In the competitive landscape of the online world, small businesses need every advantage they can get to thrive and succeed. Achieving high search engine rankings is a vital aspect of this success, as it directly impacts visibility, organic traffic, and overall business growth. But which specific SEO tactics truly move the needle and help small business websites rank highly? In this blog post, we will explore the top 6 key tactics that can significantly improve your website’s rankings. We will delve into the level of effort required for each tactic, how it contributes to improved rankings, and whether it’s suitable for a DIY approach or hiring a professional.

Comprehensive Keyword Research and Optimization:

Effort Level: Increasing Based on Market Competitiveness

Keyword research is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign. It involves identifying the keywords and phrases that your target audience is using to search for products or services in your industry. By optimizing your website’s content, meta tags, headers, and URLs with these targeted keywords, you can increase your visibility in search engine results.

Keyword research has changed greatly in recent years. At one time, it was all about an exact and specific search phrase. These days there is more importance on the supporting topics and terms to make your website an authority. Understanding how these terms or “keywords” interact and support one another is where it gets a bit more complicated. Most business owners can handle the basics and build pages for their key services, but once you get into more competitive markets, you need to understand how to create the supporting content. This is when hiring a professional may become more worthwhile. Pros often have tools to make this work easier and also have more experience to make the process more efficient, saving time you may have wasted yourself.

High-Quality Content Creation and Optimization:

Effort Level: High

Helpful Content for SEOContent is the backbone of successful SEO. Search engines favor websites that consistently provide valuable, well-written, and engaging content to users. Creating high-quality content that addresses the needs and interests of your target audience establishes your authority and builds trust.

Optimizing your content involves strategically incorporating relevant keywords, writing compelling meta descriptions, and using descriptive headers and alt tags for images. These optimizations help search engines understand the purpose and relevance of your content, improving your chances of ranking higher in search results.

Content creation and optimization require a significant level of effort, as it involves conducting thorough research, writing compelling copy, and keeping up with industry trends. With the advent of AI writing support, the level of effort can be reduced to a degree for business owners, but it isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Even with AI, you need to edit and tweak the content to your business and your market. AI can give you a base coat of structure and information, but since it is pulled from all other content on the web, it generally won’t stand out and be rank-worthy unless you add more helpful information on top of what the AI gives you.

While you can certainly handle content creation in-house, hiring a professional copywriter or content marketer can help ensure consistently high-quality content that aligns with SEO best practices. It is also important to make sure the copywriter has SEO knowledge. I have definitely run into writers that were good writers, but not helpful writers.

On-Page Optimization and Technical SEO:

Effort Level: Moderate

On-page optimization and technical SEO focus on optimizing various elements of your website to enhance its search engine visibility. This includes improving site speed, optimizing URL structures, implementing schema markup, and ensuring mobile responsiveness.

Site speed plays a crucial role in user experience and search engine rankings. You can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to identify and fix speed-related issues, such as optimizing images and minimizing code. For WordPress sites, you can often find a plugin that will do some of this work for you.

Structuring your URLs in a logical and descriptive manner helps search engines understand your website’s content hierarchy. Building content silos of your core offerings and then using blogs or FAQ sections as supporting content that interlinks with the core pages, will help build your content in a way that is helpful to users and search engines.

Implementing schema markup helps search engines better understand and display your content, potentially leading to enhanced visibility with rich snippets in search results. Moreover, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is essential since search engines prioritize mobile-friendly sites in their rankings. Remember that sometimes websites look different on mobile than they do on desktop.  Referring to the “above image” isn’t always above in the other environment. Be aware of how your content is viewed in both environments.

On-page optimization and technical SEO can be handled by a knowledgeable web developer or an SEO professional. However, with the right resources and technical understanding, some aspects can be implemented by small business owners themselves. If you have an ongoing maintenance plan with your developer, you can often get them to add plugins or address technical issues that come up. If your site isn’t too large (under 500 URLs), you can index occasionally with a free tool like Screaming Frog to find broken links and site problems to correct. It is a good idea to fix broken links (404s) and other issues that pop up over time with redirects to current existing pages.

Link Building and Off-Page Optimization:

How Links Help Small Business SEOEffort Level: High

Link building remains a significant ranking factor in SEO. Acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant websites signals to search engines that your website is authoritative and valuable. This, in turn, can improve your rankings.

Link-building efforts involve various strategies such as influencer outreach, and participation in local and industry online communities. It requires building relationships, creating valuable content, and actively seeking opportunities to earn backlinks from authoritative sources within your industry. It is virtual relationship building.

Due to the time-intensive nature of link building, it is often more efficient to hire a professional SEO agency or consultant. They have the expertise and industry connections necessary to execute effective link-building campaigns that generate quality backlinks.

Local SEO and Online Reputation Management:

Effort Level: Moderate to High

For small businesses targeting local customers, local SEO tactics are crucial. They involve claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile, optimizing your website for local keywords, and actively managing your online reputation.

Claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile ensures accurate and up-to-date information is displayed in local search results, improving your visibility to local customers. Optimizing your website with local keywords helps search engines understand the geographic relevance of your business.

Online reputation management plays a vital role in local SEO. Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or industry-specific directories not only boosts your credibility but also improves your rankings in local search results.

Small business owners can handle local SEO and online reputation management themselves, but it may be beneficial to seek professional guidance for a comprehensive approach and effective strategies. If you already have an SEO helping you, it is good to check in with the latest tactics that move the needle and lean on them for the things that might be resource intensive for your staff.

Ongoing Monitoring and Analytics:

Effort Level: Low to Moderate

Continuous monitoring and analysis of your website’s performance are essential for SEO success. By regularly reviewing data from tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you can identify trends, track keyword rankings, and make data-driven optimizations.

Monitoring your website’s performance allows you to identify areas for improvement, understand user behavior, and measure the impact of your SEO efforts. It helps you stay on top of changes in search engine algorithms, adapt your strategies accordingly, and maintain a competitive edge.

While the technical aspects of monitoring and analytics may require some learning, small business owners can handle basic monitoring and analysis tasks themselves. However, for more in-depth analysis and interpretation, engaging an SEO professional or agency can provide valuable insights and recommendations. Any SEO agency you hire should include regular performance monitoring as part of the package, and help you build dashboards and reporting systems that help you best understand what is working and what isn’t. If they don’t help you with this, they probably don’t want you to see what is happening.  But often, once reporting dashboards are set up, they can be referred back to regularly with little technical expertise or effort.

Handling Your SEO

To rank highly in search engine results, small businesses must adopt effective SEO tactics. To different levels, by implementing the top 6 key tactics outlined in this blog post, you can significantly improve your website’s rankings and increase online visibility. Remember, the level of effort required for each tactic varies, and some may be better suited for professional assistance. While you can undertake certain aspects of SEO yourself, partnering with an experienced SEO professional or agency can provide expertise, resources, and a strategic approach that maximizes your chances of SEO success. With the right tactics and a commitment to ongoing optimization, your small business can enjoy the rewards of improved search rankings and increased organic traffic. A good SEO agency should be able to assist you in the areas that you need it, but let you handle the pieces you can. YOu know your business best, so your input is a key part of any plan, but sometimes it is more efficient to let professionals guide the process.