small businesses – through these search engine optimization strategies.
Search is the still the number #1 most targeted source of traffic. Users love organic results. According to Imforza, “70% of the links search users click on are organic – not paid.”
Yes, email is good, paid search provides guaranteed traffic (but, 70-80% of users ignore the paid ads, focusing on the organic results), and social is trending, but the site visitors you get from Google will most likely buy your product or opt-in to become one of your potential subscribers.
Read on as I share some hard to ignore SEO strategies and ideas that will catapult your small business website or blog pages to the top of Google. Results may not happen overnight, but you don’t have to wait 60 days either.
Let’s do it.
1. Drive Qualified Users Through Long-Tail Search
Back in 2011, we used to think that targeting specific keywords and creating a 500-word article for it is all that Google requires.
To an extent, we’re not totally wrong. We abused it. Yes, you and me.
Unfortunately, the game has changed. It’s no longer about specific keywords phrases. Successful SEO now depends on search queries or long-tail keywords.
One SaaS company found that targeting long-tail search queries perform 2.5x better than their head keyword variations.
You may be wondering what search queries really are?
Well, to help you understand it better, here’s the difference between a keyword and search query:
a). Keyword: This is basically a targeted phrase that you aim to rank for in Google top 10 results page. Examples of keywords are:
- Designer T-shirts
- Best electric blankets
- Free online games
b). Query: This is a phrase that a user types into the search engine, and expecting a relevant, useful, and fresh result. The user may not care about the query, as long as the most relevant result appears.
Examples of queries are:
- Affordable designer T-shirts online
- Best electric blankets under $100
- Free online games to play
Did you notice the difference?
Specifically, keywords are generic, and don’t reveal any intent. On the flip side, queries have intents behind them. These user intents are exactly what Google is after in today’s SEO.
If you want your small business to enjoy the enormous traffic that comes through search engines, you should focus on long-tail queries.
And you know the shocking fact?
Long-tail queries sends about 70% traffic to websites and blogs. If you ask me, I think that’s a great opportunity for business owners who don’t have big budgets.
As a small business entrepreneur, you need a better way to connect with customers. Long-tail search terms are what users who are ready to buy a product or engage your service type into Google.
If you know how to use them, then, you can rest assured that you’ll drive highly targeted leads and customers to your small business.
Here’s the more reason why you should target more search terms with user intent clearly stated:
As an example, if you’re a small business that sells handmade wristbands, the chances are that your pages will never rank highly in Google top 10 results pages for the keyword “wristbands.”
No matter how you try, or the tactics you employ (stay away from blackhat SEO), ranking that head keyword is impossible – so stop trying.
Because the competition is too fierce. If you’re a startup, and don’t have huge marketing budget, there’s no need fretting over the top organic listings for head keywords.
You can do better than that.
Why not research other search queries that are not too obvious to every business in your sector?
For example, you could target queries, such as:
- Top rated handmade wristbands
- where to buy wristbands handmade
- Best Handmade wristbands under $40
- Cheap handcrafted wristbands to buy
You get the idea, right?
Yes, long-tail keywords may not generate a lot of traffic like head keywords. But the power lies in the quantity.
That is, the more long-tail keywords you target in your pages and create rich and helpful content on, the more qualified traffic you’ll generate to your site.
But beyond getting your pages to rank for long-tail search queries, there’s one more important reason why you should pay less attention to head keywords.
Tell me, what’s the chance that someone who types “wrist watch” into Google search is truly interested in buying a wrist watch?
But if someone comes to Google and types in “wewood wrist watch reviews,” you automatically sense the ‘intent’ or ‘purpose’ behind the search.
Come on, it’s obvious that the searcher is ready to buy the item. Just a nudge here and there is all that they need to take action.
Effective content marketing campaigns rely heavily on search terms with a definite purpose. But you don’t need to ignore head keywords totally.
On the contrary, use them creatively. Sprinkle them naturally into your article or blog post, but let your focus be directed towards answering questions in the query.
Here’s a brief case study:
At some point, Marcus Sheridan struggled to grow his Startup business – River Pools and Spas.
