SEO Quickstart Guide

Scott FellDeveloper
CERTIFIED EXPERT
I have over 30 years experience in Sales, Marketing, Technology and Developing solutions.
Published:
Edited by: Rob Jurd
Small business owners are often overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to know to create a successful marketing campaign. One area that can be incredibly confusing is SEO, or search engine optimization. My quick start guide offers tips on how you can start implementing SEO today.

SEO Quickstart Guide

SEO is a practice. You can learn the mechanics, but you have to do the work. Ensure the site structure is well-formed, research content, write content, track what you are doing, and constantly promote.

For me, when somebody mentions they need help with their SEO, I think in terms of both on-site and off-site tactics to include:
  • The site structure
  • The content
  • Business and local data is correct
  • Link Building
  • PR - Public Relations
  • Pay per click advertising
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Social Media and Video

The site structure, the foundation for a good site

Think of it as a high school term paper. Each page should be on something specific, not many topics. The structure of the page should be semantically like a term paper where you have a Topic (H1 tag), several subtopics (H2 tags), and supporting content (in paragraph tags) for each sub-topic.
 
The structure of a page will play a role in the search engines "spidering" and understanding your site. Your HTML should be well-formed. Generally, the HTML is already in good order if you use a major CMS like WordPress or a service like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace. Just be aware of where you copy content from, as it may contain hidden HTML. You can use The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) validator to check your site's HTML markup. https://validator.w3.org/

The content, your website's heartbeat.

Content is the most crucial part. If you do not have content, then there is no reason to have a site. Google wants to see relevant, well-written, and informative content - this doesn't mean the content needs to be very long (it can be), but it does need to be interesting and unique (beyond just keywords).
 
Content will be the leading player in the search results, so you need to create content that will resonate with your audience and not just fill space.
 
Researching topics and keywords, what does my audience want?
Google makes money by having people use its services because that is how they get paid: Adsense and Adwords. Google wants to know what you want and will give relevant results. So, research what your audience would be looking for by using a keyword research tool. You can start with a seed keyword but then build out related keywords and phrases.
 
Good keywords can go a long way, but do not think you can just plug them in and expect good results. You need quality content that is helpful to your audience if you want relevant traffic (since Google wants its users to be happy). Collaborate with a few industry experts in your niche to see what they recommend.
 
Quality written content that is informative, relevant, and valuable for your audience will keep them on the site longer. I highly recommend hiring a writer or writing service. This is the one place I see small business SEO fall off as we often do not put enough value on this. Everybody says they will write their content and never do, and you end up with many sites that contain stagnant content. Just a little extra effort and perhaps money to pay for this will put you ahead of most of the competition. There will always be a few competitors that will be hard to beat, and this is not always easy in some verticals where competition is heavy.
 

Your Business Data and Local Directories

This is crucial to your site's authority. If you are not showing up where people would search for you, then they may never find you or even know that you exist.
 
Is your business name, address, phone number (NAP) correct in the major directories? The major business directories feed data to each other, and major search engines use this data.
 
There are sites that can assist you in making sure this data is correct:
There are competitors to these, and researching them and their differences will help you understand why some of this is a sham in my opinion. There are sites that will update your listings as long as you pay the monthly fee. Once you stop, the listing goes away. The "gotcha" is those sites have the biggest reach. Do your research and figure out what you feel is optimal.
 
The main sites to at least manually make sure your business data is up to date include: 

Link Building

This does not mean pay for a link-building site that will get you thousands of links to bad sites. It means having compelling content that others will want to use as a resource. Several good sites that link back to you are worth ten times having thousands of spam links.
 
Good, high-quality links can help your site rise through the search engines as they pass "link juice". Unfortunately, the bad links (of which there are many) will drag down your site's authority and send the wrong signals to the search engines. I use SEMRush, where one of the reports tells me which links are harmful, and this is done on a scale from 1 to 100 on toxicity. You have to use your judgment on how to proceed based on your situation.
 
The best practice for link building is not getting too aggressive on trying to build links. It is about providing value to your audience and industry. One place we often forget to link is our internal site. As you are writing content, look for places where you can link to other pages where it makes sense.
 

Pay per click advertising campaigns

While not part of organic SEO, this is an important sector to understand. Done incorrectly, you can burn through a few thousand dollars and have nothing to show for it.
 
Don't get involved in this until you have at least a couple of years of experience with the other parts of SEO. This part of SEO is evolving rapidly, so stay up on it and do not spend all your time learning about it, but make sure you understand the basics.
 
