A DIY SEO Guide for Small Business Owners

A basic intro to SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing a web site’s organic ranking in search engines for the phrases people are likely typing into search, when they are actively searching for the products and services you offer.

Getting noticed and found online when someone is actively searching for what you offer just makes good business sense. It is why SEO is so vital to the success of your business.

Why SEO?

In a Google study, it has actually been revealed that 70% of all purchases involve some form of online “Pre shopping” research. This is the part of the buying process where someone educates themselves on the product they want to buy. They may be learning about alternatives, researching reviews, searching for coupons or specials, or comparison shopping all before making the buying decision. It relies heavily on search and the online reputation of a business.

Another recent study has also shown that people are about 12 times more likely to buy your products or services after finding you through local search than all other kinds of advertising methods. Again, this all comes down to the fact that when someone is online searching for your products or services… they are typically ready to buy, which is not always the case when consumers are exposed to other advertising methods.

Think of it this way… if I type in any of the following into a search engine… am I likely doing so because I’m ready to buy soon?

London Ontario Web Designer

Moving Company London Ontario

Mennonite Furniture London Ontario

Carpet Cleaning London Ontario

London Ontario Thai Restaurant

I would suggest to you it is completely logical that the vast majority of people who search for the above terms are doing so because they are ready to buy and are researching their options.

As you can see, there are some very strong arguments to be made that SEO is able to provide a high return on investment when compared to other marketing investments.

Onsite SEO and Offsite SEO

If you already have a website, most professional web developers include a certain amount of onsite search engine optimization with their services. This should include the following:

  • Making sure the words people might type in search to find you are included throughout the site
  • Creating a keyword optimized title tag for your page
  • Making sure search engines can easily locate and index all pages of your web site
  • Help you get your website indexed in search engines

There are actually over 200 factors Google considers when it displays its search results… and many of them are offsite. This is where many web sites require improvement to achieve the organic search results they desire.

One of the most important offsite SEO factors is inbound links to your web site. If my website has a good reputation and has content relevant to your site, and I link to you… Google considers this like a recommendation. A vote that I think your page is a great resource for those who visit my website.

The problem is that most small business owners don’t take the time to take the steps required that will naturally help attract these inbound links to your website. This is one of the top reasons that websites rank poorly in search results.

Ways to increase your search rankings with offsite SEO

So, how does a small business attract natural inbound links so they can achieve higher rankings in search?

1)      Set up and be active on social media – Social media is a tool that allows you to connect with customers and like minded individuals, and helps you build meaningful relationships with them. You must accept that in a digitally connected world, meaningful relationships are actually being built online through social media websites. When you build meaningful relationships with people, it increases the chances they will naturally want to link to your web site, blog, and social media profile. In addition to the natural links you will attract, search engines are also looking into using other social factors in their search results. They believe if people are frequently interacting with your brand and sharing your posts on social media, you could interpret these interactions as an “online buzz” around a business. A buzz worthy business might be worth checking out, above a business that isn’t generating any buzz.

It isn’t enough to just establish a social media presence. You must continue to engage and interact with people. It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason. Using Facebook as an example, it can sometimes become difficult to think of different things to post to your page that your fans and customers will care about. I dug up this article from Brand Camp that can give you some ideas on what to post, if you’re stuck. Check it out by clicking here. In addition to maintaining your own page, make an attempt to connect with other businesses and like minded people you would be interested in staying connected with. Notice and interact with their updates when it makes sense to do so. As you continue to learn how to communicate on social media, things will become easier and you will make real connections with people who will have an increased chance of linking to your web site.

2)      Start a blog – Starting a blog is a great way to establish yourself as an industry expert, build a strong online reputation, and connect with like minded individuals who are interested in learning about what you already know or are currently figuring out. If someone reads a post on your blog that they like, and think it might be useful to other people who they know, they may very well link to the article you wrote. Establishing yourself as an expert through blogging can also be a way to make media connections. If a newspaper, magazine, or even a web site is doing a story on the area you are an expert in, they might contact you to do an interview you on the topic. Not only will this help you gain even more recognition as an expert, but it will very likely lead to a great quality link from a relevant article, on a high quality web site.

At first, starting a blog might feel like a challenging task that you simply don’t have the time for. Many people understand what it’s like to be busy, but you need to put into perspective what it is you are spending your time on each day… is there nothing that can be cut out for the sake of helping your business grow? Are there some tedious work tasks you can assign to someone else or outsource? Did you really need to watch American Idol or Wipeout?

Starting a blog is a worthwhile investment for a number of reasons. In addition to establishing yourself as an expert and gaining the trust of potential new customers, you will be surprised how writing a blog can help you evolve as a person. The time you take to reflect on what you do, and the research you’ll do to fill the information gaps in an article you’re writing will help you in a number of ways. It will help you organize your thoughts, keep your creative juices flowing, allow you to think of new opportunities, and it will help you become a better communicator with others.

3)      Comment on relevant blogs – Search for others who are blogging on topics that interest you, and are relevant to your business. If you enjoy an article or feel inspired to do so, add your two cents to the comments section. With most blogs, a person who leaves a comment can also leave a link to their web site. These links can be a factor in your search engine rankings.

When you’re leaving comments, just make sure to leave comments that provide actual value to the readers or at least to the person who wrote the article. While you will often get a link for leaving a comment, the bigger potential for building quality links comes from the relationship you might build with the person who wrote the article you are commenting on. Again, building relationships is key when it comes to attracting natural editorially chosen links to your web site. If the blogger writes an article down the road and finds you to be a relevant source of information, they might link to you in that article. They might even ask you to participate in an interview or guest blog post, which almost always results in excellent quality links.