But when he embraced content marketing, and began to create content that addresses certain “transactional search queries,” such as:
- How much does a Fiberglass pool cost?
- Best fiberglass pools company
And so on…
His traffic grew. And his startup business took a revenue leap.
For one, Sheridan closed a deal worth $2 million from a single blog post written around one of these long-tail search terms.
2. Optimize Your Metadata With Actionable Keywords
There’s an important aspect of long-tail search queries that I didn’t mention.
But I felt you don’t need to bother about it, until now.
Of course, you can optimize your content with these keywords, but when it comes to helping search users find you easily, and actually click on your organic results pages, you need to persuade them.
Yes, you’ve got the opportunity to engage people on your website when they eventually come.
But before they come, you need to persuade them where they are – in Google.
Here’s what you should do:
Research your search queries, and optimize your meta data with actionable key phrases.
Don’t be confused by the term “metadata.”
Metadata is simply a term used to describe information about a particular website or page that appears within the header.
These metadata information are not seen on the website, but search engine crawlers find and use them to index and rank your web pages.
If your metadata is relevant and appeals to the theme of your website, it improves your rankings in the search results and helps you attract free organic traffic.
There are three types of information which you can find in the metadata section of your website. They are:
i). Title tag: These is the title of a specific page. It’s different from the headline of your article, but it can be the same if you choose. If your primary search query is “free online arcade games,” make sure that it appears on your title tag.
Because search users will see it, and decide whether to click through to your page or not.
Here’s a typical example:
ii). Meta description: This is a usually a paragraph that describes what your page is about to both searchers and Google search spiders. How would these spiders know that you’re a small business that sells “electric guitars?”
It’s through the meta tag. If you’re a WordPress user, you should install the All in One SEO Pack or Yoast SEO plugin. Either of these plugins will help you add a meta description to your page.
It’s always ideal to write a persuasive copy (i.e., 2 – 3 sentences) that gets searchers captivated.
When I read the meta description below, I couldn’t resist it. I just had to click.
iii). Meta keywords: This particular element of the metadata is no longer vital, neither does it contribute to a page rankings in any way. You don’t want to get your content and page stuffed with too many keywords.
So, I’d recommend that you ignore it.
As long as you write your meta tag and meta description persuasively, and mention your target search term in a natural way, you’ll boost your chances of dominating top organic results for your niche – especially, if the competition is weak.
- Use only relevant, easy to rank, and helpful keyword phrases in your metadata (especially your title tag).
- Don’t stuff your metadata with too many keywords.
- Write compelling title tags and meta descriptions.
- Write short sentences. Don’t digress. Write to engage search users.
- Avoid putting price or cost of your products in the metadata.
Frankly, every time I write blog posts, articles, or create videos to promote our small business, especially BuildFire.com, we spend adequate time optimizing our page title tags by adding actionable search queries.
And the results have been great.
3. Optimize And Properly Categorize Your Pages
Don’t be deceived.
Every page of your small business website is important. However, there are pages that play key roles, such as the About, Services, Products, Contact, FAQ, and so on.
Then, there are content pages that provide rich and useful information for the target audience.
Being creative is an important part of running a successful business. You don’t just want your ideal customers to visit your website and have difficulty understanding which category a particular page lives.
This is particularly true when optimizing for local consumers.
In addition to detailing your hours of operation, and listing the services that you cover, make sure that your pages are well categorized. You want to create a seamless navigation throughout your website or blog.
You may think that putting your pages at the appropriate categories is limited to your website. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
To cut the story short, I’m really interested in you categorizing your business services or products when optimizing for local search.
Local search engines give you opportunity to place your business into more than one category – to help them understand fully what your services and products are.
According to Moz Local, “search engines will not display a business that is not categorized. Sadly, when you ignore or categorize your specific keywords wrongly, search engines may bypass your business.”
You can learn from top brands pages, and how Google crawls, indexes, and ranks specific pages based on the intent/purpose of that page. Here’s an example from Starbucks organic listings:
Ensuring accurate, relevant, and professional listings on the search engines is your step towards generating organic customers to your business.
Don’t take it lightly.
