A quick glance throughout the industry shows dozens of SEO companies offering their services for a premium price. No doubt they bring with them the experience of running thousands of ad campaigns, social media profiles and blogs for years. For many small businesses, the price for that experience is simply too high. A business with a tight budget needs to make cuts somewhere, but it can’t afford to ignore SEO entirely. Is it possible to utilize SEO without breaking the bank? Of course it is! Here are a number of ways to put modern SEO techniques to use without needing to hire an expensive optimization firm.
Audit Existing Policies
The first thing you should do is perform a detailed audit of your current website and SEO efforts. List your website and any existing SEO assets, whether from natural growth or previous SEO campaigns. Note down any relevant SEO factors, including your domain and your web host. Make note of any social media profiles, active or inactive. Determine how your site works for mobile users.
In addition to this list of digital assets, make note of any ongoing SEO schemes or techniques. Some, such as regular posting to a blog, maybe valuable to continue or enhance. Others, such as an emphasis on keyword density, may be out of date.
Review Site Speeds and Uptimes
One often overlooked metric for SEO success is website responsiveness. How responsive is your site? Consider the following factors:
- • Site load times. Longer load times are a detriment to SEO, albeit a small one unless the delay is significant.
- • Site optimization. The way your site is coded affects how quickly a page loads and how likely an error is to appear along the way. Users will often turn back if a page takes more than a handful of seconds to load.
- • Interaction. When a user visits, are they approached by any call to action or offer of assistance? If they submit information in a form, do they receive confirmation? Users like to be recognized and treated as special.
- • Uptime. Does your web host guarantee uptime? For a business, any downtime is a potential lost sale. For SEO, downtime is a hole in coverage where a web crawler may discover broken links. Minimize downtime as much as possible, even if it means changing to a more reliable host.
Perform a Link Audit
Incoming links are important for SEO. Incoming links from poor quality sites can hamper your site, while incoming links from authority sites can provide a significant boost in ratings. You need to know who is linking to you and whether or not those links are valid. There are a number of tools available to record links to your site, including the basic Google Webmaster Tools. These tools will also offer a rating of the site doing the linking, so you know how trustworthy the site is.
Most incoming links are at least of minor value. The links you need to watch out for are the links from known spam sites or black hat sites. These may be a sign of an old, failed SEO campaign, or a negative SEO attack. In either case, the Google Disavow Links tool will help remove any possible penalty coming from those links.
Maintain a Social Presence
Maintain social media profiles on the major networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Each site has a specific purpose, and you need to manage your account there for that purpose. Facebook is perfect for general promotion, advertising, user engagement and app promotion. Google+ is ideal for promoting blog posts and networking with partners in the industry. Twitter is best used for quick, responsive communication with users as well as short, time-sensitive announcements. LinkedIn is great for business-to-business networking as well as the usual employee networking. Additionally, you can pursue other social profiles depending on your audience. If they use Pinterest, Instagram or Orkut, you should follow suit.
Common wisdom holds that content is king when it comes to SEO. While all SEO metrics are important to some extent, the best way to succeed is to grow a dedicated base of users through a constant flow of content. This means blog posts at least three times per week, if not more often. It also means regular social media posts, both sharing your own and commenting on others. Emphasize value to your visitors over value to the search engines.
Learn the Google Webmaster Guidelines
Google is the leader in SEO. They’re the ones that set the rules. It’s best if you find those rules, learn them and follow them. It’s also worth the time to monitor those rules and make sure you keep abreast of any changes. Google has rules and guidelines for everything, from publishing content to linking appropriately. If you have any questions about how you should implement a feature or how you should deal with an issue, chances are Google has an answer.
Focus on Local Value
Your local customers are your biggest resource. This is mostly true when you have a physical location, but can be true for nearly any business. Local customers are more invested in your success, as part of the success of their community. They are more likely to support you in your growth. All it takes to gain the attention of these local users is a big of a focus on local keywords and a local niche. Include your location in blog posts and calls to action.
Well, don’t ignore keywords entirely. Just be aware that keywords are no longer as important as they once were. They were too easily abused and too hard to regulate. Keywords indicate your niche, and you should focus on them to the extent that they guide your content creation. You should almost never bother with specific keyword densities, locations or utilization, however. Keywords exist to draw in the user’s attention. They aren’t some magic phrase that, when repeated the right number of times, guarantees a sale.
Utilize Free Tools
One of the best advantages new businesses have today is the prevalence of a wide variety of free tools for SEO. Nearly any SEO task can be performed with a free tool, though some still benefit from a minor investment. The largest budget savings you can find in SEO is in learning how to use free tools yourself rather than hiring a professional to use them. Link audits, keyword identification and analysis, content management, social sharing; everything has a tool.
Network with Industry Blogs for Links
Online, as in life, networking is everything. Identify competitors and potential partners in your industry, particularly among popular blogs. Approach these blogs with offers of guest posts and mutually beneficial links. Incoming links from quality sites in your niche are very potent tools for SEO.
Activate Google Authorship
Google Authorship requires Google+ and a few minor additions to your site code. If you have one or a small handful of authors publishing content on your blog, making use of Authorship is a great, free and easy boost to SEO. Once you’ve set it up, all you need to do is include your author’s byline in the content they write. The system will do the rest.
SEO can be done on a budget, particularly if you have the time to learn. Free resources, free tools and a little knowledge is all it takes to succeed. You won’t rocket to the top of the search results, but you’ll be able to grow steadily as long as you put forth the effort.