Creating an SEO strategy for your small business demands time, research and investment. And although you might be able to manage the first two, money’s much harder to spare for SMBs — more than 80 percent of small businesses fail because of cashflow problems. That’s especially an issue today, as the U.S. and the world economy face the potential of a financial recession.
But there’s no getting around it: SEO is crucial to reach target customers and increase visibility. That’s why annual investment in SEO has reached $80 billion in the United States alone and is set to keep growing.
Yet good SEO doesn’t have to cost big bucks. Even the smallest business can still take advantage of various effective techniques and tools to build a quality SEO strategy on a budget. Here are some of the best ways to do it in 2020.
Why SEO’s crucial for small businesses
One of the biggest reasons why SEO is crucial for small businesses is that more than half of all website traffic is generated by organic searches, while paid searches account for just 15 percent.
Even if you’re in the paid search camp, it is worth recognizing that between 70 and 80 percent of people ignore paid results completely, and some even feel distrustful of businesses with sponsored listings.
An SEO focus also helps small businesses create user-friendly websites that incorporate smooth navigation, valuable content and make solving problems easy. This contributes to a stronger customer experience, which 66 percent of consumers consider more important than pricing.
And by increasing website traffic through effective SEO, businesses can gather more analytics data to understand their audience better over time.
Six things you can do to help your SEO
There are many things you can do to help your business with SEO. Experts can come up with an almost infinitely long list. Here are some of the most important places to start, though.
1. Start a blog
Any small business without a blog is missing out on the chance to extend its reach and increase traffic, as companies publishing blogs get 97 percent more backlinks than those that don’t.
Blogging is a simple way to add keywords to a website organically, and creating regular fresh content means search engine indexers will visit the site more often. They’re more likely to recognize the valuable content that builds over time and increase the site’s ranking.
Developing personas based on audience goals, age, buying habits, interests, etc. can help businesses maximize their blog posts’ relevance.
2. Optimize for mobile devices
Google started mobile-first indexing a little while ago, using the mobile versions of web pages to determine ranking. This is to ensure the growing number of mobile searchers find what they need conveniently and efficiently, as more than half of all searches come from mobile devices.
Small businesses on a budget can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool to assess how well-optimized their site is for smartphones. Reducing load times, enabling Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and reducing the size of media will all help to increase mobile performance.
3. Pay attention to metadata
There are many factors that influence an SMB’s ranking on Google. Metadata is still an important factor, even if it isn’t the only one.
Optimizing a site’s metadata involves tweaking titles, descriptions and URLs to increase visibility. Titles should include the page’s target keywords without impacting readability. Meta descriptions should be no more than 160 characters and provide a quick breakdown of a page’s content or purpose. Good URLs typically include keywords but are short, as longer URLs can leave search engines struggling to understand a page’s topic.
4. Make a sitemap
Creating a sitemap makes search engines’ work easier by eliminating the risk of errors, especially for large websites or those with a small number of external links.
Sitemaps are easy to generate, and there are plenty of free tools available to do this for you. One you might consider is XML Sitemaps, but there are many. When the sitemap is complete, submit it to Google through the Search Console and add it to your site’s root folder.
5. Take advantage of inexpensive tools
There are some terrific free or “free-mium” SEO tools available for small businesses on a budget. One is SEMrush, which is immensely popular. It performs an in-depth SEO audit of any site and undertakes competitive analysis, topic research and more.
Another option is the free to try GrowthBar. It’s ideal for keyword and backlink research, studying domain authority and understanding traffic value, with a user-friendly dashboard accessible from search engine results pages (SERPs).
Finally, try Google PageSpeed Insights. This free tool checks the speed of any site and user experience with a simple score-based insight. Use this to identify slow pages and ways to improve their speeds.
6. Invite customers to leave reviews
Reviews help small businesses in a number of ways. First, they help build credibility and gain trust when they appear on SERPs. Seeing a company has five stars while the others have just four or three can make customer decisions easier, as 88 percent of people trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.
Encouraging customers to leave reviews creates more fresh content related to your business, and if they contain keywords, all the better. Invite customers to write reviews after they make a purchase, whether on Google or a dedicated reviews site.
Follow these tips to build an effective SEO strategy on a budget in 2020. Small businesses face immense competition from established brands, but there’s still plenty you can do to boost your SEO without substantial funds.
Take advantage of tools and commit to publishing new content on a regular basis. Over time, even the smallest business can help increase its visibility and climb the SERPs.