And don’t neglect any of your pages. Identify the exact search queries that your ideal customers are inputting into the search engines, then put them in the appropriate category.
4. Identify Profitable Keywords From Your Competitors
Are you reaching online shoppers with your persuasive content.
The truth is, you can’t successfully attract ardent consumers if you don’t know the search terms they’re typing into Google.
According to New Example, “44% of online shoppers start their purchase with a start, and companies see up to 14.6% sales increase, since search drives a significantly higher close rate for web purchases other than other forms of outbound leads.”
After several years of creating content, and building strong relationships with digital marketing influencers, I can boldly say that if you dare to spy your competitors, you’ll be amazed at the results.
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Trust me, what you’ll learn will blow your mind.
Sure, targeting long-tail keywords is crucial, but how do you know that those search terms you selected are truly profitable?
You can only make assumptions.
Assumptions have crippled businesses. Most marketers resort to assumptions and fail, while smart ones test everything out, before launching out. This increases their chance of achieving success.
Competitive analysis is the quickest way to know exactly what’s working in your industry.
For example, how do you know that more customers are looking for your services today, than they did the previous year?
Keyword research alone may not give you the full picture.
But through competitive audit, you can spy on your competitors, take notes, and launch a successful search campaigns that generic qualified traffic, clicks, and sales.
To a large extent, if you notice that a particular keyword phrase costs above $1 bid in the Google AdWords PPC, then, you can be certain that people are making money with it.
Let me quickly show you how to spy on competitors’ websites, and pick their most profitable keywords.
i). Step one: Go to Spyfu.com – Once you get to the homepage, enter your competitor’s website URL (e.g., digitalmarketer.com) into the search box. Then click on the search icon at the right side.
ii). Second step: Analyze the results – At both sides, you’ll see the Organic Keywords and the Paid Keywords.
iii). Third step: Click on the “PAID KEYWORDS.” Let’s see the exact keywords that your competitor is spending huge amounts of money on.
Here are the paid keywords:
At a glance, you’ll see the:
Paid keywords: The exact keywords that your competitor is spending money on. Obviously, these terms must be profitable. If not, why are they still paying Google to rank them?
Cost Per Click: How much Google charges the advertiser (your competitor) for a single click a user made.
Daily Cost: This depends on the daily impression (and how many clicks the advertiser wants). It can be 100 clicks. The daily cost for the first keyword “email templates” is $720.
Since the CPC is $6.27, mathematically, it means that $720/$6.27 gives us the number of clicks the advertiser want.
And the answer is approximately 115 clicks/day.
Daily Searches: This metric shows the average search volume for each of the paid keywords.
Ad Position: Where the keyword is currently ranked in Google Search Network.
That’s straightforward, right?
You’ve got to understand that performing competitive keyword analysis is one of the best methods to improve your SEO game.
Remember that if you can pinpoint your competitor’s most profitable keywords, you can easily develop your own effective SEO strategy and potentially gain a competitive edge in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Don’t neglect other aspect of search engine optimization, like technical SEO, on-page optimization, and link building.
But, don’t give your competitors any breathing space.
Spy their keywords, links, ranking position, PPC keywords, bids, and so forth. If nothing, you’ll discover what’s working for them right now.
In summary, here are benefits of conducting competitive keyword analysis:
- It allows you to steal your competitor’s most profitable keywords so that you can compete or complement the search results. At the end of the day, it all boils down to making the search users happy.
- Identify and optimize your content pages with trending keywords that majority of your competitors haven’t discovered yet.
- Gain unfair advantage over your competitor for broad keywords they thought were not important.
Although, a lot of changes have happened in the search algorithm, and Google is ever committed to serving the most useful and relevant pages to it users, but the role of keyword phrases can’t be ignored.
No, Google hasn’t ditched keywords – and I don’t see any reason why they should.
Because, as long as search users continue to use keywords – Google will continue to factor them.
Knowing how to develop a good keyword list for pay per click and organic search campaigns is your two-way ticket to succeeding at content marketing.
5. Create a Local Places Page To Attract Local Customers
Have you claimed your business in the Local Places yet?
