If you own a small business, you have probably worked with a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company, worked with an independent SEO consultant, or read up about best practices online. If you’re like the small business owners I work with, you have probably been burned in the past and currently receive about five calls each day from SEO sales people. And I get it—it’s really annoying!
I understand the world of SEO can be frustrating, and you have probably heard a great deal of conflicting information over the years. Overzealous sales people tend to be ambitious with their projections, and amateur SEO professionals lack the knowledge base and practical experience to provide counsel that will be impactful. There are four main types of SEO: Local SEO, Technical SEO, On Page SEO, and Off Page SEO and plenty of industry nomenclatures. So it’s no surprise when business owners have difficulty distinguishing good practices from outdated tactics.
This article is intended to provide you with some SEO tips that are easy to implement and are proven to have a positive impact on rankings and user experience.
1. Think Mobile First
I still can’t believe how many business owners I’ve met that are still prioritizing desktop over mobile. It’s been two years since Google announced that more searches take place on mobile than desktop. When I analyze a client’s data in Google Analytics, Facebook Campaigns, or AdWords data, I often see mobile sending more traffic than desktop.
It’s imperative that your site is mobile-friendly and provides a good experience on mobile devices. By mobile-friendly, I mean that your site is responsive. A responsive site will properly adapt to different devices like iPhones, Androids, and various tablets.
Today, it takes more than just passing a mobile-friendly test. Your site can respond to different devices and receive a good score, but at the same time the mobile version may not show your form’s submit button or your contact information in the header. Nowadays you need to go above and beyond to ensure your site is responsive but without compromising the user experience and your conversion opportunities.
A mobile-friendly website is an SEO ranking signal and caters to your customers and prospective customers browsing preferences.
2. Set up Your Reporting and Analytics
Before you roll up your sleeves and start implementing best practices, you should know exactly where you currently stand. Make sure you set up Google Analytics. From there you will want to set up some custom dashboards and reports.
Google has a crowd sourced project called the Solutions Gallery, which is a collection of user-submitted dashboards and reports. It’s very easy to locate a dashboard or report and add it to your Google Analytics account. Other users even rate and provide comments on the reports.
Here are a few dashboards I like:
- General Analytics Dashboard – This is a basic report that provides an overview of organic, social media, and referral traffic.
- Content Performance Dashboard – Content is integral to a modern SEO strategy, and this dashboard lets you know which pieces of content are performing. You can also use this dashboard to identify which pieces of content need a refresh. If you spent a considerable amount of time on a blog post and it’s buried on page 50, it’s time for a content relaunch.
- Geography Dashboard – This dashboard lets you know specifically where the traffic is coming from. Let’s say you own a business within the San Diego city limits, but you’re trying to expand to North County coastal. Use the dashboard to see if you are pulling in traffic from Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas, or Carlsbad.
- Mobile Analytics – Since I led off with the importance of mobile, it’s no surprise I included a mobile dashboard. The dashboard will show which devices are sending traffic, top mobile keywords, mobile viewed content, and more!
Here are a few reports I like:
- SEO Insights for Google Organic (not provided) Report – This has great insights for Organic traffic from non-reported keywords.
- Keyword Analysis Report – This shows popular keywords alongside key metrics, conversion rates, goal completions, and more.
- Content Efficiency Report – Use this report to identify engaging content and what types of content is the most valuable so you know which content to produce more of.
- Diagnostics Page Timing – Use this report to identify slow pages. Add these slow pages as action items to your SEO project plan. Get them fixed so your site can fly!
- Landing Page Analysis – Check out sessions per landing page, bounce rates, and average time spent on each page.
3. Set up Your Keyword Tracking
If you want to rank for certain keywords and longtail keywords, you’ll need to track the movement of said keywords through the search engine results page.
If you own a real estate brokerage in Rancho Bernardo, you’ll want to rank for “Rancho Bernardo Real Estate Broker” or “Best Rancho Bernardo Real Estate Agent.” If you’re a home remodel company, you may want to rank for “San Diego Kitchen Remodel Company” or “San Diego Bathroom Remodel Company.”
