8 Effective SEO Strategies for Smaller Businesses with Limited Budgets
My agency gets SEO inquiries from large companies that do millions of dollars annually all the way to small mom and pop businesses that do less that $30,000 a year. Everyone, no matter how big or small their business is, wants SEO. They want that traffic from Google to hit their website around the clock, triggering sales or in-person visits, with wallets full of money.
A lot of the smaller businesses assumed SEO was out of the picture for them because they were a small operation. This is a very common misconception that I didn’t know existed. It doesn’t matter how big your business is, or how large your website is: the SEO basics and best practices are the same.
Major Fortune 500 companies spend millions on SEO for the same reason a local business spends part of their marketing budget on SEO: they want exposure online. It’s not even a matter of wanting that exposure; it’s now a necessity. Can you imagine a business lasting long if they didn’t have a strong online presence.
I’m not even just talking about ranking for a slew of keywords. It’s important for a business, especially a small one, to show up on top of Google when someone performs even a simple business name search or a location specific search. This can be accomplished just with very basic on-page optimization. The same on-page optimization is going to work for every website, no matter how large the business is or how many webpages the website consists of.
If a small business is on a limited budget, there is a good chance that Facebook ads and Google AdWords might be out of the question, especially considering it takes a decent budget to just test campaigns and funnels. So, sometimes a smaller business needs to do SEO to get a little traction online. If they have a good product or service, the initial traffic, even if it’s minimal, can help them generate money they can then use to scale their SEO.
You just have to start. There is no way around it.
So, here are eight SEO Strategies that you can do if you are a small business and want to get started with SEO.
1. Commit to content marketing.
Use me as a prime example of how content marketing can help you scale a business. I have been able to grow my agency to more than seven figures a year and I credit content marketing for our success.
I started writing a lot of blog posts (just like this one) and I didn’t hold back. While everyone else was talking about how to do “proper” link acquisition, I was blogging about how the biggest companies in the world buy links and how links are still (and will always be) the most important part of SEO. My content attracted businesses that liked my no bullshit approach and also other agencies that wanted to resell our services.
Mind you, I never had the intention of growing SerpLogic into an agency in the beginning. It started out as a blog and because of my content, I was approached to provide services. The demand was so overwhelming that I decided to run with it. The growth has been tremendous, and I would never be in this position if I didn’t commit to content marketing.
The biggest tip I can give is to stick with it. Results do not happen overnight, but if you don’t stay committed you will never know the true potential of content marketing. It took me countless blog posts and a lot of time to write everything. That dedication and commitment has paid off greatly, and it can for you too.
2. Map out a content strategy you can maintain and afford.
You don’t want to just crank out shitty 500 word posts in order to fill up your blog. It would be a much better strategy to publish one big useful blog post that is 1,500 words or greater a week, rather than posting low quality smaller posts daily.
Do not go cheap when it comes to content. You truly do get what you pay for and what you put into it. If you are a good writer, carve out time from your schedule to devote to it. If you are going to be buying content, hire a writer that understands your niche deeply, and has a passion for it. Your website visitors will connect with your business if the content speaks to them. To get that, you need to spend time writing or spend money. The choice is yours.
If you can only afford to publish one epic post a week, then so be it. Just make sure you stick to that schedule and don’t be sporadic with your posting schedule. What I noticed, was that people were joining our list and reading multiple blogs before contacting us. So, every time they came back to our site they had new content to read. Over time that built the trust necessary for them to reach out and discuss hiring us.
3. Relentlessly spread your content via outreach and social media.
Once you post content you can’t just let it sit there idle, and that is what most businesses do. They assume people are going to just start flooding their website, making purchases and completing form submits. The only websites that can publish content and instantly attract organic traffic are the massive websites with top authority.
Forbes, Huffington Post, Elite Daily, etc. That content will rank almost as soon as it’s indexed. So, you need to be proactive and develop a plan to get eyes on your content. If it’s good enough, it will attract links and social shares, which will help improve your authority over time. Again, content marketing is a long term play, so you need to be in it for the long haul.
Start reaching out to other websites, and sharing your content with them. You can also use paid services like Outbrain and Taboola to pull in as much targeted traffic as you can afford. Paid promotion, such as a promoted Facebook post, is an easy way to drive visitors to your content right away. You should also be building an email list to market to, so send your content out to your list as well. While money does help, you can still get good results if you are just willing to put in the work.
