Post by Jeffery Shipman

Small business owners are acutely aware of the power of Google.

They understand intuitively that a large percentage of online experiences start with a search engine query.

For this reason, they jealousy pursue top rankings in Google’s search engine because they know achieving one of these spots will produce a steady stream of potential customers that will help their business grow.

There is a dark side to search engine optimization that most small business owners have also experienced. Many low-quality firms offer SEO services that don’t actually work. This leaves business owners feeling ripped off.

Additionally, many have tried to conduct SEO campaigns themselves and have not experienced success. This further complicates the issue as they start to believe SEO is not effective and become extremely frustrated.

Small Business SEO

The data suggests that Google will remain the dominant player in the search engine market for quite some time. Recent revenues show they have near monopolistic power over the search space and that Yahoo and Bing have been unable to mount a significant competitive attack. While this may frustrate small business owners who have not been able to penetrate the rankings, it strengthens the business case that they need a strong digital marketing strategy capable of producing a consistent lead flow from the search engine.

Small Business SEO

In this article, we will outline several practical steps that a small business owner can take to  transform a failed blogging strategy to a successful search engine optimization campaign that really helps grow their business.

Write Longer Blog Posts

The first step of the strategy involves recognizing that the needs of searchers are different this year than they were five years ago. Many webmasters and business owners are still writing blog posts that are short and fluffy.

Recent data suggests that the average page one ranking has over 1,500 words on it. This is an extreme increase over just a few years ago and demonstrates that Google’s algorithm is a living mechanism. In fact, they will make several hundred adjustments to their mathematics each year.

Write Longer Blog Posts

Any business owner will be tempted to meet the length requirements of these blog post by adding in fluff. This is a bad idea. Google has also become much more skilled at identifying thin content from useful content that users actually find helpful.

The term “searcher intent” has become commonplace in the SEO industry over the last year. This is jargon used to describe content that deeply satisfies the needs of the searcher and keeps them on the page for a significant amount of time, a behavioral measure that signifies high-quality content.

Many believe that Google uses time on site, or dwell time, as a footprint for high-quality content, and the conversation quickly turns to user experience in addition to content length and depth. Indeed, we have seen the UI of websites change dramatically over the last few years and small business owners need to keep up.

Modern blogs are free from clutter often lacking a left-hand or right-hand navigation section. With ample white space, they are easier on the eye. Fonts are also growing larger and line spacing tends to be bigger for high traffic sites.

The ratio of images is also changing as webmasters attempt to make their pages much more visually appealing. It is common to see long-form log posts with a hundred images to support the key concepts and data being presented to the user. If this all sounds like it will take much more time to produce, that is correct.

Many small business owners are confronting the reality that they need to spend more time on content production as the requirements are more difficult than ever before.

Every Post Needs Backlinks

Ironically, backlinks are still a significant portion of the promotion strategy. While many have declared that backlinking is dead, there’s ample data to support the notion that backlinks are a critical factor in the Google search algorithm. Indeed, a review of page one rankings will show that even the best content, with stunning images and well-researched topics, will have specific backlinks to that page.

Every Post Needs Backlinks

The reality is that two million blog posts are published to the internet each day. How in the world will a small business blog on an obscure domain actually gain traction against this backdrop of such enormous proportions?

Well, every piece of content that is launched needs to have a backlink acquisition strategy. Many small business owners fail on this portion of the search engine optimization journey and think that great content will promote itself. It simply will not.

Many SEO experts recommend spending 20% of your overall digital marketing efforts on content production and the other 80% on content promotion. This means that you might spend six months after a blog is produced promoting it with backlinks and other avenues to help it achieve a strong ranking position.

Strong Ranking Position

Make matters more complicated, not all backlinks are created equal. Pursuing a low-cost, spammy, backlink is not an excellent strategy.

There once was a day when these links helped improve rankings, but since then, Google has developed filters and detection mechanisms for understanding if a link acquisition pattern is unnatural.

When Google believes links have been acquired in an unnatural fashion, they are discounted in real time. If the violation is severe enough, they will issue a manual penalty, which will cause an immediate drop in rankings and possible exclusion from the Google database.

Use Social and Email to Amplify

The third strategy that small business owners need to consider when transforming their digital marketing campaign is to view social media and email marketing in a coordinated fashion. Many marketers see these various activities in different silos. This is a mistake.

The majority of professionals prefer to communicate via email, and email remains one of the top used technologies today. While this is not sexy, it is a reliable way to pull an audience back to your website and alert them to new content.

Use Social and Email to Amplify

Small business owners should be passively building their email list via pop-ups on their website. There are various strategies for convincing people to surrender an email address such as free giveaways and white papers. This method is excellent for procuring a list of potential audience members who are truly interested in your topic.

Truly Interested in Your Topic

Research has shown that these approaches have a very high return on investment if you feed your audience good content on a continual basis.

Social media works in much the same way as email marketing. A strong social media profile will help you build a list of followers who are eager to consume your content. You can view these communities, along with your email list, as an excellent way to amplify new content and gain traction online.

Retargeting with PPC

The final trick for small business owners striving to re-energize their SEO campaign is to use retargeting PPC advertising to drive higher conversion. Yes, PPC can be used in conjunction with SEO in a very cool fashion.

Many small business owners don’t like pay-per-click advertising because it’s too expensive.  Indeed, there can be great waste associated with a poorly run pay-per-click advertising campaign on Google Ads.

Retargeting, on the other hand, is very economical as it severely limits who ads are shown to. The technology underneath retargeting is based on cookies that are placed for every user who lands on your website.

Retargeting with PPC

Because Google’s reach is so large, and so many websites are part of their display advertising network, as users move between seemingly unrelated domains, Google can actually track their movements and customize the ads that will be shown to them.

This means that you can show ads on nytimes.com to a very specific subset of the internet population who have previously visited your website. Those visitors who originated through organic channels  would be considered organic conversions even if PPC retargeting was the last touch (assuming First Touch Attribution).

Conclusions

There are many good reasons small business owners have become skeptical of search engine optimization firms.You’ve had poor experiences or you’ve tried your hand at SEO yourself and did not achieve the desired result.

A modern search engine optimization campaign will include much longer blog posts that are well-researched and presented with a user experience that keeps users on the page.

Backlink acquisition is still a critical factor for every single page, and many business owners underpower this portion of the digital marketing campaign. Social media, email marketing, and PPC retargeting will drive a broader reach and stronger conversion.

Taken together, any small business can use these strategies to transform a failed blogging campaign into a strong digital marketing lead generation discipline.