For small businesses looking to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic, SEO is an affordable strategy to improve online visibility and traffic, yet few use the media, according to a recent study of 500 businesses. Small business is defined as having up to 500 employees.
After The Manifest surveyed small businesses in the United States and found just 30% have an SEO strategy in place to improve their website's organic ranking, the company put together guidelines and step-by-step instructions on how to improve rankings in search, specifically for small businesses.
Many companies, especially during the virus stay-at-home orders, have been sharing business secrets.
DoubleTree began sharing its famous cookie recipe, for example. Others like Google are jumping in to provide services such as video chat for free through September.
For those that use SEO, the top five strategies for small businesses include keyword research and targeting at 70%, local search optimization at 53%, mobile-friendly sites at 51%, content creation at 45%, and link building at 24%.
The survey demographics were especially interesting. Some 61% of survey respondents were female and 39% were male. The majority, at 44%, were baby boomers or older, 33% were Generation X, 20% were millennials, and 4% were Generation Z.
Some 7% of respondents’ businesses have one employee; while 75% have two to 10, 14% have between 11 and 50; 2% have between 51 and 250 employees; and 1% have between 251 to 500.
The Manifest suggests small business owners don’t need to be experts to start an SEO strategy.
Those who participated in the study say 62% that invest in SEO rely on in-house employees to manage it. Some 53% of small businesses that invested in SEO did so in the last three years, and 56% say they are confident in their strategy.
Often, companies will not invest in SEO because they do not see immediate results. It takes time to establish organic search rankings based on trust and credibility, SEO is less expensive than paid advertising and many times can produce similar results.
About 62% of businesses that invest in SEO say they rely on in-house employees to manage their SEO strategy, and 77% of those in-house employees manage SEO alongside other responsibilities.
The survey suggests several steps to get started. The first points to identifying keywords and placing them in website copy. Begin by typing topics related to your business into Google. A natural skincare company, for example, might use keywords such as “skincare routine,” “self-care,” “face,” “sensitive skin,” or other related terms, according to The Manifest.
The keyword “skincare routine,” shows featured products and long-form content that helps potential customers learn how to use specific skincare products and tools. Searching for keywords helps you see what terms your competitors are ranking for. This helps narrow the keyword search.
After deciding on terms to target, incorporate those keyword into the website.
Title tags such as headers tell search engines what your website is about. URLs show search engines on how to navigate your website. Image alt text shows search engines that your images contain. Meta descriptions tell searchers what your content is about in the SERP.
Optimizing websites for local search is another tip. Google search engine results change based on location, making web pages more important for small businesses such as cafés, restaurants, and photographers. Small businesses can improve local rankings with Google My Business, despite the challenges some companies might be having with the service today.
The profiles appear next to search results for specific keywords. When using this strategy The Manifest advises ensuring the business’s data is up-to-date and complete, which means verifying locations and managing and responding to Google reviews. And ensuring that times and days of operation are current.
Making websites mobile-friendly and keeping content current go without saying. Google makes it easy to test if a website is optimized for mobile with its Mobile-Friendly Test.
When determining ideas for content, check the search engine results pages for keywords the company plans to target. The types of content that appear in the results pages indicate what types of content the audience searches on.
Probably one of the most important points to building a backlink profile. The Manifest says successful link-building strategies require a significant investment in time and personnel effort. Only 24% of small businesses invest time in building high-quality backlinks to their website.
Search engines consider links back to a website an endorsement of that website’s content. The more links you have, the more authority search engines can use to evaluate your website.
If earning links seem challenging, consider guest blogging or guest posting, fixing broken link-building from businesses that link to competitors considering becoming an authority in a topic by answering questions.