The Complete Guide to Getting SEO Help for Your Business

(Whether you’re looking to DIY or hire a pro)

Learn about what SEO is, how it helps local businesses, the actions it requires, and how to obtain the right SEO help for your business.

Why SEO?

For any business looking to get found online, SEO is crucial, and let’s face it, if you’re not looking to get found online, you’re not looking to get found at all. The digital world is where your customers are, and it is there that you need to stand out to them and stand apart from competitors.

Many small business owners feel they don’t need SEO because they obtain most of their business through word of mouth referrals. Although word of mouth marketing is an effective way to bring in business and build up your reputation, it’s not a scalable way to grow your business. Search engine optimization, on the other hand, is.

Read on to understand more about why it’s so important, how it works, and how it helps small businesses like yours.

What is SEO?

Many business owners see search engine optimization (SEO) as a mystery, an enigma that only those with inside knowledge can solve. The truth is, SEO is an important part of any marketing strategy, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s a combination of efforts put into place to help search engines like Google find and trust your business website, organize the information you’re publishing, and present it to users searching for it.

Even though you are optimizing for search engines, search engines build their ranking algorithms around user behavior, so at the end of the day, you are optimizing for end users as well.

Let’s look at each component more closely.

Search

One of the most common ways to find information on the internet is to use a search engine. Users will enter a search term or question (also known as a keyword) into Google. Then, using a complex algorithm, Google will return what it has identified are the most appropriate and useful results.

This is different than browsing a news site or scrolling through social media looking for information. Googlers are actively looking for a specific answer or doing consumer research, which you should keep in mind when creating your website content.

Engine

The search engines (i.e. Google) people use to find information are essential because they return prioritized results for users. Google’s “spiders” are constantly crawling the web, recording everything they find in a database (or index). When you perform a search, Google is actually returning results from its index rather than the live internet.

The important thing to remember is that all search engines use specific criteria for ranking results. They look at factors like keyword density and meta tags to understand what your pages are about. Also, they keep track of which pages are linking to your content, and they use that information (along with other factors) to determine what page has the most authority.

Optimization

In order for your potential customers to find you via a Google search, you need to rank high on Google; particularly, on the first page; ideally, in the top few results. That’s why you need to optimize your content for search engines. Hence the term “search engine optimization.”

SEO can be complex and takes time, but the key takeaway so far is that if you want to rank your business higher on Google, you need to make sure that:

•  Search engines can find you
•  They can tell what your web pages are about
•  They believe your page/site has authority and credibility for the content you’re promoting

So how do you do those things? Read on.



How Do I SEO My Website?

SEO is about aligning your website with search engines. You both have the same goal: to provide valuable information to searchers when they need it. While the ultimate goal of SEO is to increase organic traffic to your website, the actions you take to achieve that occur both on and off of your website.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO efforts are geared at the “crawlability” and usability of the pages on your website. They involve the parts of your website that get seen by the public and get read by search engines. On-page SEO has to do with:

• Page Content: Its relevance to the keywords it’s targeting, the quality of the content, its usefulness to users
• Page Experience: How engaging is the page, does it get readers to stay and click to other pages, is it intuitive
• Page Structure: Title tags, headers, image tags, meta descriptions are all complete and contain keywords you are targeting

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO factors involve the backend elements that play into the experience of your webpages. They include

Site performance: URL structure, internal links, load speed, responsiveness (renders and functions on any device or screen size)
Backlinks: Links to your site from other trusted sites
Domain authority: How long your website has been around, how trusted it is by Google

Bad SEO

SEO isn’t a single tool or process. It’s not a series of tricks (like keyword stuffing) or secrets (like link trading) you can use to fool search engines. It’s also not a series of shortcuts that allow you to buy your way to the top of the search results. As search engines become more sophisticated, they get better at returning real results instead of low-quality articles stuffed with keywords or supported by cheap backlinks. Search engines now actually penalize these techniques and reward content that is truly geared for helping users.

None of these tactics will achieve sustainable results and all of them will hurt your trustworthiness to both Google and its users. For more specific help with improving your SEO, check out this page: How to Improve SEO: Tips for Ranking on Google.

How Does SEO Help My Business?

