Google continues to get better at evaluating external clues to determine the value of a website and thus its relevancy to searchers. Small business owners can control a lot of these things themselves by having an active social media presence, providing exceptional service and encouraging customers to leave reviews online, hosting or participating in community events, and writing for publications in their industry. Does that mean that the role of an SEO is diminishing or, dare I say it, no longer necessary to achieve first page rankings on the SERPs?
No, it doesn’t.
First of all, the practices mentioned previously are becoming more important but there’s an increasing number of ways to maximize their value. Here are a few examples:
Community Events – Hosting a community event can be a great way to get your business some exposure, but without appropriate marketing, it won’t get the attendance that attracts press. An SEO can help promote your event in such a way that you earn links, gain traffic to your site, and create social conversation around your brand.
Publishing Articles – Getting an article published online can drive traffic and create awareness on its own, but a dedicated SEO could amplify it through social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, give it visibility on your website and through email marketing to your leads, use it to connect with prominent industry influencers through Twitter or email, and potentially even find ways to repurpose it (as an infographic or by compiling it with other articles to make an e-book, for instance) to give it a new audience.
Review Management – Getting reviews is just one piece of the puzzle. SEOs can leverage reviews to make sure they show up with your website in the SERPs, building confidence in searchers and boosting click-through. There are also strategies for managing reviews, particularly when it comes to responding to negative reviews, that can help your brand gain even more value from them.
It’s also important to remember that some of the most important aspects of SEO are related to technical aspects of a website that most small business owners don’t understand or don’t have the time to learn. Here’s a bit of what I mean:
On-page Optimization – The core of technical SEO, this refers to the authoring of title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt tags, appropriate organization of heading tags, and URL optimization, all with a keyword strategy that has been researched to target high volume keywords with relatively low competition. Without this, the search engines may struggle to understand what your website is about, which can doom your chances of getting on the first page of results.
HTML Markup – Related to on-page optimization, HTML markup is a method of coding certain parts of your site to communicate directly to the search engines. Most commonly for local businesses, this means marking up your address, phone number, and business name. This helps the search engines know that you’re local and gives you increased odds of ranking when a searcher is near your business.
Website Optimization – Google is giving more and more weight to certain aspects of website design. For example, websites built with responsive design that function just as well on mobile devices as desktops get a boost in the rankings. There is also site speed to consider – websites that load slowly are less likely to get top rankings, but good SEOs know the tools and tricks to increase load speeds.
In addition to these, a quality SEO will monitor ranking performance, stays on top of Google’s many algorithm changes, and research competitors for link-building opportunities. Things can change quickly in the world of SEO and small business owners are often too wrapped up in running their business (understandably) to put much time into keeping themselves informed.
The truth is, small business owners should be doing everything mentioned in the first paragraph while their SEO manages everything else. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see an increase in your rankings and a resulting bump in organic traffic to your site, which can make a huge difference in the number of leads and clients. The investment is almost always worthwhile.