Updated: Jan 5
Over the last few weeks, I’ve found several business owners that asked for some advice or that I’ve offered it to. Here’s the thing, as a business owner it may be tempting to view everyone as your competition, but in all reality, they’re not. This mentality prevents people from providing assistance to other business owners in need. You never know, there may come a time when you yourself find your own business in need when some kind stranger comes along to offer you help.
We are a community and we need to look out for each other. I recently found myself walking through SEO with an associate to offer the basics of ranking well and driving traffic to your website and wanted to share it with you all as it may be something that you may be in need of as well.
Ranking Higher with the Search Engines
In order to rank higher with the search engines (like Google) and ultimately, to drive more traffic to your website there are a few things you'll need to work on for SEO.
Meta descriptions & titles
Minimum word count
Long-tail keywords** (this is how you'll be found)
Local directory listings
On-site and off-site SEO are crucial to ranking with the search engines. The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google's Search results. The goal would be to optimize your website and continue building on your keywords to rank higher/maintain the position (if you're ranking well already) to remain competitive over the competition. However, to get a decent position in Google Search results, they want to see a balance of trust and authority. Is your website mobile optimized (important!)? Is it user friendly? Can the Google Search bots index your website appropriately (using your H-tags, meta)? Are people linking back to your website, making your site a trusted source?
Here's the thing about link building (backlinks)... there are white hat and black hat techniques to it. Avoid black hat as Google will penalize your website for it. A good white hat link building strategy is manually building links, reaching out for guest blogging opportunities in order to gain a dofollow backlink to your site. Go into Moz's link explorer (it's free) and check out your competition. What keywords are they ranking for? Where are their backlinks from? There's no overnight solution to building your Domain Authority and ranking well. SEO can take 4 - 6 months to start showing improvement. Black hat methods are a money suck and waste of time.
For local SEO, are you looking to target clients in a more localized area over others? Or globally? If you're looking to target specific areas, then you'd want to consider local SEO listings. I personally use BrightLocal as they're affordable and provide a reputation management dashboard to be able to view and respond to all reviews in one place. I can check my own listings, see where my competitors are listed and build new listings in there. While some of these links will provide a quality backlink that can help you improve your Domain Authority, most of them will not. Local SEO comes into play when you want to show up in the search results for locations. For instance, my company is based out of Maryland and while I serve clients nationally, I want to be most competitive in the state in which I live. So, I have built local listings to help me rank higher in Maryland. These local listings, outside of those that give a DA boost, do not help you rank higher nationally/globally.
Moz also lets you do keyword research for free (up to 10 total queries per month). If you're not sure where to start, check out the competition and what they're ranking for and go from there. I personally use Moz as a starting point but do most of my research on SurferSEO and RankRanger. There are a number of more comprehensive tools out there (SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.), but they are significantly more expensive.
Avoid links that are deemed as spammy. You’ll thank us for that later. If the website you’re looking to get listed on is considered spammy (look in Moz’s Link Explorer at the spam score), avoid it like the plague. Similarly, keep your website as spam-free as possible to avoid being reported as spam. It’s recommended that you periodically check your own spam score to make sure that everything is in tip-top shape. Websites considered spammy will be downranked by the search engines.
In my book, The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing (available at most major retailers on October 4th) you'll find a lot more information on heading tags and how to use them as well as how to conduct keyword research (if you're not already familiar with it).
Let’s say that you’re looking to rebrand. A new domain (URL) can mean starting from scratch with your Domain Authority/ranking. We recently wrote an article on How NOT to Kill Your SEO While Rebranding Your Company. Check out the article to learn more about preserving your SEO as best you can while rebranding. Working to preserve your SEO can minimize any drop in rankings and added costs to build your ranking back up.
The Importance of NAP
NAP stands for name, address, phone number. If a couple of websites/directories have the wrong NAP for your company, but the majority have the correct information, you’re fine, right? Wrong. Outside of potentially losing out on business as a result of inaccurate information, it can also cause the search engines to downrank you as well. If Google can’t identify which is the correct NAP, they won’t want to rank you as high in the search results so they’re not spreading misinformation. To learn more about NAPs, please visit our blog: What is NAP and Why Is It Important to SEO?
Top-Rated SEO Agency in Maryland
Did you know that Pendragon Consulting is a Top-Rated SEO Agency here in Maryland? To request your FREE SEO audit or to learn more about our services, please send us a secure message via our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.