If you’ve been thinking about starting a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you’ve likely run into a serious obstacle: money. Big-name agencies charge upwards of tens of thousands of dollars a month to manage a campaign, and hiring a new full-time manager and/or a suite of specialized contractors to help you execute the work could cost you just as much.
So is there a way to start an SEO campaign without a significant monetary investment?
The Three Ingredients of SEO
Let’s explore the question by first describing the three main pillars of SEO:
1. On-site optimization. On-site optimization is all about making sure search engines will index your pages, providing a functional website for users, and including enough content so that search engines will be able to present your site for the right types of queries. Most on-site optimization tactics are one-time changes with occasional tweaks and upgrades in the future.
2. Ongoing content development. Publishing new content for your site on a regular basis increases your site’s domain authority, which in turn increases your likelihood of ranking. It also provides more keyword-rich content for search engines to index, and gives you a chance to earn more inbound links.
3. Link building. Finally, you’ll want to spend time building or earning links for your site. The quality and quantity of links you have will dictate your overall authority, so it’s not something you can afford to neglect.
All three of these strategic areas, when developed over time, will cumulatively result in higher domain authority, which will lead to higher rankings for all queries relevant to your site.
What You Can Do With (Almost) No Money
Let’s say you don’t want to spend much money a campaign—or that you want to try to spend no money whatsoever. What can you do to get started in SEO?
- Choose a website builder that supports SEO. If you’re trying to save money, you probably won’t be able to afford a custom build. Instead, you’ll need to rely on a free or inexpensive website builder, using design templates to put your site together. Thankfully, most modern website builders support SEO, offering professional coding that search engines will index cleanly, and guides to help you set up your site to be found in search engines. This will help you get off to a good start.
- Choose strong keyword and topic targets. Next, you’ll need to spend some time researching which keywords and topics you want to target in your on-site optimization and ongoing content. Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool is relatively accessible to newcomers, with helpful descriptions to guide your research and final decisions. Once you have a set of keywords and topics to work with, you can make progress in other areas.
- Optimize your titles and meta descriptions. The titles and meta descriptions of your site’s pages are what will show up in searches for your site. Make sure they’re optimized with keywords relevant to the on-page content, and are phrased in an enticing way (to maximize click-throughs). Depending on the size of your site, this will likely only take a few hours.
- Write strong content on all your core pages. Every main page on your site should have at least several hundred words of content on it; this is the “meat” that Google will use to analyze the purpose of your content, and the context by which it will judge the quality of the page. Be accurate, concise, and descriptive.
- Produce new content at least once a week. You don’t need to spend money if you create your own content, but make sure you’re writing high-quality material that your audience actually wants to read. If you’re just getting started, a post a week should be enough to help you build momentum, but you’ll eventually want to scale up.
- Build your off-site presence. Spend some time building up your off-site presence; make sure you’ve claimed your brand’s social media profiles on each major social platform, and write rich content for their description sections. Start posting regularly on each channel, with occasional links to your on-site content.
- Encourage sharing and linking. Through your social media channels, off-site forums, and other outlets, try to encourage your earliest audience members to share and link to your content as much as possible. The more links you earn naturally, the higher your domain authority will grow, and the more shares you get, the more people you’ll have reading and engaging with your material.
- Start building links. Link building is usually difficult for newcomers with a small budget, but it’s not impossible. You’ll need to invest time in landing guest authorship spots on external publishers, and work to get your content featured in as many external sources as possible. You’ll also need to support your work with ongoing syndication and sharing, maximizing your chances of earning links from your audience. Without links, you can’t build authority, so make sure this is a part of even your earliest fledgling strategies. Link building is the most difficult of the SEO pillars, but I’ve written a full guide on how to do it called SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide.
When You’ll Need Money
These strategies can get you started with an SEO campaign, even if you don’t have much money to spend, but alone, they probably won’t earn you the results you want. If you want to be successful in today’s highly competitive SEO market, you’ll need to invest some serious time into the quality and frequency of your published content.
You’ll need to earn links on high-authority publishers, and you’ll need to build a loyal audience, and relatively quickly. And while it’s certainly possible to do all this yourself, it’s far more efficient, especially if you’re new to the world of SEO and you’re wearing many startup hats, to pay an expert to help you out, providing direction and accomplishing the legwork.
Every dollar you spend on SEO, so long as you spend it with the right agency or contractor, will provide more than its share of returns.
For local businesses, having a strong presence in the local search results is fundamental to those all-important conversions.
Just to be clear, a “local business” refers to any business that has either a physical location that offers face-to-face contact with the customer, such as a showroom or shop, or one that offers a face-to-face service within a certain area.
When it comes to local search, it’s simple: if searchers can’t find you on the web, then frankly, you don’t exist. It’s the way of the modern world.
It’s all very well dominating the SERPs for your more general target keywords, but if you fail to rank highly for location-specific terms then you are missing an almighty opportunity.
When users are searching for a local term, they are far more likely to be looking for a service or product. Hence why the conversions on local search tend to be higher, and why you need to ensure that your local search engine marketing is up to scratch.