Whatever your business is, there are obvious queries you will want to appear for so you can capture the user when they are in the act of searching for a service you provide. This is intent-based marketing at its finest.
For the not-so-obvious, you will need to conduct keyword research to identify additional opportunities. When I conduct keyword research, I typically utilize Google Keyword Planner, review Google Autocomplete, review Google-related searches, and use keyword.io. Those are some of my top choices, but there are variety of tools when it comes to Keyword Research.
If you are running an AdWords campaign, you have probably already completed keyword research. In this case, you can just export your keyword list from AdWords.
Once your list is in order, you will want to upload it to a keyword tracking tool. As you can imagine, there are several on the market. We have tested a handful, and the one we use as part of the Rocket Pilots SEO Package is Authority Labs.
Authority Labs will allow you to see the movement of your keywords through the rankings. You can sort by the last 90 days, 30 days, 7 days, and since you first added the keywords. It’s incredibly powerful and always a great way to decide on your focus keyword for your next blog post. If you’re on the rise for a keyword, using it as the focus keyword for your next blog post might just be the bump you need to get to page one!
4. Implement Local SEO Best Practices
It’s no mystery that Google has placed an emphasis on local results. You’ll want to adjust accordingly and roll out local SEO strategies. For a comprehensive approach, check out A Guide to Ranking Your Business Locally.
The core tactics you need to implement are as follows:
- Claim and Build out Your Google My Business Page – This process is easy and can be accomplished by the non-technical.
- List your Name, Address, Phone Number, and URL on directories like Yellow Pages, Express Update, Yelp, WhitePages, and more. Do this yourself manually or utilize a service like Synup if you prefer to save the time but spend some money.
- Embed a map of your location(s) on your website.
- Implement Schema for your site – Mark up your address, phone number, and name.
- Build out your reviews on Yelp, Google My Business, and review platforms that are relevant to your business. Take advantage of Yelp’s SEO clout when someone Googles “San Diego plus your keyword” and your Yelp listing takes up a spot on the search engine results page (SERP).
- Implement local On Page SEO tactics.
5. Roll Out a Content Strategy
Producing content is no longer elective. It’s completely mandatory if you intend to win with search engines and user engagement. Over the years, Google’s algorithm has become more sophisticated and started incorporating factors surrounding how users interact with your site. It’s been speculated that Google incorporates Dwell Time as a ranking signal, and we know they incorporate Bounce Rate and Time on Page. Since those metrics are closely related in nature, I have provided the definitions below.
Dwell Time – This is the amount of time from when a user clicks a result on a SERP (like Google, Yahoo, or Bing) and then returns directly back to the SERP. The underlying principle here is that if a user immediately goes back to the SERP, the content was low quality or not relevant to what the user was looking for. We know Google measures Dwell Time, but there is no confirmation that it is a ranking signal and there is no way for site owners to view Dwell Time statistics (not yet at least).
Bounce Rate – In Google Analytics, a bounce is calculated as a session that triggers only a single request to the analytics server, like when a user opens a single page and then exits. It differs from Dwell Time because the user did not necessarily go back to the SERP. They could have just closed the browser or exited the site.
In my opinion, Bounce Rate is a misunderstood statistic. Popular belief states that a high bounce rate is bad, but in reality it’s very circumstantial. Let’s say you’re a San Diego Real Estate Agent running a paid Facebook campaign to a landing page where users are converting by calling you but not visiting another page, in that case a high bounce rate is not problematic. It’s not bad to have a high converting landing page!
If they are landing directly on a location page for a retail store and then bouncing off, the page probably accomplished the objective by providing the user with the address.
Now, if the homepage is the gateway to the rest of your site and the bounce rate is consistently high, you’ve got problems. Time to roll up your user experience sleeves and fix the issues.