If no, what are you waiting for?
Data infographic from Zero Zen Design shows that 7 out of 10 online consumers trust opinions of unknown users on review websites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and Google Places.
Why leave a stone unturned, when you can dominate the top organic listings for most profitable keyword phrases – if only you can create or claim all listings for your business.
Whether it’s local directories, review websites, or Google’s own Local Places, the world is your oyster. Get started today at Google My Business. It’s 100% free.
Garrett Moon wrote a step-by-step tutorial of How To Claim Your Google Place, and Why You Should.
I suggest you read that tutorial to get a head up.
Running a small business comes with a lot of challenges.
You may not truly understand why you’re struggling to attract visitors and generate potential leads – whereas your competitors don’t even work as hard as you do, but they have better results to show.
I know that feeling. I’ve been there.
It can can disturbing, especially when you’re in dire need of leads and customers.
Maybe you’re even lost in debt. And desires to start generating income right now.
There’s really no shortcut. Follow the proven plan. Google wants you to claim your local business. If you take this single step, you can rest assured that the right local audience will locate you easily.
In a research study, Vendasta found that Local listing distributions can yield a 172% increase in accuracy, and 277% improvement in overall presence online.
Hey, there’s more.
When you claim your business page in Google, you’re creating a local citation, which Google uses in its search ranking algorithm to determine the relevance of a particular web page or business.
Note: A citation is basically a mention of your website or business online. Most citations don’t contain links, but they still matters to Google.
Remember that Google is not the only search engine. You’ve a plethora of them, but I recommend you create a listing on Bing, Yahoo! Local and other trusted local directories. Don’t put all your eggs into one leaky basket.
To get started right now, visit Moz Local. Enter your business name and ZIP code to see where your business already have citations; the ones you’ve claimed and what you’re missing out on.
Make sure that you have a local business page in Yahoo Local, Google, and Bing – which gives you three dashboards to manage your listings.
Claiming or creating your business local pages is fundamental to your success.
Even before you start creating content for your blog, or doing all sorts of whitehat SEO techniques, you should have prepared your local pages.
And talking about whitehat SEO techniques, let’s explore one of the most powerful and result-oriented one.
6. Use The Skyscraper Technique To Create Irresistable Content
Want to make your content more impactful?
Stop skipping this one powerful technique.
After several years of struggling to build a loyal audience that will devour and share his content, and seeing a meager or no results at all, Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko.com invented the Skyscraper technique.
Interestingly, this technique increased Brian’s organic traffic by 110% in just 14 days.
I don’t need to constantly remind you that content marketing isn’t working for most small businesses and digital marketers.
Sadly, what most people are really doing is “throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall and hoping something sticks.”
But that’s not the way to build a sustainable business – that stands the test of time.
Remember that if you don’t reach your target audience on time, your competitors will – you can’t sit on the fence and expect to get results anymore.
Listen, if you think that by creating helpful content, “people will share it on their own,” then you’re making a very big mistake.
But what if they do share it?
Well, that would be awesome. It’s to your own advantage.
But what if they don’t share it?
Hmm, that’s where the pain lies.
Good news is, with the Skyscraper technique, you eliminate every chance of failure, and get the right people to read, share, cite, link to, and amplify your “useful content.”
Great content isn’t enough. Great marketing MUST be present, too.
After implementing this same SEO technique, one of Brian’s post earned a lot of natural inbound links and rankings soared.
Are you ready to use skyscraper technique to create impactful content that will outperform your competitors’, generate leads, trustworthy links, and help you attract customers and clients all over the world?
Here are the 3 steps you need to take:
- Find link-worthy content
- Create something even better
- Reach out to the right people who can amplify it
i). Find link worthy content: There’s a loophole that you can exploit in your market or field, if only you find them.
Several topics have the potential to draw people’s attention. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the market, most content writers aren’t creative, while some are outright lazy.
You’ll notice that popular topics, such as hand arthritis, acne scars, etc., don’t have in-depth guides or information to help those who are struggling get relief.
Let’s do a quick search in Google for the term “ways to get rid of acne scars forever.”
