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The ultimate FAQ for small business SEO.

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Search engine optimization raises a lot of questions among small business owners. SEO is a buzzword that everyone is using but do you know everything you need to know about it?

Check out these frequently asked questions that small business owners often have. This ultimate SEO FAQ will give you the knowledge you need to either start building your SEO on your own or to work with a consultant effectively.

I have created this in sections and provided links to each individual question. You can jump to a question that stands out to you in particular.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is the practice of making your website easier for Google and other search engines to crawl and index.

The goal of SEO is to rank your website for relevant keywords or search queries. When a user Googles something related to your business, you want to be in front of their eyes.

For example, if you are running an auto parts website, you want to rank for as many search queries related to auto parts as possible. When a user searches “new headlights for honda civic”, you want to pop up on the first page.

This is the essence of SEO. Your website needs to show up when a user searches for anything related to your brand, products, or services.

SEO is all of the work it takes to achieve those search rankings.

Why is SEO important for small businesses?

Search engine optimization is important because it drives more organic traffic to your website. Organic traffic is free and usually long-lasting. If you are ranking on Google for targeted keywords, your listing could rank on the first page for years.

This is better than paid traffic because you can continue to drive traffic from these rankings without paying a cent. The traffic might be free but the work is not. Hiring an SEO company will be a monetary investment. If you decide to go the DIY route, it will be a big investment of time.

SEO is important for small businesses because they don’t always have the extra budget to spend on paid traffic. Investing in SEO allows them to continuously drive traffic without spending huge sums of money.

How long does SEO take to show results?

In many cases, you will start to see some results within 6 months. By results, I don’t mean your traffic will jump from 100 users to 100000. In reality, you will start to see your pages rank on Google in general. Some of them will likely be on the front page but you will see many keywords that rank 5-10 pages deep.

SEO is a long term investment. It is a strategy that you have to continuously nurture and change.

You or your consultant should constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities to grow your SEO. This is usually done through content creation, targeting new keywords, and building links.

If you invest the time or money into your SEO, you will see results that can be long-lasting.

Where should a small business owner begin?

The first step is making sure your website is ready to rank on Google. It should be following best practices and not breaking any of Google’s rules. This can be accomplished by hiring a web designer or doing extensive research into web design best practices.

Once you have a website that is ready to go, you need to decide what products or services you want to prioritize in your efforts. You want to be sure that all of your efforts are going towards the right things.

Focus on ranking for products and services that you know you want to sell more of. You can talk about this with your consultant and develop a strategy.

Another huge part of SEO is link-building so you might benefit from taking note of friends, colleagues, or business partners who run blogs. When it comes to your link-building strategy, these are the people you want to contact first.

Are my competitors using SEO to get more business?

It is very likely that your competitors are using SEO to grow their business. You can check by typing in some of your keywords into Google. Check and see if any of your direct competitors show up.

Once you know which competitors are using search engine optimization, check out their website to see what they are doing. Make note of things you can do better than they do.

  • What are some keywords that your competitors are ranking for?
  • When you land on their website, what is the first headline you see?
  • Does your competitor run a blog and is it active?
  • Is their website easy to navigate?

Once you see what your competitors are doing, strategize to see how you can improve on what they are doing. This is a great tactic because it allows you to see what is working for your competitors.

If you hire a consultant, they will do competitor research to help find opportunities for you to grow.

How much does SEO cost?

The price can vary drastically from company to company. It all depends on the keywords you want to rank for and how much time and effort goes into ranking for those keywords.

Moz’s Rand Fishkin conducted a detailed survey of SEO companies around the US and Canada. One of the questions he asked was how much they charge a client monthly for SEO services. Check out these average monthly rates from SEO companies:

Survey Question: For those clients you service with ongoing/multi-month contracts, what is the average client’s monthly billing?

  • 10% — less than $500
  • 27% — $500-1,000
  • 29% — $1,000-2,500
  • 20% — $2,500-5,000
  • 15% — $5,000-10,000

There is a lot of variation here but over 37% of companies charge under $1000 and over 85% of companies charge under $5000. The best way to find out how much SEO is going to cost is to call a firm and discuss pricing with them.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the strategy for getting your website in front of a local audience. Your main goal as a small business is to get your name in the “local pack”. This is the list of business search results that Google gives you when you search a relevant keyword.

