Search engine optimization (SEO) involves making it easy for a customer to find your small business’ website when he or she searches on Bing, Google, or Yahoo. Typically, a web developer works on the website, while a digital marketing consultant or agency comes in a makes sure that your website is easy to find among the millions of pages that exist on the internet.
I will be going over the exact steps of what I do when a small business client reaches out for help with their website. If you’re a small business owner, you will have a better idea of what an SEO consultant will be doing for you.
Looking at Your Website from the Customer’s Perspective
First, I check the website as any customer would. In digital marketing terms, the visitor to your website is called a “user”. Since the largest search engine that dominates the internet is Google, and their strategy for deciding on who goes first, second, third, etc. is based on the user’s experience, it is extremely important to check what the user sees and how they feel about your website when they land on it.
How they “feel”?
Yes! If they don’t trust the website, for example, they will leave and Google will begin to wonder why they left your site and how long it took them to go back to searching. If they love your content and hang out for a while, then Google will remember that too.
To get a sense of how well your website does, I analyze the website just as a Googler would, by using the Google Quality Rater Guidelines document. This goes over several important points, but in general, you want to make sure that the website shows expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. I also check how fast the website loads, and if there are any annoying popups or sound coming from somewhere that would make me want to leave.
How does the content look? Are there many grammatical errors or images that do not load or look bad?
All of this information goes on an Excel file and then later on gets transferred onto a report for you to see clearly, along with some recommendations to improve your website. As clients looking for SEO for small business, sometimes the web designer or software that they worked with left them in the dark with their website and it has gone out of date with old, unreliable information that they discover only after an external audit like this one.
Search for Your Product or Service on Google
Suppose that a flower shop owner wants to get more customers for the upcoming prom season, but most of the customers are walk ins and the phone just isn’t ringing.
I would then open up Google and start searching for “prom flowers in Norwalk” or “corsages near me” and all of the possible iterations (sometimes there can be hundreds of them), to see where flower shop owner’s website pops up.
This is the part where I begin seeing who the competitors are for the flower shop, so I make a list of these as well.
The most typical results are that the website just isn’t on the first page of the search engine results page. Sometimes they’re not even on the second page, either.
I use several complex tools that index this information to help me identify the amount of searches that are made, where they come from, and how well the competition is doing, as well as if the competition is running any form of advertising on Google itself.
Other tools can also give me data on how many pages are actually indexed (listed) on Google’s directory. A few of these tools that I use are Ahrefs, ScreamingFrog, and SEMrush.
After I take this information I, you guessed it, put it on an Excel file, and condense it down to an easy-to-read report for the client to read and understand.
Taking Advantage of Google’s Free Tools and Resources
If the small business SEO client’s website isn’t listed on Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, or has an active account on social media, I take note if it as well, or note on ways to improve the existing profiles or information.
Every once in a while, the clients will take advice from people who don’t know what they’re doing and end up with a website that has violated Google’s Terms of Service and they get their website taken off Google’s search index. That means that people will not be able to find them on Google, but the website and everything will still be available like normal, and it may still be findable on Bing and Yahoo!.
Once the client sees the initial reports, and they want to continue to do a more technical audit, the on-boarding process is quick and simple to do.
Performing a Website SEO Audit
Most small business owners have simple websites with their contact information, a list of services or products, and perhaps an “about” page.
The SEO audit for a four-page structured website (product pages, images, files, and services count separately), is performed by looking at the website structure, links, keyword usage, content, site speed, responsiveness, SSL standards, Google’s guidelines, website design, and tracking of website visitors, as well as search reports.
The tools that are essential for this are Google Search Console and Google Analytics, as well as some tracking code installation on the client’s website to track a customer’s journey once they get to the website using Google Tag Manager.
The website’s SEO audit report includes all of the necessary information and recommendations to improve the website, but tracking systems need to be in place in order to measure the progress. Results begin appearing after 3 months, but can take up to 9 months to stabilize. The sooner you begin, the better.
