Saturday, 19 July 2014

As an entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is critical to your business. When done correctly, search can be your biggest referrer of traffic. However, if it’s done wrong, it can cause a debilitating loss of traffic. In this post, we’re going to cover the SEO basics that you need to know to ensure that search optimization for your business is done correctly from the start.

Keyword Research

Keyword research should be the first step of any online marketing strategy as it creates the foundation. It doesn’t just affect your website’s SEO—it affects the keywords you use in your social media profiles, content marketing, and paid advertising.

There are lots of in-depth ways to do keyword research, but most small businesses do not have to deep dive into them. Your goal should be to find a few good keyword phrases for the main pages on your website, i.e. the homepage and your products/services pages.

Let’s look at the keyword research for Online Classifieds. You can start by entering Online Classified Advertisement and a few variations into Google Keyword Planner. To use this tool, you will need to create a free Google AdWords account. You don’t have to create an ad – just sign up to access it.

Here, you’ll see the search volume for your chosen keywords, as well as the competition level for them. There’s no doubt that Online Classified Advertisement and Classifieds have enough traffic to make them the main focus keyword for your business.

But what about the other pages on your website? This tool will also give you related ideas based on the keywords you entered.

If you’re stuck on keyword ideas, try doing a little competitor research by going to sites/businesses similar to yours and see what they are using on their website. A good tool for this is the Moz toolbar for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers. Once installed, you can go to any website, click on it, and see the SEO optimization for that page.

On-Site Optimization

Once you’ve found your keywords, your next goal is to optimize your web pages and content for those keywords. To do this, you will want to make sure the important keyword phrase for each page appears in the following places.

  1. The SEO Title – This is the most important on-site optimization element. Not only that, but it shows up in search results, in the tab when someone is viewing a particular page, in the bookmark when people save your page on their browser, and in the social share of the page if they tweet it, like it, or bookmark it online. In short, it’s seen just about everywhere that page is referenced.
  2. The Meta Description – While this isn’t important as far as ranking for your keyword phrase, it does show up in almost as many places as the SEO title, which makes it important regardless.
  3. The Content – You don’t want to go overboard and mention your vital keyword phrase in a way that seems unnatural. But you do want to make sure the content on your page represents the main keyword phrase and is mentioned within it. At bare minimum, it should be in the opening paragraph on a page. Also, try to use it in a header tag (like H2, H3 tags).
  4. The Image ALT Tag – If you have an image on your page (which you should), include the main keyword in the image’s ALT tag. So if you have a photo of yourself on the homepage, ALT tag the photo with your name + your keyword like John Smith, Freelance Web Designer.
Also, be sure to consider on-site optimization for your social media profiles. Primarily, you will want to add your main keyword phrase to your social profile’s about section, introduction, or bio. Also try to use your main keyword phrases naturally in status updates. Both will help more people discover your business through social media.

Tips to Avoid Penalized

Don’t over-optimize on your website or your social media profiles. The most common form of over-optimization is keyword stuffing, or using your keyword phrase an unnatural amount of times on a page. This is generally frowned upon by Google and could hurt your search rankings if discovered by Google’s algorithm changes.

 Local Search Optimization

If your business has a local focus, such as a physical location that customers visit or offers services within a specific area, you will also want to optimize your website for that location. Go back to your keyword research and see what locations you can optimize your pages for.

Depending on the location and your keywords, you may want to broaden your phrases. In the above example, you can see that we removed freelance web designer to get more search volume for local areas like Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale.
Once your website is optimized for local search, you should continue to build local visibility for yourself by creating listings for your business on local search, directory, and review sites. Some of the most popular include Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Places, Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Trip Advisor. You can refer to Get Listed to find more local search networks based on your industry and location.

Link Building

Link building can be tough and time consuming, depending on the nature of your business, but it is necessary. The easiest way to make sure you are getting quality links is to think of not just SEO value, but to think of traffic value—you want your link to be on a website where you know it will get some clicks.

One of the keys to ranking for your target keywords is anchor text. This is where you use your target keywords with your link. As a Online Classified Advertisement , you will want to mix it up by using anchor text like freelance web designer, your name, your business, website,, etc.

There are tons of different link building strategies out there. Here are the easiest ones to start with.
  • Business Partners – Do you work with suppliers, vendors, or other businesses? If you have a good relationship with them, they have a website, and they have a partner page, see if they would be interested in linking to your website. You might need to create a partner page of your own to link back to them, but it could be worthwhile.
  •  Guest Blogging – If you write quality content for your business blog, you can write quality content for other blogs in your industry. Aim for those whose audience is filled with your target customer base, and those that have a lot of social sharing/engagement. You will generally get a link back to your website in the author bio.
  •  Quality Directories – Not just any directories, but ones that are well recognized and respected. These include ones like DMOZ (free to request, but impossible for most to get into), Yahoo Directories ($299 per year), and Best of the Web (starting at $149). Industry specific directories are valuable as well, like Access Dance for the dance industry or The Knot for the wedding industry. Basically, you want to go for directories that don’t allow just anyone in, regardless of payment. Also, look for directories that already rank for your keyword phrase and list your business on them.
Tips to Avoid Penalties

Don’t buy packages that try to sell you on cheap, bulk links, as these are always low quality. Don’t try to build a ton of links all at once—this is a big tip off. And just like on-site optimization, you don’t want to over-optimize by building too many links with the same anchor text.

 Tools of the Trade
  • Google Keyword Planner (Free) – Use this to perform keyword research
  • Google Webmaster Tools (Free) – Use this to get on-site optimization tips, see your backlinks, monitor your site’s top content and keywords, get messages from Google about your site’s health, and much more.
  • Google Analytics (Free) – Learn more about your traffic and website visitors, including how many come from search engines and by what keywords.
  •  Link Prospector– Discovers link building opportunities for you based on type of link and keywords.
In the Nutshell

There is a lot to learn when it comes to SEO, but these are the basics that will help you get going in the right direction, or at least help you make sure you are paying for good service. For further research, consider reading Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

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