I recently had the opportunity to have a small business prospect share with me the SEO plan being presented by a competitor of mine.  It was alarming how much they were missing the mark.  For the most part, the company would be wasting money in the wrong places and completely ignoring other important aspects of their SEO plan.  It made me want to put some information out for those searching for a plan to help make the right choices.  You want to spend your money on things that actually move the needle and lead to new customers. That means focusing on what is important for your type of site.

I wanted to outline the important elements of any SEO plan for a small business. If the company you are working with doesn’t address these elements with the plan they are proposing, simply move on to the next.  There are too many companies out there that simply don’t know what they are doing and waste business owners time and money by trying to capitalize on the importance of SEO.

Link Building

Link Strength GraphLink building is hard. It takes time and it takes building relationships.  Many companies don’t offer this as a part of their plans because of this.  It also is important to get links from reputable sites of all types and a link profile should be custom to the client and their goals. This also makes things difficult and is often why it isn’t part of many plans that are offered. Many companies will tell you if they keep creating content for you the links will take care of themselves. In the world of news sites and content type blogs, that may happen over time, but even those sites need to work on reaching out and building online relationships.  Small business content isn’t going to take off on its own. It just isn’t. If there isn’t a link building component to your SEO plan, you immediately have a growth cap.  Link related metrics have been at the top of the ranking factors lists since the beginning of Google and they just can’t be ignored.

Google My Business

Claim Your Google My Business (GMB)Google My Business (GMB) is so much more than getting your business in directories. In fact, there are some in the industry who have shown that the directories that were so important ten years carry much less weight than they do today. It is easy to get into directories and I have seen them pitched by competitors for sometimes thousands of dollars. It shouldn’t cost this much. This is basic stuff that does help your local presence, but GMB management is about so much more these days.  Much of the content on your website needs to work its way over to your GMB page, as well as regular posting, Q&A management, review management, image uploads, calls to action, and a continually growing array of options. Google rewards you with rankings for interacting with your GMB. If you are a local business, this is absolutely critcal. Even nationally targeted businesses with less of a local element have reviews attached to the business to give it more authority. More and more searches are deemed to have local intent by Google, approaching 50%, which makes this grow in important. If there is no element of GMB management with your SEO plan, you are missing a critical piece of the pie yet again.  In fact, an SEO plan with GMB management and link building alone would likely move a site with any kind of content to speak of, up the rankings more than anything else.

Content is King: Keywords, Targeting, Structure

Since SEO began, “Content is King” is one of the main driving forces.  Content is obviously very important, but it is also the most intuitive, and the thing you likely have the most direct control of.  It makes sense that if you want to rank highly for service A that you should have a page of content that talks about service A. This is why it is so important. Most small businesses have content though.  We can definitely help them shape it, target it, and improve it to give a better user experience, but often I see SEO plans that are just writing generic content for the site and nothing else. For small businesses, just continually adding content without strengthening it or applying it to your GMB is like the tree falling in the woods. Not much will come of it.  Targeting, tweaking, and keyword research should be a part of any plan, but not the whole plan. It just isn’t enough anymore.

Technical SEO

Crawl Efficiency - Technical SEOEven if you are adding and structuring good content, building links, and optimizing your GMB, technical things can go wrong.  The bigger the site, the more this can be an issue, but even more basic sites can run into technical issues with speed or indexing that can cause Google to drop you in the rankings.  On top of that, Google has major updates to their algorithm a few times a year. Sometimes you will need to adjust in some way to what they are rewarding or punishing with the latest trends.  A company who pays attention to this and regularly audits the site to search for issues is an importnat part of any plan. When all things are going right it is smooth sailing, but sometimes that Google update or site change sends you into a world of rank dropping confusion. You need someone that knows the industry and knows what to do.  Experience and passion for the industry are important here. There are many things that can go wrong. Identifying them and knowing next steps can be the difference between success and failure as a business.