At a glance, you’ll notice that these posts (although with compelling headlines) don’t appear to cover everything related to acne scars. The third result is related to ‘acne,’ but not the scars.
Obviously, it’s not a relevant result (Google, take note!).
Here’s the question to ask yourself:
“After reading any of these articles, will people (searchers) get the answer to their questions about acne scars?”
Merely looking at the search results, I can tell that people want a more exclusive and in-depth information. Because, they’re probably sick and tired of generic advice, like “rob lemon juice twice everyday.”
They want actionable and medically proven solutions.
That brings us to the second step.
ii). Create something even better: The purpose of embracing the skyscraper technique, isn’t to create another article on the same topic, but to dazzle the readers, influencers, power users, social media experts, and stand out.
Creating a highly useful content begins with the headline.
Since the headlines in the above search doesn’t show any credibility, let’s create more irresistible ones.
The original headline is:
- How To Get Rid of Acne Scars For Good
See the updated and more compelling headlines:
- The 7 Medically Proven Ways To Get Rid Of Acne Scars Quickly
- The Ultimate Guide To Get Rid Of Acne Scars For Good
The second original headline reads:
- How To Prevent and Get Rid of Acne Scars Quickly
Freshly-baked and attention-grabbing headlines:
- 15 Ways To Prevent and Get Rid of Acne Scars Fast
- How A 24-Year Old Lady Got Rid of Severe Acne in 4 Days
Now that we’ve improved the headline, it’s time to work on the content itself. Remember the purpose: To create a more useful, in-depth, interesting, shareable, and linkable content.
Quickly, let’s click on the first result and see how the page looks like:
Honestly, the page is not that shabby, but it can be improved.
A few areas that need improvement:
- The users have to click [>] that appears on the image before they can see the next tip. That’s not a good user experience. Yes, it might reduce bounce rate (for the site owners), but it’s a waste of time for site users.
Quick tip: When you create your own content, lay out all the solutions or “ways” in a single page. Better yet, create table of contents, and use anchors to link to specific topics.
Scrolling a long page isn’t everyone’s meat.
- Use plenty of data in your content. Don’t just say what you think would help people solve their problems, get statistics, case studies, charts, research studies, laboratory test results, etc.
Remember that people trust experts. Because experts back up their claims with data and proven results.
- Create content in a conversational way. Yes, write as though you’re talking to someone who asked you a question concerning their problems.
- Use the word “You” in your content consistently. It can never be too much.
- Break up your content with compelling subheadings, and use images, infographics, charts, and screenshots to break up large chunks of text in any paragraph. It’ll help people read your content from start to finish (not a guarantee).
iii). Reach out to the right people who can amplify it: It’s human nature to be attracted to the best.
Having produced one of the best piece of article for that topic, it’s time to reach out to the right people who can amplify it.
Because, the truth is, you can’t do it all by yourself.
You need to leverage influencer marketing by sending out targeted outreach emails.
Influencer marketing has become a very powerful force in digital marketing.
If you want to get ahead, and trump your competitors with ease, then you need to connect with other influencers who have huge Facebook likes, Twitter followers, loyal connections on Google+, etc.
The best time to launch your influencer marketing campaign is after your “impactful” content is published.
Because, now, you have something worthwhile to present to these power users. 98% of them are picky.
A May 2015 study by Schlesinger Associates, found that, “84% of global marketers expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the coming years.”
Whether it’s in form of a short interview, expert quotes, callouts, collaboration, or strategy, you can get influencers heeding to your call. It’s that easy.
You might be wondering how you’ll find these influencers in the first place?
Well, if that’s your concern, it’s simple.
Simply go to Buzzsumo.com.
Enter a broad keyword (e.g., acne treatment) into the search box. And hit the “Go!” button at the right side. It should look like this:
Next, analyze the most shared content for that keyword.
At the middle of your most shared post, locate “View Sharers” and click on it.
It should look similar to this:
On the panel above, you get to see every information about the influencer or marketer who shared the post.
What else can you do?
Hey, you should know by now. Click on an influencer’s Twitter handle and visit his profile page. Connect with them first, by retweeting or leaving a comment on their timeline.