Still not sure if you want to make the investment into SEO? Many small business owners do not think that SEO strategies apply to them. Either they see it as too complicated, or they think their brick-and-mortar business can’t benefit from search engines. Both are untrue. SEO is essential to local businesses and a marketing strategy well worth your time.

Improves Visibility

Consumers rely on search engines to get answers to questions, learn more about products and services, and to find and compare businesses. Even if a customer is already familiar with your business name, they are likely to type that into a search box rather than type your domain into the address bar.  At the very least, then, you’ll want to make sure searchers can find your site when they’re looking for you.

Increases Website Traffic

If you provide valuable information and make it easy for search engines to find and organize it, they will reward you with higher rankings. This increased exposure means more visitors to your pages.

Generates Qualified Leads

SEO is a great targeting tool. Since search engines return results to users who are actively searching for a particular term or phrase, getting to the top of that stack means you’re providing information to the people who want it most, when they want it. This means that the people arriving at your site through search are interested in buying and more likely to convert.

Is Free Advertising

Unlike paid methods, you aren’t paying to get information in front of people who might not be interested at the time. You are connecting your business with an active audience who is searching for what you have to offer. It’s free advertising on Google and beyond!

Ultimately Leads to More Clients

Improving your SEO allows your business to get found online by potential customers, which increases qualified traffic to your website and to your store. The more qualified traffic you’re getting, the more leads you can convert into customers. In addition, Google search results nowadays also enable consumers to engage with businesses directly from the results pages, making engagement and conversion even more seamless.



Additional Reasons to Invest in SEO

Good SEO Begets Good SEO

Getting started with SEO can be slow, but good SEO eventually creates a cycle that reinforces itself. When your website rank improves, more visitors will find your pages in search results. With more visitors arriving at and staying on your pages, you will rank higher. With high rank and wider exposure to your high-value content, more sites will link to your pages. This increases your domain authority and credibility, which further improves your website rank. And so on.

SEO Bolsters Your Business Reputation

Getting to the first page can give you a sense of accomplishment (and maybe even power), but it does more than that. Potential customers trust companies that rank high in Google searches. If a customer can’t find a business on the first page of Google, they usually think there is something wrong with the business. SEO boosts your ranking in search engines, as well as your reputation as a credible source, keeping you at the forefront of the minds of your target audience.

SEO Makes Other Businesses Take Notice

Customers aren’t the only ones who notice when you rank on the first page in Google searches. Other businesses do too. If your content is good enough, you just might get backlinks to your pages from other complementary businesses—furthering your exposure and increasing your brand awareness.

It’s easy to get referrals from customers who already know about your business. But there’s something better than that: referrals from other businesses who have customers of their own! The bigger the referrer, the bigger the buzz about your business!

SEO Rewards Hard Work

You put a lot of work into your small business, especially in producing content. Get that content out there and amplifying your marketing efforts through SEO! The better your SEO, the more traffic to your website and the more data you have to show for your hard work. It’s rewarding to see how your optimization efforts are working.

SEO Equips You for Further Improvement

The more of your target audience you can get to your website, the more meaningful data you will have to work with. Key insights (such as which pages get the most visits, which calls to action are most effective, which landing pages convert highest, and the demographics of your visitors) will inform your content strategy moving forward and help you to refine your marketing efforts down to only those that are worth your time. SEO helps drive visitors to your website that will help you to continuously improve.

Considering SEO Help For Your Small Business?

SEO leads to sustained results and is incredibly rewarding, but it is one of those jobs that need to be done right. It can be difficult, as a small business owner, to find the time to put these tactics into place, let alone figure out what those tactics are to begin with. In this case, it may be best to get professional help to ensure you reap all of the benefits SEO has to offer. In this section, we’re going to teach you how to find, vet, and hire a professional SEO service provider for your small business.

Benefits of Professional SEO Help

As the world of online business continues to grow, so too will the competitive landscape, making SEO more important than ever. Below, we’ve outlined some of the top benefits professional SEO services can provide, particularly to small business owners.

1. Save Time

Because SEO is so in-depth and in a constant state of change, it can quickly become a second full-time job, which you simply don’t have time for. This is where professional SEO services come into the picture. By hiring an SEO service provider, you no longer have to worry about reading article after article covering Google’s most recent update. That means you have more time to focus on the crucial aspects of your business that keep everything moving smoothly.