4)      Submit a few Directory Links – Another way of getting links to your site is to submit your web site to web directories. The key is to avoid the temptation to submit your website to dozens of directories automatically through software, and you can also avoid most directories that will accept absolutely anyone and everyone. Directories that allow automatic submissions or make it way too easy for anyone to submit their site often have a very poor reputation with search engines, and therefore their links are basically worthless.

I believe the best tactic when submitting your website to directories is to locate quality directories that seem to provide actual value to visitors, and create a listing in those directories that also provides value to their visitors. Don’t worry about increasing your search engine rankings, but worry about websites that can send actual qualified visitors to your website. As an example, if you are a London Ontario based web designer, but know nothing about developing applications for IPads, don’t submit your web site to a directory that lists mobile application developers. You won’t add value by being listed in that directory, and if someone finds you through that directory, they will not have a positive experience by visiting your web site. However, if you find a directory that lists Ontario web developers, you most certainly would add value to a user who finds you through that directory.

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t spend a ton of time building directory links, because there are too many directories out there that receive little traffic, and many directories were never really set up with some form of user in mind to begin with. If you can find two or three high quality directories with good listings that you can add value to, I think that would suffice. Please also remember to create custom listings for each directory. Don’t copy and paste your listing from site to site as it will cheapen the value of your listing, in the eyes of both the directory and search engines.

5)      Web 2.0 Links – Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the evolution of the internet as a whole. Basically it refers to websites that consist of user generated content, and most of them also allow users to easily interact with and share content as well. Some might choose a web 2.0 website as an alternative to a blog, as a location to share some of the content they create.

Essentially, creating profiles on web 2.0 sites and submitting high quality content to them carries a lot of the same benefits as starting a blog. The main positive difference being that these sites are well established, have lots of traffic, and generally rank well in Google. This means that often the process of getting your content found and noticed by search engines can be easier on the right web 2.0 sites. Not only can you link to your web site from your web 2.0 content, but if more people are noticing your content, it increases the chances someone will like your content, and will link to you.

Most web 2.0 sites have a pricing package that allows you to create a profile and add content for free, but it may be supported by advertisements. On ad supported sites, you can choose to pay a nominal monthly fee to remove these ads from your page. As with any new web site, there will be a bit of a learning curve to setting up a profile and uploading your content, but over time it will be well worth it once you start to see more traffic and higher rankings in search. Here are 10 examples of great web 2.0 sites where you can get your content noticed: Squidoo.com, Webs.com, Tumblr.com, Weebly.com, WordPress.com, Flickr.com, Blogger.com, Hubpages.com, Slideshare.com, and Tripod.com.

These are just 5 link building techniques you can use. There are many other ways you can build links, some of which are arguably more effective than the ones I listed. I wanted to make sure the techniques I chose were realistically something a small business owner could figure out on their own with some time and effort. I also wanted to make sure they were techniques I thought might stand the test of time, as search algorithms continue to evolve. While there is most certainly a learning curve to figuring out how achieve high rankings in search engines, it is definitely something you can do on your own. Prior to wrapping this up, I want to share a few important pointers when it comes to doing your own offsite SEO.

A few general tips to remember when doing your own offsite SEO

1)      If you have a poor quality website that doesn’t offer any real value above your competitors, it will be much more difficult for you to rank well in search engines. At the end of the day, the job of Google is to display the best possible results to people who utilize their search. As long as they continue to do this, people will continue to use their search engine. If people continue to use their search engine, they can sell more ads which will ensure their ongoing success. Their ongoing success literally relies on them providing the best possible search results… if your web site is poor quality, difficult to navigate, or if your business offers no real value, work on that first before worrying at all about offsite SEO.

2)      When you are creating content and want to link to your web site, be sure to do so only when it makes sense for the person reading the article. Don’t allow yourself to try and get links to your website in an unnatural manner. Google is remarkably sophisticated at knowing when a link doesn’t appear natural, and will learn to distrust all content from web sites that don’t use appropriate linking. Always just think of the person reading the content… if a link to your web site (or another site) will add value to them, add the link… if not, don’t.

3)      Don’t try to cheat by paying for low quality links, irrelevant Twitter followers, or insincere Facebook likes. While you might see some short term success, Google will almost always find and penalize those who try to cheat the system or manipulate their search results. It is a much more viable long term strategy to focus on getting natural / editorially chosen links, real Twitter followers, and genuine Facebook likes.

This guide only touches the surface of SEO, but it provides you with enough information that you most certainly can achieve high rankings for local search terms. If you have any confusion, please let me know and I’ll try my best to clarify whatever it is you need help with. I strongly believe all small business owners can and should attempt to do this on their own. There is just so much for you to gain by doing this stuff, above and beyond higher search rankings. Saying that, if you want to hire someone to help you increase your search rankings, I hope you will consider getting in touch with me.

About The Author


At LOWD Media, we specialize in supporting entrepreneurs. We understand inspired entrepreneurs and business minded individuals. We then use this understanding to learn about your business and help you create a look and feel for your business – your brand identity. Our business startup packages provide everything you need to begin marketing your business effectively and at an affordable price. Once you begin marketing and growing your business, we strive to support you and grow with you. Long term success for your business means long term success for our business. Let your brand be heard loud and clear with LOWD.

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