Get to know them first, before asking them to share your upgraded content on a topic they have already indicated interested in the past).
There are several core reasons why Skyscraper technique works. Let’s briefly consider a few:
i). On-demand topic: To an extent, the topic you’re covering is already popular, and ranking highly in Google top 10 results pages. It’s now established that there’s proven demand in your market for such content.
Surely, you’re not hoping to get people to read it, but you already have plans in place to make it come to pass. As long as the content is interesting and solves a particular problem, you’ll reach more people.
ii). You’ve got an audience with a willing heart: Again, you already have a ready-made audience for your topic. Remember that hundreds if not thousands of people have shared the initial content.
Right now, you’re on a journey to create something that’s even better than the original resource.
You’ll have the potential to really build interest in the existing audience – and nudge them into action.
Better yet, if you’re dealing with a timely topic, you should start building a targeted list of blogs, publications, brands, and influencers who have shared the previous post or linked to it.
That way, once your content goes live, you can reach your targeted list right away, before doing additional work to bring in fresh audience.
Reaching out to those who have shared the previous post via emails, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, face-to-face (if possible) opens up new doors of opportunity for you.
For one, you need to be ready for the huge search ranking spike that your new content will generate.
Since Google already indexed the existing resource, with your upgraded version, users will love it, influencers will share it, and Google will drive more traffic and rankings your way.
When people share and link to your content page willingly, then you’ll likely get natural links that users will find helpful and Google will love.
Skyscraper technique shouldn’t be an afterthought. As a smart small business owner, you should use it all the time.
Use it to quickly grow your small business website, earn authority and Google-friendly links, and more importantly, drive customers to your business.
7. Build Mobile Landing Pages to “Welcome” Mobile Search Users
Google algorithm updates are frequent these days.
First, the Panda, the Penguin, and several other updates have all worked together to redefine search.
Bear in mind that none of these updates were a standalone event. They’re all interconnected. For example, Google Panda and Penguin updates were focused on content and links.
Hummingbird and the now “RankBrain AI” looks at the “intent” behind keyword phrases.
However, Google mobile friendly update was actually the only ranking factor that seems independent. Because, it’s primarily targeted at mobile web pages and sites.
More people use mobile phones and prefers to browse landing pages and research from their smartphones.
According to Impactbnd, “56% of internet users said they would use their mobile device when a PC/laptop wasn’t nearby to research a product.”
To that effect, you need to build mobile landing pages to “welcome” users.
Mobile landing pages are slightly different from a desktop landing page. Ideally, you want to use minimal design, while focusing on the content.
Make sure that you use a clear and specific call-to-action (CTA) on your mobile landing page. You can have it preferably at the top of the page, middle, or below.
So far, the best call to action wording for mobile landing pages is “Call us.” When you make it a button or link, you’re giving people the chance to call you while searching for local businesses.
When it comes to making purchases, mobile users are usually the best. Data from Jumptap shows that, “smartphone mobile commerce revenues amounted to $14.8 U.S. dollars this year.” Take a look at the mobile spending in U.S. alone:
That’s a whopping $25 billion in 2013.
What can you expect in 2017 and beyond? Remember: it can only increase.
To learn more about mobile landing pages, and how to use them to improve your search performance (organic traffic and rankings), see the resources below:
- How to Build the Perfect Mobile Landing Page
- Mobile Landing Page Optimization – 10 Best Practices for Success
After going through all these 7 small business SEO strategies and ideas, you may think that growing a successful small business via search is easy.
But here’s the harsh truth, it’s not.
Okay, it’s neither easy nor hard. It all depends on your ability to implement a proven SEO strategy – and stick to it.
Being consistent is the key. It doesn’t matter how powerful the idea is, if you don’t stick to it, you may not get results.
It’s your responsibility to breathe new life into your small business. Focusing on organic traffic takes time, but don’t neglect it for social or email.
Each of these web traffic generation channels play a vital role, but search overrides all of them. For one, search alone can grow your business, but social alone may not.
Have you implemented any of these small business search engine optimization ideas? Share your results or questions. I’ll personally read it and respond.