Local SEO for small businesses is very important. The better you perform on search engines, the more customers you will have.

Here are some tactics for growing your local SEO:

  • Claim your Google My Business listing and fill out all of the relevant information.
  • Ask your happy clients to leave you a positive review on Google. You should respond to all positive and negative reviews to show that your business engages with customers.
  • Add your business to as many relevant local business directories as possible. There are companies that automate this but you shouldn’t go that route. Your best bet is hiring an SEO company to manually submit your business or taking the time to do it yourself. Local directories are a free way to get your name in front of potential customers.
  • Create content that is targeted specifically at your local audience and optimize it.
  • Find localize keywords that are relevant to your business and implement them on your website or content.

FOR FURTHER READING:

5 local SEO tips to grow your small business.  — This article gives you more information for growing your business with local SEO strategies.

How does an SEO company work?

Companies specializing in search engine optimization are in charge of developing a strategy to rank your business on search engines. Reputable companies use white-hat (honest, ethical, and in compliance with Google) techniques to build your SEO.

The company should discuss your goals with you and figure out exactly what you want to rank for. After figuring this out, they should give you an overview of all the tactics they are going to use to accomplish their goals.

Once you have a scope of work in place, the company will set up a monthly retainer fee. If you are investing in on-going SEO, you should get monthly reports on your growth. If you are doing a short term project, you should receive a report at the end of the project. This reporting is critical to ensure your money was well spent.

If an SEO company ever approaches you with something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful what company you work with because using black-hat (unethical and against Google guidelines) techniques could cause your website to lose rankings permanently and be flagged by Google.

What are the essential SEO tactics?

There are a lot of different SEO tactics that are used to grow your search presence.

Keyword research and targeting: This is arguably the most important part of SEO aside from ensuring your website works properly. You need to find keywords that have a decent search volume and low ranking difficulty. You should target keywords that are not heavily dominated by huge brands. Carving out a niche and ranking for long tail keywords is best. Your consultant should be well versed in keyword research. If you want to give it a try to see what it is all about, check out some of these tools.

Ubersuggest (100% free service)
SEMRush (Paid service but allows limited free use)
Google Keyword Planner (Free service but you need a Google AdWords account)

These tools will give you an idea of how keyword research works.

On-page SEO: This is ensuring that all of your page content is optimized. Your pages should have an easy to read structure, meta descriptions, clear titles, and readable content. These tactics are used to help users and search engine crawlers better understand your page. Your meta description and title are what show up on the search result for your page.

Link-building: One of the most important factors in the Google ranking algorithm is how many links point back to your page. Link-building is when you seek out other websites to link back to your page. This is often done by asking blog owners to link to your blog if it adds value to their content. Your consultant should have a strategy for building links.

Content marketing: This is a very important tactic that most successful websites participate in. You should create great content for your website that is specifically targetted at your audience. You should use keywords in this content so you can rank. Google prefers websites that stay updated and fresh with new content. You can create blog posts, videos, infographics, e-books, and more.

Technical SEO: This is the most tricky part of SEO. Technical SEO is ensuring that your website has all of the proper backend configurations to be successful. This covers page speed, proper use of redirects, implementing schema markup, fixing any server-side issues, and more. This is the part that takes SEO experts the longest to learn.

There are many other tactics that consultants use to boost search rankings but these are the top 5.

What hurts SEO?

There are many different factors that can hurt your website when it comes to ranking on Google.