2. Fast-Track Better Results

Just because you think your website is perfect in every way doesn’t mean that’s the case. Hiring a professional SEO service provider will provide you with an objective second set of eyes that can quickly identify what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Rather than having to learn to the hard way all by yourself over the course of months or years, SEO service providers can identify and correct problems quickly.

Once your website has been cleaned up and all critical issues corrected, the results should begin speaking for themselves.

3. Tools & Knowledge

Professional SEO service providers are equipped with expert-level knowledge and cutting-edge tools. Together, these give SEO professionals a unique edge when analyzing your website for various factors that affect your overall ranking ability. On the other hand, if you decided to take this on all by yourself, you would not only have to purchase each of the tools and service subscriptions, but you’d also have to learn how to get the most out of each.

Save yourself the headache and time by letting an SEO professional do all of this for you.

Education

While they will do the legwork for you, a good SEO service provider will keep you informed. You will gain knowledge and perhaps even obtain tools to carry out SEO practices on your own and make informed decisions in the future.

What to Look For in an SEO Service Provider

When starting your search for the perfect SEO agency, it can be overwhelming. To help you navigate the hundreds of companies that all claim to be the “best”, we’ve compiled a short list of key considerations.

1. Don’t Always Trust the #1 Ranked Agency

Sure, you could make the argument that they must really know what they’re doing since they made it to the first spot, but in doing so, you also run the risk of passing over the true top performers. Professional SEO service providers that are genuinely awesome at what they do don’t need to spend time ranking for highly competitive keywords. The bulk of their business comes from referrals and they’re always in high demand, regardless of where they rank in search engines.

2. Let Reviews & References do the Talking

Companies that like to brag about their SEO skills and the “secret sauce” without having reviews and references to back it up should be avoided. Top performing SEO agencies will have a laundry list of testimonials, detailed reviews, and references that are happy to share their experience. These are the companies you want to be adding to your shortlist.

3. See if They Specialize in Anything

As attractive as it may seem to go with the company that does it all, you’ll find your money is best spent on an agency that specializes in a particular industry or service. Trying to be the best at everything SEO related is a tall order that very few can deliver on. Really dig into the service providers your considering and see if they have the expertise that applies directly to your industry or problem areas.



Tips for Choosing an SEO Company

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of SEO agencies, it’s time to thin the herd a little more. Below, we’ve broken down some tried and true tips that come in handy when choosing between companies.

1. Know Your Budget

Knowing your SEO budget is going to largely determine which companies get cut and which ones deserve a closer look. Not only will this make you more comfortable once the ball starts rolling, but you also don’t have to worry about any awkward cashflow issues halfway through their service plan. Don’t be afraid to openly explore all of the payment options a company has to offer.

2. Check Out Their Case Studies

Case studies are great because they cut right to the chase and show you whether or not an SEO agency can deliver on their promise. By taking some time to review a company’s case studies (which, they should have), you can quickly uncover strengths and weaknesses. You know what they say—results speak louder than words.

3. Get Personal With a Consultation

Nothing can give you better insight into an SEO agency than having a personal consultation. This gives you the chance to get a true feel for the way they handle business and determine whether or not there’s any chemistry. Which leads to our next point…

Questions to Ask When Hiring Professional SEO Help

Many small business owners are wary of SEO services due to past experience. They hired so-called SEO experts in the past who were either only temporarily effective, completely ineffective, or maybe even hurt their website traffic. When looking into SEO service options, be sure to avoid companies that mention guaranteed rankings and automatic link exchange. Also, ask the below questions:

1. How will we communicate & how often?
2. What kind of contracts, budgets, and service options do you have?
3. What’s your plan of action to improve our rankings?
4. What tools & tracking software do you use?
5. Have you worked with a company similar to ours in the past?
6. What do you know about our industry?
7. What kind of results should we expect to see?
8. What does contract cancellation consist of?

Do I Need SEO Services?

SEO is free, but there are no shortcuts. It is a set of efforts that collectively and over time will improve your ranking and visibility. If you aren’t confident in your abilities to produce relevant and quality content, properly place it on your webpages, or make other technical adjustments to your website, an SEO professional might be best. Keep in mind you don’t have to use SEO services forever. A few months to get you on the right track might be all you need.