Advertising, in general, can be worth it if done correctly. I see a lot of small business owners waste a lot of money on PPC campaigns. For this quick start guide, I am only mentioning this as an option. I generally advise against taking one of the "Free $100" offers because it is a false sense of getting something. Even in a small market, it takes a decent budget of about $1,000 to get enough leads to pay for the campaign. In more heavily dense populations or competitive verticals, your budget can be a lot more. 
 

PR - Public Relations

You will not find this in most SEO how-to's, but it ties into link building. You have to spend some energy letting others know how good you are, and you have to do it in the right way. You can't go to a news source and give them your selling spiel. Instead, you have to understand what appeals (not what you think appeals) to their readers/viewers/listeners. Getting linked from a media outlet will have a strong impact. 
 
PR is not just a campaign; it is about managing your brand. For example, when you get a review from Google, take the time to log into your https://business.google.com account and reply to those reviews, especially when they take the time to write something other than just giving you stars.
 
How you handle your negative reviews and respond to them can be a powerful statement for new prospects as they research doing business with you.
 

PR campaign ideas for a small business

  • Get your business on the local news. This can be done with an interesting story of you giving back to your community, or it could be something like having all of your employees dress up in costume for some holiday and handing out candy to kids. Many businesses do this around Halloween. This is a great way to get the exposure that you can measure.
  • Write an article for your industry trade magazine. These are hard to break into, but it will be a great source of links and PR if you do.
  • Cold call related magazines/blogs to let them know you have written something interesting. If they like it, they may link it or write about the company.
  • Write a press release and send it to local and trade outlets. If you have something newsworthy (good or bad), this can work. You can also look into pushing your press releases up on news sites.
  • Just ask! If people are talking about your company, find out who they are, thank them and ask if they would be willing to do a link exchange.
  • When speaking at an event, mention your own business and how it relates to the talk you are there for.
  • PR is an important factor in your SEO because it gets people talking about your company, people search for you online, and they land on your site. That is a "vote" for your site. It is also a way to build direct links organically.

Social Media

Growing your social media presence is a great way to build more links and help with on-site SEO.
 
Make sure you have the basics of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest accounts for your site where it makes sense for your product or service. You can't just set them up and then ignore them. On top of that, you need to post meaningful updates regularly. The best time to post updates is on weekdays between 10:00-11:00 am and 3:00-4:00 pm. Facebook has a business suite https://business.facebook.com that will show you statistics about your posts. Experiment with timings and see what works for you.
 
I know social media is getting some bad press, but your customers and potential customers are using social media. It is an effective tool to get the word out and generate interest and links to your site. The key is to be mindful of your audience.
 

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is about bringing people to your site. It is a method of attracting visitors by producing content others want, need or would find valuable. As these people consume that content, they learn about you and become potential consumers of your product/service.
You have probably heard the term "content is king" or "content marketing." That is because it is! This is a large portion of SEO and gets people to your site.
 
Inbound marketing means you have an active blog on your site that has posts about current trends/events/products/services in your industry.
It also means that you share helpful articles from other blogs in your industry and add your own insights.
 
It also means you share videos and infographics that relate to your industry and position your company as a resource or leader in the space.
You can also develop an email newsletter to target prospects who may be interested in what you do. This is another great way of building links and driving traffic to your site.
 
An excellent example of this is I am suggesting to go to hubspot.com. Why? Because they are an inbound marketing company and practice what they preach. Read through the blog https://blog.hubspot.com/. They have good articles on many aspects of marketing and running your website. It is compelling and often shows up in search.
 
Sign up for one of their downloads and notice over the next few days how they use retargeting to try and bring you back. Sign out of their site (assuming you created a free account). Come back after a week and notice their messaging to you. They really do a great job in putting the bait out there and processing you through a funnel. They have some free tools. For a smaller business, they are a place to learn from, probably not a good fit for paid services until your spending budget gets up there.

Conclusion

SEO may seem like something magic that you can’t do on your own; however, you can. It takes a lot of work, and following my quick start guide; you will be off to a good start. Be prepared to spend a little money on tools like SEMRush and  LSIGraph and writing tools to assist you. Also, be ready to spend a lot of time learning these tools and reading up on my suggested sites. There is no instant gratification here. Over time, everything I have covered will seem like basic information. Remember, SEO is a practice. You can learn the mechanics, but you have to do the work.

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Scott FellDeveloper
CERTIFIED EXPERT
I have over 30 years experience in Sales, Marketing, Technology and Developing solutions.

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