Time on Page – This is the amount of time a site visitor spent on a specific page before going somewhere else. By somewhere else I mean another page on your site, back to the SERP, or literally anywhere else. With this metric it could be a Dwell Time scenario or they could have bounced. In either case, we are simply measuring how long they were on the page.
Let’s say you just wrote a killer long-form blog post and your average Time on Page is twelve minutes. Fantastic! Your visitors loved the post and are clearly engaging with the content. Keep up the good work!
Managing Your Blog for SEO Juice
The internet is loaded with dead blogs. Many well-intentioned site owners read some compelling statistics about the usefulness of a blog, start the journey, but lose enthusiasm along the way.
Don’t let this happen to you. The trick is to have a methodical and disciplined approach to blog management. You’ll want to start by reviewing a few metrics and then constructing your editorial calendar.
Below are a few ideas for identifying your blog topics and filling out your editorial calendar.
Start by reviewing your keyword research and look for low hanging fruit. Try to identify longtail keywords that have sufficient monthly volume but are not too competitive. From there, all you have to do is think of a blog topic that could naturally incorporate the keyword.
Review Authority Labs and look for keywords that are on the second and third page. Then think about a series of postings that would utilize those keywords.
If you are struggling to come up with topics, leverage BuzzSumo for ideas. You can use BuzzSumo to identify topics by keywords that have been shared across many different social media platforms.
Competitor Research and the Skyscraper Technique
Conduct some live searches and look for competitor content that is ranking well. Now, simply write a piece of content on the same topic, but make sure your piece of content is materially better. Keep users in mind first and ensure your content is longer, more thorough, designed better, and (generally speaking) more substantive. If you add on an outreach program to acquire backlinks, you would be executing Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique.
Managing Your Editorial Calendar
Now that you have your content ideas, it’s time to fill in your content calendar. I have taken the liberty to make the same calendar (template) we use at Rocket Pilots accessible. Check out this Editorial Calendar hosted with Google Sheets. It’s completely plug-and-play, and it should help you organize the production of all the great content you are going to produce.
Play to Your Strengths
If you absolutely despise writing and the thought of regular blog postings make you cringe, then you should definitely outsource this function. Part of being a good entrepreneur is knowing when you should handle a task yourself, delegate to a team member, or outsource. If writing is not your strength or interest, play a more strategic role in deciding on what content to produce and why, and then outsource the task. Just make sure you don’t hire on the low side of the market. Your content is a reflection of your brand and, while the grammar does not necessarily have to be formal, you will want to show expertise and experience on the topics being covered. It will be worth investing in a good copywriter familiar with SEO copywriting best practices.
What is the Ideal Length for a Blog Post?
The days of pumping out 300-word blog postings to influence site rankings are long gone. You will want to set 2,500 words as a target for each posting. I often see sites that produce four or five postings a month and each write-up is about 500 words. They would be so much better off writing one great posting a month of 2,500 words than five postings of 500 words each.
When it Comes to Blogging, It’s Definitely Quality over Quantity
Check out the chart from Serp IQ below. It tells the important story that content ranking on the first ten spots of the search engines range in word count from 2,000 to 2,500 with the first three positions being closer to 2,500 words.
But, don’t write just to fill in space. Keep your content full of substance and useful to readers.
Take the time to create an outline of your content prior to writing. If you plan your piece of content by defining the intro, subheadings, and summary, you will find it easier to complete your article. Also, be sure to spend time reviewing other similar articles on the internet and identify gaps that you can fill in. Spending the time to create an outline and planning out your article will set you up for success and ensure you produce a killer blog post!
My goal with this article was not to overwhelm you with information, but to instead provide you with five highly relevant SEO practices that are actionable. I encourage you to get to work with these items or sit down with your current SEO team to devise an action plan. You can use this blog post as a talking piece with your current SEO provider or as a discussion point if you are in the process of hiring an SEO company.
As always, if you have specific questions about these best practices or would like a complimentary site review and consultation from me, please don’t hesitate to contact me today.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Have you implemented any of these techniques? Take a moment to share your comments below!