Small business owners are notoriously busy and have a hard time finding time to dedicate towards digital marketing. Yet every small business owner knows that a strong search engine presence can make a significant difference to their bottom line.
Most search engine optimization professionals recommend that business owners blog several times a month to keep the content on their website fresh and to drive better rankings in Google. Yet frustrations run high as months of blogging effort often do not lead to increases in organic traffic or surges in new customers.
So why exactly are the blogging habits of small business websites not leading to strong SEO results?
In this article, we will outline five practical tips that any small business owner can execute, which will result in dramatically stronger results for their website.
Write Longer Posts of Higher Quality
Long-form content is in. Many studies have revealed that Google has shifted their preference for how long your blog post needs to be to achieve high rankings. The guidance used to be that small business owners required to write between 300 and 500 words. Today, SEO professionals are recommending 1,500 words for a single blog post.
In addition to length, the quality of the blog needs to be dramatically better than it was a few years ago. Competition is way up as content marketing has become mainstream, and over 2 million new blog posts flood the internet each day.
To stand out among the crowd, blog posts need to be extraordinarily well-researched and satisfy the searchers’ intent. This is a new phrase that has joined the SEO lexicon in the last few years and is a fancy way of saying that the content you publish needs to clearly answer a question.
Higher-quality web content also means aesthetics. User experience needs to meet modern standards, which are quite different from the web design guidelines a few years ago. Modern websites are clean and free from clutter. In many cases, navigation bars on the left and right have been removed in favor of white space and an overall experience that is less distracting.
You’ll also notice that fonts are more prominent and line spaces are more extensive so that readers can get through more content without as much eye fatigue. Additionally, more images are used to keep readers’ attention as they scroll through much taller web pages, then they used to be.
Backlinks to Every Post
Even with this massive emphasis on long-form content based on solid research that answers questions clearly and concisely, you still need backlinks to your content, or it will not rank.
Search engine optimization is a complicated business and has many terms that confuse small business owners. Many have learned that having strong domain authority means your website is more likely to rank as new content is produced. With the increase in content marketing and competition, even a high authority domain may not be able to rank a new blog post without specific backlinks to that page.
Backlinks also need to be relevant. Each year, Google makes algorithmic advances in how to detect backlinks that are true votes of confidence versus those that placed with manipulative intent.
Avoid sources of cheap and easy backlinks as they are likely to trigger alarms at Google. While Google has assured us that their filters for manipulative links are now applied in real-time, a few recent algorithmic updates have implied that they are still in the business of pulling back large traffic volumes periodically.
The Medic update, for example, cost many websites to lose traffic in August of 2018. A subsequent follow-up release from Google in March of 2019 replaced much of that traffic.
Social Media Promotion
Social media is an excellent companion for search engine optimization and can help you rapidly disseminate high-quality content in the hopes of attracting exposure and backlinks. Every small business owner knows that their social media presence needs to be updated regularly with engaging content.
Many customers use social media as a customer service communication avenue because it is public. Businesses tend to pay attention to these inquiries and strive to have strong interactions on their social media pages.
Publishing high-quality content to your ready-made audience is an excellent way to gain immediate traction for your blog. If your following on social media is large enough, you can gain the first few comments from members of your social media community, which will serve as social proof to others who later come to your content.
Furthermore, your social media community can help you broadcast the content out to their followers, which will extend your reach. None of this will happen without a concerted effort to consistently publish good content and interact with those who message you and respond.
Email marketing is another excellent channel for amplifying your search engine optimization efforts. Small business owners should be maintaining a list of opt-in email addresses from users who are interested in their content.
Similar to social media, email marketing can be coordinated with the launch of a blog post to bring the initial surge of readers. These are friendly users who are interested in the content and are likely to engage by leaving a comment or sharing content online.
Many business owners neglect their email list because they feel the technology is outdated. The data suggest that email is still one of the most widely used technologies by most professionals, making this channel for content distribution critical for search engine optimization success.
The final practical step that small business owners can take to turbocharge their search engine optimization is guest posting. Guest blog posting is the process in which you make contact with other publishers in your vertical and coordinate cross-promotion.
Guest posting on other people’s websites is an excellent way to earn a backlink. In return for providing well-researched, thoughtful, and in-depth content, most bloggers will permit the author to include a backlink in the piece. This is best done either in the author bio section of the blog post or as part of the content where it is appropriate and editorially relevant.
The second way guest posting is helpful for SEO marketing is when you allow others to guest post on your website. As mentioned above, it is customary to allow them to place appropriate links in the content that will be useful for the users. While many don’t see how this will benefit SEO, they’re missing the larger picture. After a guest post is placed, it is customary that the author will promote it on their social media channels. They may even build backlinks to their blog post in future content, which will benefit both the website owner and the guest author.
Finally, the process of guest posting is an excellent way to network with other people who are influential in your vertical. These are folks you want to know because there will likely be other opportunities for content cross-promotion and an ongoing relationship that will benefit both parties’ marketing efforts.
Small business owners are notoriously frustrated by the topic of search engine optimization. They have probably been advised to maintain a blog regularly but are often discouraged that the search engines have not rewarded them with traffic or customers. To make matters worse, Google frequently changes its ranking algorithm.
Modern approaches to search engine optimization include in-depth blogging and producing long-form content of 1,500 words or more that directly answer searchers’ queries with attractive web pages that include many graphics. Stronger user experience keeps those users on the page longer and signals to Google that the content is very useful.
To coordinate the launch of such high-quality content, social media and email marketing strategies need to be well synchronized to maximize the reach and exposure for the small business website. Guest blogging, both on your website and on others’, is an excellent way to network and build relationships with influencers who can repeatedly cross-promote each other’s content.
Following the five practical steps in this article consistently for several months will lead to increases in search engine traffic, and qualified customer leads.
Adam Stetzer holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has published on the topics of Internet Marketing, Absenteeism, Employee and Customer Satisfaction, Productivity and Safety, and Culture. He has founded several technology firms and is currently CEO at HubShout, an SEO outsourcing firm. In his 25 year career, he has worked with companies such as General Electric, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Verizon, AT&T, Ford, LendingTree, American Express and Chevron Texaco. Adam has advised over 1,000 small business owners and blogs frequently.