Every 21st-century entrepreneur worth their salt is aware that online marketing is an essential part of modern business success. Social media, email campaigns, and pay-per-click (PPC) ads are constantly being touted as the thing that will get your business off the ground.
But the truth is that if any organization wants to survive in the online world, there’s one particular piece of marketing collateral that they absolutely have to prioritize above all others: SEO.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization — better known as SEO — is the nuanced art of creating online content that helps you rise up the ranks of the search engines. It utilizes things like keywords and hyperlinks to make your website both more attractive and authoritative to search engines like Google.
This marketing strategy can take on two distinctly different forms: white hat SEO and black hat SEO.
Black hat SEO
Black hat SEO involves the use of unethical and illegal practices that attempt to take advantage of limitations, gaps, or blind spots within a search engine’s algorithm. An example of this would be filling an article with keywords — something known as “keyword stuffing” — in order to attract a search engine even if the content of the article has nothing to do with those keywords. Black hat SEO is dangerous, and if caught using it, users can lose all of their Google search traffic.
I’ve been using Cloudways since January 2016 for this blog. I happily recommend Cloudways to my readers because I am a proud customer.
White hat SEO
White hat SEO focuses on providing high-quality, authoritative content targeted at the end-user while simultaneously communicating what that content is to the search engines through proper optimization. This approach prioritizes things like user experience and search engine quality guidelines. Essentially, this aims to increase traffic from search results by properly “playing by the rules.” An example of this would be a plumber who creates an article that genuinely helps readers to unclog their drains. As he does so, he uses keywords that are applicable to the topic and includes links to resources from sites that are both genuinely useful to the reader and authoritative to the search engines.
The Difference Between On-page, Off-page, and Technical SEO
In addition to Black hat and White hat SEO, there are typically three processes that SEO can take:
- On-page SEO is concerned with all of the optimization done to your website’s actual content. This includes the aforementioned items like keyword use and internal link building.
- Off-page SEO has to do with promoting your website across the internet. It involves things like external link building, such as writing a guest post for another website and including a relevant link to your own content in the text.
- Technical SEO involves the back end of your site. It refers to the process of making sure that search engines can properly “see” and understand your site’s content.
SEO in Small Business
Good SEO is complex and requires a comprehensive strategy to fully implement. Properly pulling this off to the highest degree often requires having professionals on staff and expensive tools available. However, there’s still hope for the numerous small businesses out there that can’t afford such luxuries.
In fact, there are many basic SEO essentials that small businesses can take advantage of with little to no cost to themselves — apart from a good dose of invested time, of course. While not necessarily as effective as a large-scale strategy, these can still do wonders if properly implemented.
SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses
Here are a few ways that putting a greater emphasis on SEO can profoundly affect even the smallest of businesses trying to survive in the online world.
- Focus on developing authoritative content: Google’s algorithm gets smarter every day. If your content isn’t relative to your readers, chances are it won’t do well in the search engines.
- Utilize backlinks and keywords: Find a good, free keyword research tool and look for both relevant pages from your own content as well as quality links from other sites to link to in your own content.
- Diversify your online strategy: While a good website is a key starting point, eventually you’re going to want to branch out from there. Create a social media strategy with a consistent posting schedule and look for guest post opportunities to help diversify your marketing strategy and boost your SEO.
- Study your competition: It’s wise to always be studying both your industry and your market. As you do this, look for what others are doing in their online marketing and try to discover what is succeeding at the moment.
The Importance of SEO in Small Business
While SEO can feel like a massive undertaking, the core concept is very simple: maintaining a focus on creating quality content that provides value to your readers, while also making sure that it is easily understandable for search engines. At the end of the day, all you’re doing is playing the part of a translator. You want to make sure that the information worth hearing is understood by all parties involved, whether they are human or automated in nature.
So the next time you sit down to discuss how to improve your company, and as you plan out things like brand identity and value propositions, make sure that you spend an adequate amount of time integrating business SEO into your plans as well. Whether you decide to do something as simple as creating an SEO optimized blog or you go all-in on hiring an SEO expert, the investment will likely be worth its weight in gold.