The practical guide to SEO strategy for small business owners

Attracting a healthy amount of traffic to your website is a good goal.

And optimizing each website page so it appears in search engine results is great.

But a better goal—and one that turns a well-optimized site into a well-optimized site that kicks ass and grows your business—is to attract the right people to your site.

This is your ideal target audience – the folks most likely to make the switch from site visitor to new client.

I want you to have a kickass site. 

To achieve this, you need to make your small business website irresistible to search engines.

You need to fill it with high-quality content, beautiful images, worthwhile links, and the right keywords.

And then you need to optimize it so it loads faster than a cheetah on a treadmill in a supersonic car. 

But with SEO being an ever-evolving marketing strategy, keeping track of each element is essential.

And to do that, you need a plan.

What? Another plan?

‘Fraid so. Becoming the boss of a well-optimized site means:

  • knowing what goes into a solid SEO strategy
  • understanding how this strategy evolves depending on SEO best practices, the needs of your clients, and the growth of your business. 

This guide is all about starting your SEO strategy.

I’ll explain what needs to happen to get the wheels of your plan turning.

I’ll also show you what a working plan looks like using examples of the SEO roadmaps I’ve created for my clients. 

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with some SEO basics. 

What is SEO? And why is it important to have a strong strategy?

Search engine optimization attracts people to your business website and, ideally, converts them. There are two main SEO strategies: 

  1. paid search traffic 
  2. free, organic search traffic. 

When talking about an SEO strategy, we generally focus on nurturing organic traffic.

Because let’s be honest: getting the right people to your site without having to pay for ads is much softer on your marketing budget. 

What makes a lot of business owners buckle is the amount of work needed to create an effective, organic SEO strategy.

It involves managing all the moving parts I mentioned earlier: choosing keywords, optimizing each page, optimizing images, and distributing content.

And then you need to regularly tweak everything to keep up with guidelines and best practices that always seem to be changing.

The sheer volume and endlessness of SEO strategy is what leads to a lot of people giving up or ignoring SEO completely.

Of course, I don’t advise this. (And not just because I’m an SEO strategist.)

But I do understand how and why it gets so overwhelming, especially for a busy small business owner.

Crunching data will never compare with the thrill of sharing your product or service with the world.. 

But if you don’t lay out a solid SEO strategy foundation you’re likely to:

  • waste time
  • risk your competition’s site outranking yours
  • attract traffic that will never turn into leads or sales
  • waste money investing your marketing budget on vague paid advertising.

Whenever there’s an algorithm change, a growth period in your business, or a new website design, you risk having to start your optimization efforts again from scratch. 

Now you know what an organic SEO strategy is, and why planning is important.

But where does the road to success start? 

With your client, of course. 

Know your ideal audience

Every successful SEO roadmap starts with a person.

Yes, I talk a lot about optimizing to satisfy search engines and making sure you follow their rules and best practices to maximize your chances of ranking well.

But you must always keep sight of the person you created your site for: your ideal audience. 

You need to know who you’re optimizing your website for, because they will influence every element of your SEO strategy. 

Let me explain.

Choosing your keywords

Keywords are the words you think your ideal audience will type into a search engine when looking for a business or service like yours.

And the keywords they choose can be influenced by things such as:

  • their location
  • the local dialect
  • their socioeconomic status.

And knowing the words they’re likely to use will help you determine whether to optimize your page for ‘affordable wedding photographer’ or ‘cheap wedding photographer’, for example.

Selecting the best marketing channels

Trying to show up on every social media channel, publish newsletters every day, and do regular podcasts, lives, and so on is unrealistic.

Chances are your ideal audience will engage in only a handful of marketing channels.

So find out which ones they’re more likely to use.

It will help you decide where to place your marketing budget when it comes to paid advertising opportunities.

Or whether it’s worth shelling out on the fancy email marketing software instead of sticking with the free one. 

What’s included in an SEO roadmap, and how they work     

With your ideal audience defined, it’s time to create an SEO roadmap.

This is an action plan (we’ll call ours ‘The Small Business Growth Builder’) that paves the way for more business success using organic and paid SEO strategies. 

The roadmap is divided into 3 sections: audit, strategy, and execution. 

The audit

This part of the roadmap is done first. It provides clarity, influences strategy, and helps identify opportunities your business should capitalize on. 

While most SEO audits focus on technical optimizations (loading speed, javascript, site health, accessibility, responsiveness, UX, etc.), mine are more thorough and offer so much more. 

My clients receive their audit in 3 parts. 

  • Part 1 outlines growth opportunities, and suggests ideal marketing opportunities that will resonate with their audience.
  • Part 2 is an SEO competitor analysis audit, and assesses how Google currently ranks their site against their competitors’. 
  • Part 3 is the technical audit. 

Part of my audit involves forecasting the SEO return on investment you can expect from the work I do.

Ideally, the figures I use to make these forecasts will come from your business.

But if you’re new to SEO and haven’t been using Google Analytics much, you may not have the data I need to make these forecasts.

In this case, I’ll turn to industry averages to give me some idea of what to expect in terms of traffic increases and ideal conversion rates. 

The strategy

For small business owners like you, the content marketing strategy is usually the most interesting.

Using the findings from parts 1 and 2 of the audit, we’ll piece together a content strategy that will deliver results while still fitting with the available business resources.

(For example, I’m not going to suggest publishing a blog every week if you’re a solo operation without a budget to pay someone to write them.)

Content strategy includes:

  • updating website copy
  • creating email marketing plans
  • organizing social media content (and outlining what channels to post them on)
  • writing blogs and guest posts
  • organizing paid ads.

Creating content is definitely the most time-consuming part of The Small Business Growth Builder.

Depending on the size of your business and the resources you have available, it can take up to 3 weeks to complete. But it gets results.

And because it often involves a lot of moving parts, we’ll create an ideal timeline so we can meet deadlines and fairly measure how well it’s performing.

The execution

With the planning done, it’s time to become a member of the get-shit-done club.

This is where I start implementing any fixes I find during the audit phase and put the strategy to work.

We’ll get together on a call either once a week or once a month and talk about:

  • what’s working
  • how things are tracking
  • any areas that need a little more fine tuning.

And that’s how a realistic, workable SEO strategy is done.

No dark magic.

No jargon.

Nothing off the wall crazy-risky.

Just practical steps to take your business to the next phase. 

Ready to start your SEO strategy?

You have a couple of ways to get going.

If you’re looking for some accountability so your SEO strategy becomes an efficient and useful part of your business, join my fluff-free, let’s-get-this-sh!t-done Small Business Sweet Spot group coaching program.

If you’re already publishing blogs, sending emails, and posting on social media, learn how to make your content work harder for you in my Really big guide to content marketing.  

And if you’ve got them both covered but still feel your business isn’t moving forward, let’s get busy creating your Transformation Pathway.

Barb Davids - SEO Consultant

Barb Davids is an SEO consultant and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. Connect with her: Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter
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