  • Your website is not mobile friendly. Google now looks at the mobile version of your website before your desktop version. If your website is not mobile friendly, your rankings will suffer.
  • You have broken links that result in 404 errors. This is bad for the user experience. Be sure all of your links are linking to active pages. If you have deleted a page, you should redirect the old link to a new piece of content. You want to avoid broken links at all costs. This should be one of the first factors an SEO consultant checks for.
  • Your website loads slow. Google looks at the speed of your website in order to provide the best user experience possible. If your website takes over 3-5 seconds to load, this could hurt your search rankings. You can use tools like GTMetrix or Google PageSpeed to check your page load times.
  • You give Google access to pages that don’t need to rank. You should be prioritizing all of your important, content-rich pages. If Google is wasting “crawl budget” on unimportant pages, this could hurt your SEO. This is something your consultant can fix easily by using noindex attributes.
  • Using blackhat methods that are against Google’s rules. If a consultant ever tries to sell you something that sounds fishy, it probably is. If you use methods that are against the rules, this could damage your domain for an extended period of time, making it almost impossible to perform well on search engines.

Some of these are factors that you can check yourself, without the help of a consultant. If you notice that your website loads slow, isn’t mobile responsive, or is full of broken links, it’s time to get to work.

What kind of companies benefit the most from SEO?

Any company can benefit from SEO. If users are searching for your products or services through Google, you should be investing in SEO.

The most common use cases are real estate, e-commerce, service industries (plumbing, landscaping, etc.), restaurants, and brick & mortar businesses.

If your competitors are benefitting from Google, you should be trying to benefit as well. Take some time to assess whether your customers are using Google or Bing to find businesses like yours.

How do I know if I need SEO?

If you are selling products or services that people are searching for on Google, it is in your best interest to invest in SEO. Check out some of the stats below about Google searches. They will give you some insight as to how important your Google search presence is.

These stats are from HubSpot:

60% of American adults use smartphones or tablets to search for local product and service information.
78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases.
1 in 3 smartphone searches was made right before a store visit.
76% of local searches result in a phone call.

You can check out the full article here: 16 Stats That Prove the Importance of Local SEO 

These stats prove that local search is extremely important and worth investing in. If your business is not ranking on Google or seeing any leads from your website, it’s time to think about search engine optimization.

Do I need a website for SEO?

In most cases, yes. You do need a website for effective SEO. A website gives you the ability to own your brand’s image. You can also set up a blog and create as many content-rich pages as you would like. The more pages or blog posts that you have, the more chances there are to rank on Google.

Google does give you the ability to claim a business listing using Google My Business but this is only a small part of your local SEO strategy. If you are serious about growing your search presence you need to claim your local listing and build a website that is optimized for SEO.

How can website design affect SEO?

The design and layout of your website can have a profound effect on your search engine rankings. It correlates directly with your bounce rate. The bounce rate is the percentage of users that arrived on your website and immediately left without navigating to another page.

If a user lands on your website and doesn’t immediately get the information they need, they are likely to bounce. They will also bounce if your website is confusing to navigate or provides a bad user experience.

If Google notices that your bounce rates are high, they will lower your rankings. A high bounce rate tells Google that users are not finding the information they need. They will fill your spot with a website that successfully answers a user’s search query.

You need to ensure that your website is clean, well laid out, and informative from the start. You or your SEO consultant should always look for ways to lower your bounce rate.

You can measure your bounce rate with Google Analytics. We will dive further into that later in this article.

What is the best CMS for SEO?

The opinion on the best content management system for SEO varies from expert to expert. In my opinion, I think WordPress is the best for SEO because of the number of plugins you can use to boost your SEO and page speed.

You can also make changes and test new ideas with ease. If you want to test new content, you simply add the new content to the website via the user-friendly editor. There is no need to edit hundreds of lines of code.

WordPress is also beneficial because it gives you all of the tools that you need to run a blog. Blogging is one of the best ways to boost your SEO and attract new leads.

Check out this article about why WordPress is the best content management system to power your business website.

What is content marketing in SEO?

Content marketing is creating blog posts, videos, infographics, e-books, or any kind of content with the goal of promoting your business or attracting new leads.

This type of marketing is so important for SEO because it draws more traffic to your website. Running a blog is the best way to rank your website on search engines. Each individual post is a new opportunity to rank on Google for multiple keywords.

You can implement other types of content like videos and infographics into your blog posts to enrich your content offering. Google loves websites that offer different forms of fresh content. Investing time or money into content is a great way to boost SEO and draw more business to you.

Do I need a blog for SEO?