Those fundamentals will set you up for ranking well for local search terms, but there are extra steps you must take to differentiate yourself from the competition and really bolster your local SEM strategy.
Local business listings
The first place to start is with local business listings. Ensure that your business is included in all the major directories (Yell, Yelp, Thomson Local, etc.), as well as any industry specific ones. Some listings may already exist, and it may just be a case of claiming your business so that you can take ownership of the listing.
We recommend keeping track of all your business listings in one comprehensive spreadsheet to save you repeating or forgetting any entries. It also enables you to be consistent (more on this in the next point) in your information across all listings.
Remove all duplicated entries, as multiple listings for one business or location can become confusing, both to potential customers but also to Google. And we certainly don’t want to be confusing the Big G.
Be thorough but don’t be reckless. Avoid spammy directories as these could have a detrimental effect on your SEO. Deploy a spot of common sense to identify the spammy directories but if you are really unsure then it’s worth checking the spam score via Moz’s Open Site Explorer or via other similar tools.
So this technically falls under business listings, but it’s so important we’ve given Google My Business it’s own subheading. Arguably the most important business listing because, well, it’s Google. Remember to implement the following:
- Claim your business via a verification process
- Include accurate information: contact details, location and opening hours
- Carefully select a small number of highly relevant categories to represent your business
- Ensure up-to-date branding, such as in any images of logos or premises
- Use high quality images to represent the business
Be comprehensive and accurate in the information you provide in order to strengthen your Google My Business profile and improve your chances of being featured in Google’s three-pack.
NAP consistency sounds a like a fancy term but the concept is very simple. NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone number, although it is sometimes expanded to NAP+W to include website address too. As mentioned above, it is crucial that your business information appears consistently across the web.
This is particularly important to consider if your business has changed address, contact details or even rebranded. Any mentions of your business will need to be checked and updated to ensure accuracy.
Simply google your business name (do the same with your previous business name if you have undergone a name change) and work your way through the listings. Maintain a spreadsheet of your progress so you can keep track.
Reviews can bring both utter joy and absolute misery to any business owner. Unfortunately you cannot simply ignore them, as reviews are indeed used as ranking signals in the eyes of the search engine. This is especially true for your Google My Business reviews.
Not only are reviews important in terms of local rankings, they are also key in terms of click-through rates. According to a recent study by BrightLocal, 74 per cent of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
Apart from providing the most incredible customer service you can muster, how else can you seize some control over your reviews? No, this isn’t about getting your mum, brother and great-nan to write a review for your business. It’s about a bit of gentle encouragement and managing a bad customer experience before it reaches the review stage.
It is also important to check the rules and regulations of each review platform, as they all have very different policies on asking customers for reviews and responding to them.
We’ve had several clients who have received a negative one-off, anonymous review that is either quite clearly spam, or in some cases, a bitter competitor or personal enemy. These situations can get a bit sticky, but sadly there isn’t an awful lot you can do.
Generally people won’t be deterred by one bad review, and the best course of action is to encourage other happy customers to get reviewing. This will push the bad review down and push the average star rating back up.
Many review platforms allow you to reply to reviews. This can be a good opportunity to set the record straight but you have to be careful about it. For this reason, sometimes it is best to get someone who is not as emotionally invested in the business to either write the response or edit it before it gets published. Be professional, remain calm, and kill them with kindness.
If you don’t already have location pages on your website, then you could be missing a valuable opportunity to target all the relevant locations. For each key location that your business operates within, create a page dedicated to that location on your website. This is easier if you have a unique physical address in each location, as it is important to include as much location-specific information as possible.
Where there is a physical location, be sure to include an interactive map and images to further enhance the page. If you do not have separate physical addresses, try including testimonials and case studies relevant to each location.
This will help you to avoid duplicating content across your location pages; it’s a fine art to differentiate the copy, but do it right and it can have seriously good effects on your local SEM strategy.
Once you have your location pages set up, the cherry on the cake is schema markup. The whole concept of structured data can sound very daunting to markup newbies, but it’s easier than it sounds. Schema markup simply helps search engines to understand what your website is about.
This is particularly important for local information, as it will help those spiders crawl your location pages and you’ll benefit as a result.
According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages with schema markup rank an average of four positions higher in search results. Now that’s a pretty good incentive. Get your head around schema markup and you’ll have that crucial advantage over your competitors in the local search results.
Ensuring your local search marketing strategy is up to scratch needn’t be difficult or convoluted. Follow the above steps and obey the usual SEO rules. With some hard work and perseverance, you’ll start dominating those coveted top spots and see your conversions skyrocket in no time.
Having an online presence in the present digital world is very important for any business. This is because the internet is currently considered as one of the reliable sources of income for businesses, individuals and organizations across the world. SEO is actually an aspect of business that is quite popular since brands are working harder to get ranked higher by search engine. It is therefore crucial to understand what exactly is involved so as to boost the ranking of your business in search engine listings.
The following 8 points will help you get a better understanding about SEO and how it can help you to promote your business brand.
