If you’re just now getting into the SEO game, you may find it disheartening to see the traffic and SERPs rank of your competitors. Those who have been at it much longer than you have had plenty of time to build their audiences and grow unopposed. Now that you’re in the game, they have something to watch out for, if you figure out how to fight back. It’s entirely possible for your small business to outrank the industry giants, if you work at it properly.
Your site needs a few basic foundational steps taken before you can hope to outrank the greats. It needs to be hosted on a quality web host. None of those free hosts that slather your site with ads, or that have anything less than a 99 percent guaranteed uptime. Second, you need a powerful domain name. Register a .com domain that works as a keyword for your niche. Third, your site needs to be coded properly. Poor code slows down users and crawlers. A delay of a few milliseconds can be a minor penalty, while a delay in seconds can be devastating.
There’s also a lot you can do towards making your site usable. Much of the user experience optimization is something you’ll have do to as you go along, but you can take a few basic tips from the beginning. Make sure your text is large enough to read, on colors that don’t clash. Make sure your navigation is clear and easy to use.
When it comes to Google, providing value to the user through high quality content is by far the winning strategy. Any information you’ve read about the primacy of keyword density, the specific power of backlinks from authority domains and other such techniques is, by and large, obsolete.
Don’t misunderstand; keywords are still important. Keywords determine your niche, and your niche determines the weak point you target in your competitors SEO strategy. No matter how focused they are, there is a keyword they don’t target, or they target poorly. You can target those weak points to slowly outrank them in tertiary keywords, before you expand into more important, but more competitive keywords.
Likewise, links are still important. Links from quality sources related to your niche will help you power up your site. You don’t need to focus on specific links from .edu or .gov sites, like some advice promotes. Any links from quality sources – sources that aren’t spam – will be beneficial.
As for your content itself, make sure it’s valuable. Ask yourself, what does the user get out of this blog post or web guide? Why should they read your content or share it with someone they know? Every piece of content should have some value to someone. If you’re writing for keywords or writing for the search engine, you’re doing it wrong.
A support system is a great way to help get the early boost you need to keep your competitors from crushing you out of the niche altogether. After all, they have more resources and more investment; if they notice you and target the keywords you target, they can potentially outrank you and put your efforts to shame. A support network helps prevent this, and gives you a fallback if it does happen.
A support network is generally related websites that, while they aren’t direct competitors, can act as partners. Blogs in a related niche are good for backlinks and guest blog posts, among other things. If you can gain the alliance of several larger, older sites, you have a good foundation for future traffic.
This is where social media comes in. Yes, if you’re new to the business and new to social media, it can seem very daunting. It’s really not that hard; in fact, it wouldn’t be a problem to assign it to an intern or hire a social media manager.
You will need, at minimum, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts. You may also benefit from LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram accounts. The basic process for each site is the same; when you post a piece of content, promote it. The exact techniques, and the reason for using each site, differ somewhat.
- • Facebook has a huge audience of potentially interested people. There’s no special trick to it; just post your content, attach a tidy headline and ask for likes, shares and comments.
- • Google+ has a smaller audience, but it tends to be more focused and professional. At the same time, Google+ is promoted by Google, so it’s a good idea to share your content with your circles. Ask for +1s and shares.
- • Twitter is a short-form advertising platform perfect for brief announcements and timely messages. Post quick promotions of your other social media posts and the posts on your site. Don’t forget to use a hashtag or two, if they’re related.
- • LinkedIn is a professional networking site with plenty of potential for interacting with other companies and interested future employees. Post your links there and share them amongst groups you’ve joined. Be careful to avoid spam, as it can get your account limited.
- • Pinterest and Instagram are both sites for sharing with specific audiences not usually found on the other social media sites. As usual, share per the guidelines of the sites.
The key to social media, beyond simply posting your content, is to interact with the users that follow your profiles. Thank them for their comments. Ask them questions. Answer their questions. Do all of this well and you’ll gain a reputation as a quality company.
If you’ve spent months working at a particular SEO campaign and it’s not working, maybe you need to target another keyword. Occasionally you’ll run into a keyword that seems open, only to discover that the ranking site simply will not budge. In these cases, there is no shame in redirecting your efforts.
Another thing to watch out for is the occasional content thief that steals your content. When you’re a small site, this is relatively rare, but it can still happen. If it does, Google has a scraper reporting form you can use to report them.
The key to outranking a larger, more establish site is using your agility. You’re perfectly capable of redirecting the efforts of your entire site without jeopardizing your past efforts; they may not be so lucky. Focus on long tail keywords and local results, and outmaneuver the larger companies.
SEO doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t be drawn into schemes that claim they can rank you number one in a few months. It’s a waste of money and it never happens. One of the major factors of your ranking is the age of your domain, and there’s no way an SEO site can fake that.
Build your social following over time. Build your audience and foster their attention. Support them and placate them as much as you can. You live or die by your audience, so you need to make them invested in your success. Eventually, you’ll pass those industry giants, and then the real fight begins.