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A Business Owner’s Guide to Understanding SEO Strategy

Kim Kosaka

Kim is Director of Marketing at Alexa. She has 12 years experience in demand generation, content marketing, and campaign management. Her expertise has helped grow user bases by as much as 7x year over year, and a startup from nothing to $1.2 million in revenue in just 3 years.

Latest posts by Kim Kosaka (see all)

As a business owner, it’s not your job to be an SEO expert. You already have a massive list of things to execute and understand. So you’re not expected to know how to do keyword research, optimize your website, or improve your rankings in search engines. You’re not expected to execute these strategies either.  

However, as a business owner, you’re expected to know enough about SEO that you can hire someone to manage it for you. SEO strategy is a vital part of every large and small business. You can’t ignore this marketing tactic even if you don’t understand it.

To help you navigate the seemingly complicated world of SEO, we’ve put together this business owner’s guide to SEO for beginners. With this information, you can confidently discuss SEO with potential partners and possess the knowledge to hire the right support for your business.

Why Do I Need an SEO Strategy?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”

It’s a marketing strategy that attempts to improve a website’s rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). When executed properly, SEO helps your website show near the top of SERPs when customers search for your business name or terms related to your brand, company, industry, products, or services.

Every business needs to have an SEO strategy because search is one of the primary ways that customers find and connect with businesses.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 3.5 billion Google searches per day. Many of these searches are conducted by people who are looking for answers to questions, solutions to problems, and businesses that can provide them with what they need. A business must have an SEO strategy if they want to get found online and connect with this audience of potential customers in need.

The obvious question is: What do you need to know to set up an SEO strategy for your business?

What to Know to Start Small Business SEO

1. Know the difference between organic SEO and paid SEM.

When most people talk about SEO, they are primarily talking about organic SEO.

Organic SEO helps your website show naturally on SERPs. There are tactics that send signals to search engines relaying that your website deserves to be at the top of a SERP.

There is another approach to getting your site to appear at the top of a SERP. It is by paying for placement. This strategy is often referred to as paid SEO, search engine marketing (SEM), or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. While all of these terms are slightly different, they all represent the concept of paying to appear in SERPs.

You can tell the difference between unpaid and paid SEO on SERPs. Paid search placements are designated as “ads.”

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There are upsides and downsides to both of these SEO approaches. They both offer different results and require a distinct set of investments to see these results. Organic SEO usually takes months, or even years, to establish, while paid SEM will help you see results quickly. Paid SEM only works while you’re paying for it, and organic SEO is an investment that provides lasting value for years to come.

Because of these factors, many businesses spend more on paid SEM in the early stages of their marketing as they build their organic SEO, especially if they are a business on a budget. They then slowly pay less for SEM as their organic SEO starts producing results.

Of course, each small business SEO strategy  will be different depending on its goals. When you talk to potential SEO agencies, ask them which marketing strategies they will focus on and why they feel they will be the best for your business.

2. Know the basic SEO strategies.

It’s estimated there are around 200 SEO factors that impact a website’s ability to rank in search.

As a business owner, you don’t need to know all of these factors. To make educated decisions about the right strategy for your business and how to start SEO, start by understanding these broad categories of SEO. Almost all of the 200 SEO factors fit into one of these five categories:

  • Keywords: Keywords are the terms your business wants to rank for in search. They are the phrases your target audience searches for to find a business like yours or the services and products you offer. Your SEO strategy must include keyword research, to find the best keywords that are most likely to be used by your target audience.
  • Content: Content is any copy, graphic, video, or media on your website. It is an important part of SEO because your content sends signals to search engines telling them what your website is about. Your SEO content should focus on your keywords, so it can help you rank for those targeted phrases and terms. But more importantly, it should focus on your readers by offering content that is useful, valuable, and relevantas this will help engage and attract audiences.
  • Links: Links, or hyperlinks, are active snippets of text or buttons that users click on to navigate from one webpage to another. Links connect the internet and also tell search engines what a webpage is about and how valuable it is. When there is a link to a page, the text used in the hyperlink helps describe the page to search engines, and the existence of the link also tells search engines that the page is important. A small business SEO strategy should always include ways to find backlinks from other reputable sites to yours.
  • Local SEO: Local SEO is a series of strategies that help a website show on SERPs when the searcher is in close physical proximity to your business. Most searchers want to find businesses that are near them. Search engines appease these users by displaying results of local businesses. Your business must have a plan for optimizing local SEO to be visible to these searchers.
  • Technical SEO: Technical SEO tactics are the behind-the-scenes strategies that improve your website’s performance and security. These tactics optimize the back end of your website so that it can communicate well with search engines. While the details aren’t noticeable to website visitors or the average eye, the improvements send positive signals to search engines that can substantially improve your SEO.

A strong SEO strategy incorporates tactics from each of these categories. So as you work with an SEO partner, make sure they incorporate each of these topics into your overall plan.

If you aren’t sure which strategies to focus on, you can use a tool like Alexa’s SEO Audit tool. The tool provides a report that includes grades for SEO factors as well as recommendations for improvements. You can match this report with the proposed plan of a potential partner to make sure they are creating the strategy you need.

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3. Know the difference between white hat and black hat SEO.

The last thing that all business owners need to know about small business SEO relates to shortcuts and bad practices.

It’s important to know that there are good SEO practices, and there are bad SEO practices. Bad SEO practices fall under the category of black hat SEO.

Black hat SEO is an attempt to trick search engines into giving you higher rankings. In some cases, it can also include strategies that attempt to trick search engines into giving your competitors lower rankings. Some SEO experts use these strategies to give your website a quick boost or to help you outrank your competitors. You should always avoid these types of marketing plans.

It’s in your best interest to stick to ethical SEO tactics, also known as white hat SEO techniques. White hat SEO strategies will not only give you the best results over time but also will prevent your site from being penalized.

Sites that engage in black hat SEO may receive penalties from search engines that cause them to lose their rankings or stop showing on SERPs altogether. So as you decide what SEO strategies are right for your business use the information on this infographic to stick to white hat SEO practices that will provide the best long-term results.  

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Go Confidently into Building Your Small Business SEO Strategy

You are a busy business owner, not an SEO expert. While you don’t need to dig into the 200 tactics that will improve your website’s search rankings, you do need to be fully aware of SEO terminology and best practices to create an SEO strategy for your business.

Whether you execute that strategy in-house or you outsource SEO, you’ll be able to develop a plan to improve your rankings, attract more customers, and build your business into an authoritative brand.

Do you have any other business owner beginner questions about SEO that weren’t mentioned in this guide? Let us know in the comments below.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Kim Kosaka

Kim is Director of Marketing at Alexa. She has 12 years experience in demand generation, content marketing, and campaign management. Her expertise has helped grow user bases by as much as 7x year over year, and a startup from nothing to $1.2 million in revenue in just 3 years.

Latest posts by Kim Kosaka (see all)

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