With so many digital marketing campaigns littering the net nowadays—plus classic marketing mania “competitions” like the Super Bowl—it almost seems like big brands have unlimited funds to spend on marketing.
With the advancements in telecommunications technology and overall accessibility to digital platforms, yes; marketing is relatively more budget-friendly now than it was twenty, thirty years ago. However, this doesn’t mean every business can instantly invest in a solid digital marketing campaign. The reality is that even with accessible technology, most businesses don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on their marketing strategies.
And as a small business, you likely need to be a bit more careful about your marketing budget—especially if you’re a fresh startup.
If that’s the case, this simple checklist is for you: a quick, efficient, and budget-friendly overview of the most important things you need to start working on—and using!—an SEO strategy.
Do You Know Your Tools?
Before you dive into SEO, you’re going to need SEO tools or SEO plugins to help you manage, organize, track, and analyze your website’s search engine performance. You’re also going to need analytical tools to help optimize the data you can gather from your SEO strategy.
For instance, Google Search Console is a powerful—and free!—SEO tool that can handle intensive functions like tracking your site performance, fixing website errors, and consistently following (and updating) site rank. Yoast is a similar free SEO plugin that works great with WordPress and any other similar CMS’s. Google Analytics—as the name suggests—is an intuitive website analytics tool that is also free of charge.
In order to optimize the foundation of your strategy, it’s important that you understand the role each tool can play and which works best for your business.
Do You Understand Your Keywords?
Going into SEO, you’ve most definitely heard the term “keyword” by now.
Keywords, by definition, are the “key” words and phrases that can be found in your web content. These words or phrases make it possible for search engines to find your website and present you as a viable result to users who searched for that specific word or phrase.
The closer your keywords match the exact search term, the higher your chances are of landing on the SERP (search engine results page).
But before you start choosing keywords, you need to understand that there are different types of keywords. Using one type of keyword is fine, but many successful SEO strategies have proven that a combination of two or more types of keywords yields the best results.
For instance, you can have your short tail keywords (less than 3 words) that are very generic. You can also combine those with long tail keywords (more than 3 words) that are a little more specific and, therefore, are relatively less competitive.
Have You Done Keyword Research?
Understanding your keywords entails a little keyword research. You can’t just pick whichever keyword you believe best represents your business. Most niches today are oversaturated, and the first keywords you’d pick to describe your business (ex. Anti-aging, fitness, health, beauty, skincare, men’s skincare, men’s clothing, customized clothes) are most likely highly competitive ones.
We’re not saying you can’t use them, but a bit of research will reveal the best keywords for you; ones that strike a balance between descriptive and popular, but not too competitive (especially if you’re just starting out).
Through keyword research, you identify the search terms people are most likely to enter into the search engine. This drives qualified traffic to your website. Research will also help you find the best 1) market-defining keywords, 2) customer-defining keywords, and 3) product & service keywords that best suit your business.
URL and Title: Are They Optimized?
Search engine optimization does not just apply to blog or article content. Your entire website, from the text to the layout to the code, needs to be optimized for search engines—something some businesses tend to forget.
Website URLs, page titles, and meta tags/descriptions are especially overlooked. So make sure you check those items before you declare optimization done, because they can make a huge difference in your rank.
- URL – make sure your keyword is included in your URL to help Google understand what your page is all about. If you’re selling a fitness program but your business’s name is something like “24/7 Intensity”, try to incorporate “fitness” or “fitness program” in the URL without compromising your business name (ex: https://247intensityfitness.com).
You also want to keep your URL as short as possible, because recent studies show that shorter URLs rank better than longer URLs.
- Title – the “title tag” dictates the title users will first see when they submit a search term and get a SERP back. If you’ve ever done a Google search before (and you most definitely have), you’ll have noticed that the results follow a certain structure: large blue clickable text over a URL in smaller green font, right over a short blurb that tells you what the content is.
That large blue clickable text is the title, and if you start that title with your main keyword, your chances of ranking number one are greatly increased. So if you’re trying to rank for, say, the keyword “Health Tips,” you should make it so that your title tag starts with “Health Tips.
Are You Ready to Start Link Building?
Link building is proven to be one of the most effective SEO strategies. It helps improve authority and build inter-industry connections, effectively increasing rank over time. What’s more, it creates a win-win type of scenario for many small- and medium-sized businesses. By linking to other websites, you then encourage these websites to link back to you.
However, link building can be pretty difficult to master. It takes a significant amount of time to implement correctly and a little more time to see results. However, taking small steps towards preparing your links for potential link building strategies is a start.
For example, try to link out to authoritative sites in your articles or profile. Four to eight (4-8) high-quality websites that are proven genuine authorities in their industry would be ideal. For example, Google.com is obviously a high-quality authoritative website. News websites like The Wall Street Journal are also authoritative websites. This will tell Google that you’re pulling facts and stats from companies that know what they’re talking about.
You should also link in to your own content. These are called internal links, and they do wonders for your SEO. Whenever you publish a new content piece, try to link to at least one other content piece on your site. At most, try to link to five.
In the end, you don’t need to implement everything in this checklist. Just doing what you feel comfortable with or what you have the budget for should be more than enough. But if you truly want to succeed in SEO, taking these five tips and ensuring they’re all ticked off can give you an incredibly competitive advantage—especially as a small business.