4. Make your personal brand a focal point.
Another reason my agency grew so fast was because I put myself out there. Most prospective clients know who I am before they contact us, and that is from my content marketing. The two go hand in hand, and small businesses can get more exposure and media opportunities by leveraging a personal brand. This all directly impacts SEO. Let me explain.
If you take some time to publish content (whether you write it yourself or hire someone), you are going to start to establish your name. Then, start to get active on social media using accounts with your name. A lot of businesses will just use company social media accounts. Nobody wants to engage with brands. They want to engage with people.
Once your personal brand is solid, you can then reply to media queries on Help a Reporter Out, and even contact your local news outlets and offer to be an expert on subject matters within your niche. Links and mentions all help your website authority and they drive referral traffic.
5. Build a strong social media presence and following.
As mentioned above, you should build a strong personal social following, and you can’t ignore the business profiles as well. Everyone starts with zero followers and the way you build a large following is by providing something of value. If your content is interesting, you are going to attract followers. Then, you can leverage those followers to help you attract even more.
Social scaling is the snowball effect. As your following increases, so does your engagement, which makes your account look very popular. This makes people very curious, because everyone wants to be part of something popular. So many people follow accounts simply because their friends do.
When you can build a huge following they become promoters that don’t cost you a dime and their audience listens to them. For example, if you ask them nicely to share posts or tag friends, they will. When you provide value, they are more than happy to help because they feel as if they owe you something.
I’ve seen strong social followings be responsible for steady incoming links and referral traffic. It’s a way to help your SEO when you might not have the budget for a full blown link building campaign.
6. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and “finger friendly.”
In 2017 if your website isn’t mobile responsive then you are in for a rough ride. Mobile and tablet traffic numbers increase every year. Well, I have news for you. Paying some freelancer to install a mobile theme or toss together a sloppy responsive design won’t cut it any longer.
It’s all about user experience. If your site is responsive and shows up in the organic search results and you start getting traffic, then you better be sure your users are going to be able to easily engage with your content. I like to call this making your website finger friendly.
Everyone that uses a mobile device to browse websites is using his or her fingers. Index fingers and thumbs dominate. Do you have an email submit form that is used to generate leads? If your visitors can’t complete it quickly just using their thumbs, then you need to hire a professional who is an expert with user experience.
The same applies to the checkout process on an e-commerce website, and a local business that is trying to attract phone calls or in person visits. The user better be able to place a call or trigger directions via a maps app with one click.
7. Implement AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).
Before I start, let me give you the official explanation of what AMP is:
The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.
Even if you have limited technical ability, you can do this. If you Google, “how to switch to Accelerated Mobile Pages” you will find plenty of how to guides that explain the process step by step.
At first, many people wondered if it would catch up, but if you look, every major publisher has already adapted. Faster load times equal better rankings. If you are in a local market, making this change will put you ahead of your competition. The sooner you can do this, the sooner your SEO will improve.
8. Get your on-page optimization perfect.
I’m not saying on-page optimization is easy, but it’s easy. And I say that because there isn’t some gray or cloudy idea of what proper on-page optimization is. It’s very black and white, and there are plenty of resources online that explain what all of the on-page elements are. Things like:
- Page titles
- URL structure
- Image alt tags
- Meta descriptions
- H1 and H2 tags
- First paragraph optimization
- Long tail keyword variations
Every time we take on a new client, the very first thing we do is audit the on-page optimization. So many businesses ignore it or don’t even know it’s important. Even clients that come over to us from other agencies are lacking in this department, which just goes to show you how many amateur SEO companies are out there that sadly don’t know what they are doing.
Sometimes the smallest tweaks can move a keyword up a couple positions. If it’s a high search volume term moving up a couple positions can result in a huge traffic spike. Moz has an on-page grader that is actually decent. If you search on Google, you can usually find trial coupon codes that give you free access to a Pro account for a month or two. That is plenty of time to audit your entire website and make the suggested changes to increase your score. Do this to every page on your website and your organic traffic number will increase significantly.
You don’t need a massive budget to benefit from SEO. Even the smallest businesses can take full advantage of organic search traffic from the major search engines by simply implementing the above best practices.
The great thing about SEO is that you can take what you learn and what you find to be effective for your business, and scale your efforts and your business grows. When it comes to the technical aspect of SEO, the basics are the same whether you have a 10 page local business website or a 20,000 page e-commerce website.
Every great website had to start from the beginning when it comes to SEO. There are no shortcuts, so you might as well learn the basics the correct way in the beginning. This will help you keep your website out of potential danger in terms of penalties and allow you to scale your search engine optimization efforts as your business grows.