Owning a blog is not 100% required to perform well but it is highly recommended. Every blog post that you make is a new opportunity for your website to appear on Google.

Blogging also helps drive traffic to your website. If you have a very successful blog post, the visitors that land on that post will oftentimes navigate through your website. Some of them will hopefully become clients or buyers.

You can operate a website that ranks well without a blog but your chances of ranking a dramatically increased by running a quality blog.

Your SEO consultant will coach you on blogging and help develop a content marketing strategy. You can also hire content creators if you do not have the time to write posts yourself. Either way, publish fresh content and Google will reward you.

How does social media affect SEO?

Social media is a ranking signal for Google. If your content has shares across all the different social media platforms, Google is more likely to rank that content. This shows Google and the other search engines that the post is popular and helpful.

The same thing goes for your business. It doesn’t just apply to content. Google will reward you if your business is active on social media. They want to see that your company is engaging with customers and building a brand.

Be sure to invest time in to social media platforms that are relevant to your market. Try to figure out where your target market is. If you are a business to business company, you might try LinkedIn or Alignable. If you are a business to consumer company, you should try Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Either way, your social media presence matters for SEO. Spend some extra time growing your social following or discuss strategies with your SEO or marketing consultant.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a totally free website tracking software from Google. It gives you valuable, detailed insights into how visitors interact with your website.

Once you have Google Analytics set up, you can view a myriad of different metrics. On the home page, you will see this very simple set of metrics.

Users: The number of users that showed up on your website in the specific time frame.
Sessions: The number of sessions initiated by users on your website. This is the definition from Google: Sessions represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the users to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity is attributed to a new session.
Bounce Rate: The percentage of users that arrived on your website and left immediately without navigating to another page.
Session Duration: The average length of time your users spend on your website.

All of these metrics are extremely important but Google Analytics provides A LOT more information.

Here are some of the other useful bits of information Google Analytics provides: 

  • The types of devices being used to access your website. GA will tell you the percentage of mobile, tablet, and desktop visits.
  • How your users found your website. You can see exactly where your users came from, giving you the power to track how well your efforts are paying off.
  • Which pages on your website are performing the best. You can see individual page analytics which gives you insight into your highest performing pages.
  • You can see the demographics of users, by enabling the demographics feature. This will tell you basic information about all of your visitors such as age, gender, basic interests, location, and specific device types. This feature can help you develop a more specific target market. To use demographics, you have to notify your users. You should also include this in your website’s privacy policy. Your digital marketing consultant will be able to navigate this.

There are many other types of tracking tools in Google Analytics. Every website should be connected to GA to track success.

Does Google Analytics boost SEO?

Simply integrating Google Analytics into your website will not boost your SEO. However, using the information that GA gives you will help you develop a better SEO strategy. It will also help you understand how you are performing and if your SEO efforts are paying off.

How do I track my results?

There are many different ways to track your results. Your consultant should have a system in place to set goals and track their progress.

Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking results but in order to track more search engine specific information, you will need different tools. You can use tools like SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs to track your SEO progress. All of these are premium tools but they are worth the money if you know how to use them.

If you are working with a consultant, they will likely use these tools to track your progress. All of them are user-friendly but require training to use effectively.

Should I hire an SEO company?

This is a question that most small business owners find themselves asking. If you have extra time aside from your business to learn SEO, go for it. If you want to focus your time and energy on tasks that make money, you should hire an expert to manage your business SEO.

Running an effective SEO campaign takes knowledge, patience, and skill. It is much more than finding a few keywords, slapping them on your website, and waiting. Search engine optimization is a constant learning curve and it takes continuous effort to maintain.

If you are looking for a consultant, find a small business SEO company that specializes in businesses like yours.

Conclusion

I hope this helps answers some fundamental questions about small business SEO. There are many facets of the practice and getting it right can mean BIG returns on investment for your business!

If you are looking for an SEO consultant who listens, helps develop goals, and gets results, learn more about our services here at Noctem Media!

Are we missing a question that you have? Ask in the comments and we will add it to the post!

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Kyle WeekleyThe ultimate FAQ for small business SEO.

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