ost small business owners will face a lot of challenges in getting their business off the ground.

If you have a brick and mortar business, you'll have to manage employees, cash flow, regulations and other concerns. And if you're purely a digital business, you'll be facing tough competition from other websites in the online space.

However, overcoming these challenges can be really profitable for the savvy marketer with the right SEO strategy. In 2019 alone, Google received 2.3 trillion searches from users globally. So there's plenty of traffic to go around.

SEO or search engine optimization as a traffic strategy can have the biggest impact on your small business compared to sources like paid advertising or social media. And it's

Use the right SEO tools

The majority of SEO will involve using a few tools that will help make digital marketing easier. With over a hundred paid and free SEO tools on the market, it won't be cost effective to run the gamut and use every single SEO tool out there.

Instead, you should focus on the most pressing features you need, depending on what you're trying to achieve with SEO.

Some SEO tools combine several features in one tool, while others focus on doing one task only. In the beginning, SEO tools can be useful for doing the following:

Keyword research

Content is a major factor for ranking in search engines. And you can't start a content strategy without knowing what topics or keywords to write about. Whether you're writing the content or outsourcing it, each piece of content you write starts with knowing what keywords to target on your pages.

Content optimization tools

Doing well with content for SEO is about pleasing the search engines as much as visitors. Tools for content optimization can encompass a wide range of features - with one main purpose - that is to improve your page SEO so you'll have the best chance of ranking in the search engines.

Rank tracking

SEO is about testing solid strategies and fine-tuning your process over time. So you need to track your website to know how well you're doing with your SEO efforts.

There are various tools that can help you track your position and see how the exact keywords are ranking, along with the amount of traffic you're getting.

Competition analysis

Keywords that are overly competitive will have a hard time ranking, especially if your site is brand new or you're just starting SEO. A thorough competition analysis before you even start SEO will give you a clearer picture of your content strategy.

Backlink analyzing and other competitor analyzing tools help uncover keyword opportunities that you can target. This allows you to better position yourself in your niche and reach your target audience.

Understanding keyword research

Keyword research has both an art and science approach to it. You need your own creativity and brainstorming session to come up with base ideas or topics for your keywords. Then you need keyword research tools to check the keywords and analyze the data to determine if it's something worth pursuing.

Should you use a free keyword tool?

You can use a free keyword tool like Keyword Surfer, which is a Chrome extension that shows local and global search volumes that are in their database. If your site has already been online for a while, you can use an analytics tool like Google Analytics and Google's Search Console to see keywords that you're already ranking for and others you can use to gain more traffic.

However, free tools can't compare with paid tools like Ahref or Moz Pro's Keyword Explorer.

A paid tool will obviously have more features and you'll be able to get more data from it, unlike free tools which limit what you can search. In most situations, it's best if you can invest in a paid tool (which is usually a monthly subscription) so you'll know which keywords will bring the most traffic to your site.

When using any keyword research tool, you need to enter your seed keywords in order to find other related keywords you can target. Depending on what you use, you'll get various data like monthly search volume, question keywords, autocomplete suggestions, keyword difficulty and other sites that are targeting the same keyword.

Figure out the intent of those keywords

Google will show the most relevant results based on the keywords that customers type. So it's important to know the search intent of a keyword before you use it.

For example, someone searching for 'golf shoes' is probably looking to purchase. So writing content on the history of golf shoes will probably not rank, no matter how well you optimize the page.

Start a content marketing campaign

Content marketing is an effective way to promote a business. And even though the core concepts of content marketing and SEO are different, a few aspects of both strategies overlap.

SEO relates to many things, and one of them is on-page SEO, which is technically part of content marketing.

They are similar, yet in some ways distinctive - while complementing each other. SEO can be seen as the more technical part of the process - it's data driven and you need it to figure out the type of content you need to create. As for content marketing, you're using SEO data to create content that is engaging and relevant and will resonate with your target audience.

In other words, one pulls in the audience, the other keeps them there.

Tracking your results and content auditing

After several months of doing SEO to grow your business, it is a good idea to track your results and do a content audit if necessary.

If your site has a lot of pages, you can save time by using a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your entire site. Completing a technical SEO task like this can be daunting; finding common site errors like broken links, duplicate pages and other problems on your site are just some of the things you need to do.

Keep a spreadsheet and a checklist of all the tests you will be doing on your site. This way, you'll have a plan of action on why your site might be under performing in terms of SEO and you can take the necessary steps to improve it.

Using social media with SEO

There have been discussions on whether social media correlates with improving SEO for your site. And even though the general consensus is that while direct links from social media properties don't help you rank better, (which makes sense, as if that were the case, it would be too easy to game the system) they do give your site a more 'human touch'.

What that means is, Google knows that your content is being viewed and shared by real people. And that you're creating content that people like.

SEO benefits of using social media

Getting your content to go viral has a few benefits, for one, you get a lot more 'eyeballs' on your content. And if a few of the people that see your content decides to link to it from their own website, you'll be getting valuable backlinks - which will boost your rankings.

Another benefit of combining SEO with social media is you know how people react to a piece of content you publish. This helps you craft your content to what your audience wants, and the better quality content you create, the better it is for SEO.

Should you outsource SEO?

When it comes to learning and doing SEO for your own or a client's site, it can be overwhelming to try and do every task optimally. You might be able to do a few of the simpler ones yourself in the beginning, but once your site grows it could be worthwhile to outsource a few, if not all, of your SEO related needs.

The key is to understand that if an SEO expert promises you overnight rankings, they're probably just after your money. That is why it helps to learn and do it yourself before you outsource it to someone else. Then you'll be able to understand how something should be done and what kind of results to expect, so you don't get scammed by false promises.

You could even hire a VA to do only the specific things that you need. That way you'll have more control instead of using an all-inclusive SEO package from an agency.

Final thoughts

Winning at the SEO game is about doing several interconnected tasks in an efficient manner to gain quality traffic. If you play by Google's rules and use the right tools for your small business, you'll be rewarded by having more customers know about your services and what your offer.

So take the time to implement a few of the strategies above, and kill it at SEO.

January 20, 2020
Business Building