Once the website passes all of the tests with on-page optimization, we begin on content marketing strategy. This is where the vast amount of long time work begins, and where SEO results truly begin to show. If performed properly, this becomes a turning point for most businesses.
Content on the internet is what gets you found and what sets the tone for what your business is like in terms of culture and trustworthiness.
Starting a Content Marketing Strategy
Content is everything that can be read, watched, or heard on the web. In order to come up with a list or calendar of things to create online, it helps to perform a competitive analysis to see what the competition is doing.
A business owner or manager should be as involved as they want to be in what direction they want to take with their website based on my recommendations. However, since the content will directly affect how their brand is seen online, it is very useful for the client to approve content before it is released.
Content strategy is not a hit or miss tactic, but every once in a while some innocent piece of content that gets produced may end up being perceived negatively by the community and hurt a business’ reputation.
By looking at the top competitors online, their websites with their best content, and where they get their links (referrals) from, I come up with a list of suggested content strategies that may involve social media (images, video, blog posts, or podcasts). The team of writers and other content creators are contractors or employees that I’ve hired myself if I will be managing them directly, or with the small business’ dedicated marketing team.
As the content gets released and the results begin to show, new ideas will come about and a whole new content strategy may be developed or the current one may evolve into a laser-focused strategy that works.
There’s lots of wobbling in the beginning, and it is my job as an SEO consultant to keep the system afloat and head in the right direction to end up doing what works while experimenting with new ideas once we’ve established a baseline and are getting consistent results.
The bulk of costs in SEO are involved directly with the website SEO audit with recommendations along with the tracking of results and reports. The tools used for an SEO consultant agency can run up higher than $1,000 in monthly fees. The costs of writers, graphic designers, and video editors can also add up, but the work should end up paying for itself many times over.
Tracking Results in SEO
Google Tag Manager is your friend when it comes to tracking online purchases, but many other factors can play a role as well.
Customers may be calling your client’s business to ask about their products or services, but it can get hectic to track whether or not the customer purchased anything in the end.
Some digital marketing agencies measure their success with lead generation, which means that they only track how many phone calls or messages the small business received, assuming that one out of every ten calls (just a guess, it varies per business) end up in a purchase.
I find that to be a fair way to analyze results, though I would really like to see a way to track customers until they purchase to get an exact conversation rate (how many calls vs how many sales) to be able to give an exact number to the results of the SEO efforts.
When a client decides to remain with Cov Digital after the content gets created and the on-page SEO is ready, they typically go on a retainer plan, though we do have some hourly clients who only want their website updated and troubleshooted every once in a while. The retainer plan will let me track results on a monthly basis, with a new set of results and recommendations in a report every month. Retainer plans tend to end up with better results than hourlies because of the constant adjustments and optimization of content, as well as the discovery of new keywords and ideas that competitors may be currently doing.
During this time, the client is advised to not make any changes to their website on their own. Some clients like to do their own edits and end up messing up the website or the keyword placements.
Finishing Up An SEO Project
Most SEOs may tell you that there’s never an end to an SEO project, and that’s true because there’s always ways to maintain or experiment with tactics to bring more customers to a business, but I think that after the initial launch, there comes a period of adjusting, followed by a period of maintenance. Competitors are always moving and trying to copy exactly what you do, so it helps to stay on top always improving a website.
Tactics like backlinking, PBNs, and other ways to rank higher on search engines is something you might hear often in the SEO world, but I stay away from it. I believe that a website can grow organically as long as the content matches what the user is searching for.
Aside from being against Google’s Guidelines, the risk of having your website taken down from Google and then having to remove the penalty can be very costly and can far outweigh the positive results.
I hope this has been helpful to you as a person trying to get a better idea of what an SEO consultant can do for your small business instead of hearing the same old “rank higher!” or “get found!” thing over and over.
Thank you for reading.