An important digital marketing strategy, search engine optimization (SEO) improves a business’ chances of being found online by both current and potential customers. This increased visibility in turn promotes growth and bolsters a business’ reputation online.

Despite these benefits, half of small businesses in the US that maintain a website do not engage in SEO, according to a 2016 small business digital marketing survey. However, in the future, small businesses plan to give more thought to SEO. Specifically, 60 percent of small businesses plan to implement an SEO strategy by 2017 or later.

As small businesses work toward this goal, they should consider three pieces of advice.

  1. Learn The Basics About SEO

A lack of knowledge about how to implement an effective SEO strategy is one of the main reasons why small businesses shy away from SEO.

“If business is going well, companies are likely to say, ‘Why put all the extra time into SEO? Why spend the money?’ In their minds, there’s no reason to take on the extra work and potential risk. But, the reality is that 80 percent of Internet sessions start off with a search.” – Duane Forrester, Vice President of Organic Search Operations, Bruce Clay Inc.

To avoid relinquishing the playing field to competitors, small businesses should educate themselves about SEO basics, such as how search engines work, the significance of links and positive attributions, the role of keywords, and the importance of website usability.

Numerous resources exist for this purpose, including Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, Kissmetric’s SEO: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners, and Buffer’s Complete Beginner’s Guide to SEO, to name a few.

Having a basic understanding of how search engines work and what your company can do to increase visibility online reduces the fear and uncertainty that small businesses often associate with this digital marketing strategy. Additionally, this knowledge is important if a business chooses to hire an external SEO agency to help them implement a strategy.

  1. Hire A Reliable SEO Company

Small businesses tend to rely on in-house resources for SEO. In fact, only 34 percent of small businesses hire an SEO company to help implement and maintain their efforts.

But, industry leaders point out that working with an SEO company has numerous benefits, namely the level of experience and expertise its consultants provide.

“SEO agencies work with many different types of companies across many different industries. Through these experiences, they generate knowledge that can help a business.” – Matthew Goulart, Founder, Ignite Digital

Other benefits of hiring an SEO company include a better return on investment, a more comprehensive approach to SEO, and less time spent on SEO efforts in-house.

It is important to choose an SEO company that is a good fit for your business. However, no established process exists, according to an in-depth analysis of 150 reviews of SEO agencies. In fact, 19 percent of the companies reviewed as part of the study indicated that they had a negative experience with an SEO company before finding the right one.

Because of this, it is important to ask hard questions throughout the selection process.

“The trust factor is really important with an SEO agency. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.” – Matthew Goulart

  1. Plan For A Comprehensive SEO Strategy

SEO is a multi-layered digital marketing strategy that encompasses link-building, content creation, website usability, social media presence, and keyword awareness.

An effective strategy requires implementing tactics that address each aspect of SEO. In the small business market, onsite optimization and local search optimization are the most frequently employed SEO tactics. Meanwhile, only about 25 percent of small businesses engage in content creation and guest blogging as part of their SEO strategy.

Bolstering SEO effectiveness demands granting more attention to off-site activities in tandem with on-site optimization efforts. For example, creating quality content is an ideal way for businesses to attain links or positive attributions and improve its social presence.

“Content is a means of educating customers so that they feel something for the company. Then, later on, if the potential customer needs something, they will go to the company that built their trust in the first place by providing useful resources.” – Garrett Mehrguth, President and CEO, Directive Consulting

Closing Reflections

Showing up high in Google in response to a search query not only grants a business authority but also contributes to growth. Potential and existing customers are more likely to return to a company’s website to make a purchase if the company has proven itself a reliable source previously.

Small businesses seeking to implement an SEO strategy for the first time should consider three pieces of advice to maximize their efforts: educate yourself, work with a reliable SEO company, and ensure your SEO strategy encompasses multiple channels.