If you are a small business owner, you have probably heard of SEO by now. And unless you have taken the time to study it and keep up with the trends, you are more than likely just relying on what you have heard from SEO companies or colleagues for your SEO knowledge.
The truth is there is a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to the SEO world, mainly because of how quickly the landscape is changing and the historical lack of actionable information coming from Google and other search engines as to what the best practices are. This has made way for a lot of dishonest “blackhat” SEO companies to prey on unknowing and unsuspecting small business owners, which has led to many bad perceptions of the industry.
According to Google, “While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index.”
These blackhat companies have led to a lot of penalties and frustrated Webmasters who have lost all rankings, mainly because of dangerous low-quality and spam-link building. In a recent effort to clean up some of the confusion and help Webmasters have a better understanding of SEO, Google released their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.
This is an essential read for SEOs experts and Webmasters who are interested in improving their search presence. And although this guide is full of incredibly useful on-page optimization tips and guidelines, it is almost completely devoid of link building advice and actionable information. There are two main sections of SEO: on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
On-page optimization is the process of optimizing the code on your Web site for certain target keywords. This includes meta data, title tags, and content on your site.
Off-page optimization consists of mainly link building, the process of earning high-quality links to your Web site. Link building is a highly debated and talked about topic in SEO and with good reason, there have been countless Google updates regarding how they look at different types of links and link building techniques. (A timeline of Google Algorithm Updates can be found at Moz.com)
But one thing has remained constant in SEO since its inception, the best way to get links is to create high-quality content. This is the best form of “white hat” link building. In fact, it is Google’s only advice on link building in their Webmaster Guidelines,
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
So how do you as a small business owner get started on creating this type of content and begin using it for link building and SEO?
Here is some actionable beginner advice on getting started
Step 1: Build a blog. Business blogs are becoming an essential part of almost every business website and with good reason. Blogs are the best way to keep your website up to date with fresh content that could in turn result in links to your site.
Step 2: Add some relevant categories to your blog. Begin adding some relevant categories to your blog, using the areas of your business that you are the most knowledgeable in and writing about things that could help your clients as well as other people looking for more information on those topics. Since our company develops Web sites, mobile applications, and digital marketing strategies we have those categories in our blog.
Step 3: Write some high-quality blog posts with your audience in mind. Before I begin a blog post, I like to think about some of the questions someone looking for my services might be asking about. For example, since we do Web development one of our recent posts was 14 Questions to Ask Your Web Developer. This article has already gotten us several relevant links, as well as some phone calls from clients who were interested in our services after reading the post. Some other ideas for blog posts can be industry related guides as well as announcing sales, contests, new products, or special offers. (Pro tip: Contests are a fantastic type of blog post that can lead to a lot of high-quality links.)
Step 4: Do some interlinking in your blog posts. Basically adding links back to your own Web site in your blog posts. For example, if I write a blog post on Web design best practices, I will try to include a link to another page on my site in the blog post using the anchor text, Miami SEO Company because that is one of our target keywords. This is a very controllable and powerful form of link building because you can control your anchor text and link to the pages that you are most interested in promoting.
Step 5: Promote your content. What good is creating all of that high-quality content on your site if no one is going to read it and therefore link to it? The key to getting relevant users to read and link to your content is to put it in front of the right audience. Some great places to start promoting your content are Google + Groups related to your topic (which also provides a link back to your site), Scoop.it, Bundler.com, Hunch.com, and Storify.com. Some other great ideas for content promotion are blog commenting on relevant industry blogs, as well as posting in relevant industry forums.
Step 6: Implement an authorship tag. One of the biggest developments in recent SEO times is the advent of Google’s rel=author tag. This tag allows you to claim authorship of a particular post or page by connecting it to your Google+ account. It has already become a ranking factor that Google is using in their algorithm and should not be ignored. For more information on how to implement the rel=author tag, click here.
These steps are a great way to get started building a strong online presence in your field as well as a strong, safe, “white hat” SEO foundation for your Web site for years to come.