What Small Businesses Need to Know About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Updated: Oct 6, 2021
As a small business, you may be familiar with the term "Search Engine Optimization" or "SEO". Search Engine Optimization is the technical term for any actions that help customers find your business through search engines. In this post we will cover the following topics:
How Do I Optimize for Search Engines?
Search engines like Google and Bing have an increasingly long list of things that impact where your business ranks in search results. Things like having a secure website (i.e. "SSL certificate") or your website being responsive for mobile devices are just a few examples. Online business listings, online reviews, social media activity, the list goes on. So how do you know what you can do yourself and what you need help with?
How Long Will it Take to Finish SEO on My Site?
While there are some items you can do yourself to help with SEO, one reason people choose to get help is the amount of time it takes to learn and execute. There are a list of items that help with SEO that only need to be done once, such as adding page titles and descriptions, but then there are items that can be done routinely to help continue your search engine optimization.
Showing up at the top of search results for a target keyword is rarely an easy task as there are a lot of competing websites who search engines may deem to have a more relevant answer. Ranking for a particular keyword can take many months even with the best strategy. This is one of the reasons it is important to make sure you're not choosing keywords that are too competitive and that you are unlikely to rank for.
Often times it's not realistic especially for someone who owns a business to also have time to do the work it takes to have success with SEO. But that doesn't mean there aren't some low-hanging fruit to be picked that can help the search engine optimization of your site and start bringing traffic to your site!
What Search Engine Optimization Activities Can I Do Myself?
There are two basic categories of SEO: on site and off site.
What is On Site SEO?
On site (or "On-page") SEO provides search engines with clues and context that help them understand what your content is about. Here are some on-site SEO items that help your rankings:
Securing your site (via an SSL Certificate)
Assuring your site is mobile-friendly/responsive
Publishing high-quality content (min 300 words per page)
Optimizing page content, page titles and meta descriptions
Formatting Your Headings (H1, H2, H3, etc) and paragraph content
Optimizing Images and other multimedia elements
Including Internal links & External Links
Page load speed
Check out this definitive guide by Backlinko for more on on site SEO.
What is Off Site SEO?
Off Site (or "off page") SEO are things that occur off your page such as:
Back Linking (#1 off site SEO activity)
Social Media Activity
List your business on Google My Business, Apple Maps, Bing, and Yahoo
Obtaining Customer Reviews on Google, Yelp, and other local listing sites
Brand Mentions (via Guest blogging, etc.)
Consistent NAP citations (Name, Address, Phone) on all platforms
For a more comprehensive guide to off site SEO, read this guide from Neil Patel.
Search engines prefer active businesses, that's why things like blog posting and social media sharing are good for your site's SEO "rank" (where you appear in search results). Some of these activities you are already doing, like possibly social media posting. Be sure you are occasionally posting links to various pages of your site!
Where Can I Go For Help With SEO for My Website?
Sometimes it's easiest to leave it to an expert. While many companies charge astronomical monthly fees for Search Engine Optimization Services, you can often find local agencies that will work with you for reasonable rates. There is not a one size fits all, but here are some pointers that should help.
Tip: Be wary of anyone who guarantees #1 ranking and make sure you understand the list of services being provided and what they entail.
How Much Does SEO Cost?
Freelancers, like those found on Upwork and Fiverr often charge the least for SEO, but they aren't always transparent about the time it actually takes to complete SEO activities. Additionally, while the availability of overseas workers can make finding cheap work easy, but the language barrier can sometimes leave your site with some issues with content readability and impact your user experience.
Average Freelance Cost: $41-50/hr
Local Marketing Agency
Smaller, local digital marketing agencies are usually the best bet for your money. Look for agencies that will provide a free consultation or web analysis so that you know they aren't trying to sell you more than you need.
Our agency helps clients prioritize items based on their budget. It's best to find a company that can work with the pace that you are able to move at and who won't try to charge you for things you could do yourself.
Average Small Agency Cost: $75-$95/hr
Large Marketing Agency
Large agencies typically service larger businesses which usually means they are best for companies with an SEO budget exceeding $500/month. If this is you, be sure you know what is included for the fees. Some technical SEO can be expensive, but it really isn't necessary to pay over $150/hr.
That being said, there are SEO packages that cost thousands of dollars per month that include a lot of time spent working on technical components like backlink development and blogging/content creation which are very valuable to your website ranking. Be sure to follow up for proof that these actions are being done if you are paying for ongoing SEO services.
Average Large Agency Cost: $100+/hr