Small Businesses Can Compete With Big Brands On SEO

Even though Google favors big brands, the truth is that small businesses can compete with the bigger names for organic search engine traffic. This is possible even though big brands often spend tens of thousands on SEO without batting an eye, and even though small businesses are spread thin on budgets and staff. Here’s how a small business can get its fair share of organic sales leads on Google:

Step 1: Take Inventory of Your SEO Assets

If your small business has a domain that goes back to the 1990s or 2000s, you’re sitting on an SEO goldmine. Google is impressed with old domains because it signals a business is stable, reliable, and competent—just the sort of company Google wants to serve up to people searching for the products and services you sell. Don’t abandon an old domain to pursue some sort of branding or URL/SEO tactic, as it will do more harm than good.

Review Google Analytics to see which pages of your website and blog get a lot of organic traffic, get a lot of overall page views, are popular entry pages, are infrequent exit pages, and have page views of three minutes or longer. These make good initial SEO target pages because they are already valuable to your website visitors. Google knows this, and will reward those pages with good visibility when they become part of a sustained SEO campaign.

illustration of small business man winning 1st place

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Step 2: Whip Your Website Into Shape

Before spending a nickel on an SEO campaign, make sure your website is communicating clearly to Google. This can be done by using Google Webmaster Tools, which tells you exactly where Google wants you to fix your website. Here is a quick list of attributes of a well-optimized website.

Step 3: Identify a Long Tail Keyword Strategy

Competing head on with big brands on high-volume keywords is usually a losing strategy. Instead, identify “long tail” keywords—longer search phrases with a high probability of conversion—and build your SEO campaign around them. You’ve got a better chance of securing high visibility, and even though raw traffic numbers may be lower than what the big keywords deliver, your traffic stands a great chance of converting.

Make sure your website has pages specifically designed to be relevant to your target long tail keywords. These are the pages you want to have links coming into. These pages should be maximally relevant to the keywords and have great conversion elements; that is, strong offers that inspire visitors to phone you, fill out a form, or place an order.

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Step 4: Build Your SEO Campaign Around Content Marketing

Producing high-quality offsite content is where most entrepreneurs can beat big brands, and beat them soundly in many cases. Anything an entrepreneur writes about his or her business or industry will be authoritative and useful. Big brands often delegate offsite content creation several rungs down the corporate ladder, making content written by actual small business owners all the more attractive to blogs and websites in your niche.

Create an editorial calendar for offsite content with topics you know are interesting to your prospects and publishers. Pitch your ideas to blogs and websites in your niche (you know who they are), and you’re likely to find a great deal of interest. When your ideas are accepted, submit articles with links to your website home page and/or to those target website pages. Over time, Google will reward these efforts with greater visibility.

Recognize the Full Value of SEO

Writing and pitching content takes time, but it’s time well spent depending on the lifetime value of a new customer reeled in from SEO traffic. Beyond that, optimizing your website—and then maintaining it—will require an investment, but keep this in mind: a well-optimized website not only helps SEO, it helps your effectiveness with prospects and customers no matter how they get to your website. For instance, page loading speed and clear navigation are highly valued by Google. If your site is slow loading and hard to navigate, human visitors will click off and buy from your competitor.

Following good SEO practices is good for conversions and good for business in general, because it forces your business to invest in a website that attracts business rather than just sits there or deters business. This is the “hidden value” of SEO a lot of entrepreneurs miss—one that you will benefit from immensely once you recognize it.

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