1. SEO is not an expense, but an investment
There is a common misconception that SEO is an expense that needs a huge chunk of money to get started. This is however not the case. Provided you stick by search engine rules and do the right thing, you will be realized that SEO is not that expensive. Nevertheless, the returns on investing in SEO are so encouraging that you need to think about SEO as an expense.
In short, SEO means delivering the best quality content to your target audience using the right keywords that are searched frequently among several other digital marketing strategies.
SEO helps in creating brand awareness through enhanced brand presence and visibility as your website gets ranked better by search engines. In this case, more traffic is experienced when your website appears on the top three spots of the first page, which can be converted into loyal customers in the long run. This way, you will be able to make more sales. The long term returns from investing in SEO is much greater than the onetime expense incurred in getting your business website search engine optimized.
2. The keywords you choose make a huge difference: prioritize long-tail keywords
In order to achieve success in your SEO endeavors, choice of keywords is one of the most crucial considerations to make. Apart from using single words as keywords, it is now advisable to use three to four keyword phrases that are specific to whatever you are talking about.
Using these long-tail keywords will guarantee faster and more access by the target audience to your brand based on the exact value you provide to them. many brands are now keen on personalizing their search engine experience using these types of keywords. A good example is where one brand uses a keyword phrase like “New York Doctor” and another uses “New York Orthopedic Surgeon”; in the phrases, the second phrase tends to be more specific and for that reason can guarantee generation of more quality leads unlike the first one which puts the doctor in direct competition with other doctors in the area.
Learn more on how to build your business through content marketing and how to improve your content marketing strategy to always stay ahead of your competition.
3. On-site optimization: so that the website receives acceptance from both viewers and Google
Onsite optimization is not quite known by many people. However it is quite essential as it ensures a specific websites achieves acceptance by both viewers and search engines.
In order to achieve this, right keywords, website pages’ tags and key phrases need to be considered. These are necessary for search engines like Google to determine how to rank various websites. According to the 2015 Business Buyer’s Guide to SEO, a majority of business leads come from internet sources; referral traffic, direct advertising or online searches. In the case of online searches, search engines need to know the subject matter of your website for it to be recognized using the various web pages finding the topics covered and keywords used.
4. Social media is an essential part of any SEO campaign
Many business brands today are taking advantage of various social media platforms to promote their content. Such platforms as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are commonly use to create a profile for brands.
It is crucial to consider using such platforms to boost online presence and promoting the content on your website. This way, you will not only be able to boost access to your brand products and services from your target audience, but also will boost search engine rankings. Use of a social media channel that is relevant or appropriate in your industry or niche will boost your business a great deal.
5. Fresh content is important: Content is the King
Long are gone days when quality of web content never mattered. Today, it is practically impossible to move your website to the top of search engine results without considering the quality of content published and the keywords used. Search engine algorithms are now smarter than before and you have to stick by the demands to get a better ranking. The quality of content is today considered as the ultimate and most crucial driving factor for top search engine listing.
You need to offer compelling content that even other websites will want to link with which also boosts further the performance of your website.
6. Off-site optimization: getting external links from other quality sites is key
This is basically the opposite of on-site SEO whereby you work on boosting search engine ranking by use of external methods. The more your website is considered as being “most authoritative” or “most important” the better it gets ranked.
The secret to achieving this is by enhancing the quality of content shared and keywords used. This way, other websites in the same industry or niche will tend to link to your website thus qualifying your site as an authoritative site. The more the links you get to your website, the higher it will get ranked by Google.
7. PPC has no effect on SEO
Many businesses are today inclined on to pay-per-click advertising because it is considered as one of the crucial parts of online marketing campaigns. However, this strategy has no direct effect on SEO listings! This is simply because SEO is concerned more by organic search results rather than the paid advertisements.
PPC is however worth the consideration especially during the launch of a website to attract more visitors to a website but not influencing search engines for better ranking.
8. Be aware of not indulging in black hat SEO
Due to a stiff competition in any industry, several businesses turn to various illegal techniques trying to get better search engine rankings. Though such techniques worked previously to some, it is no longer the case since search engine algorithms have become smarter over time. Using the techniques today amounts to breaking of Google’s rules of achieving top organic ranking.
You need to keep off from such techniques as;
· Using invisible texts
· Keyword stuffing
· Creating fake pages with the aim to get more back links
· Page swapping and
· Using doorway pages
Despite the fact that some websites used these illegal techniques some years ago, today, Google can easily get your website banned from organic ranking and this will be detrimental to your digital marketing campaign. Some people may boast of achieving higher ranking using the same techniques but the truth remains that the disadvantages of black hat SEO are too harsh you don’t wish to be associated with.
Any decision you make regarding SEO is crucial in determining the success or failure of your business. Employing the right techniques will enable you to achieve top rankings and enjoy the various advantages that come with it. Modern SEO is characterized by top quality content, quality back links and personalized long tail keyword phrases that are not spammed. This way, search engines are likely to find your content easily and ranking it higher than your competitors.