SEO trends change constantly, what you may know about SEO today may be out of date by tomorrow. This makes ranking a volitile environment, where those who stay ahead of the game prevail.
With this in mind, many small businesses with small SEO budgets are managing to compete in the marketing world, how you ask?
Well, from research and experience it is show that domain age, a good quantity of high quality backlinks and quality content are some of the best competitive advantages of businesses that are trying to dominate the pages of google.
Considering the time investment required in both time and money, it tends to present an entry barrier for smaller businesses looking to get in to SEO with a smaller budget.
For small businesses with small budgets, it is likely that their website is quite new and they have no budget for backlink building and content creation is reliant on them as well.
This should not dissuade you though as there has been many stories of savvy businesses finding a path to go head to head with giants of the searh engine and sometimes, managing to succeed.
In the steps below, I will try to help you and your business succeed against the odds by guiding you on the steps that small businesses are using to have success with SEO on a minimall budget in the shortest time possible.
1. Going for the Low-hanging Fruit
If you have been looking on to SEO you have probably heard of the term "Long-tail keyword", this is a keyword that refers to specific keywords users are likely to use when they are close to making a purchase.
For Example, if you wanted to create a blog post about digital marketing it is unlikely you will get far in the organic search results as it is a very broad term, instead having "digital marketing tips to help you succeed" would be better as you are targeting a potion of the audience from the first key phrase.
2. Keyword Research
It may be an obvious tip but taking your short-tail keywords and doing the research, you can find suggestions to give you estimates of monthly searches for potential long-tail keywords, as you can see here:
Even taking long-tail keywords can produce alternatives that you can place in your posts and rank for or use to develop another post, as shown below.
This is why I mention this as it makes sense to do thorough research in to potential keywords you could be using in your blogs posts along with your major keyword and attain a rank alongside it.
Usually it is advised to keep a single major keyword per page, although having one additional major keyword is not a bad idea.
There have been cases where a blog post has ranked for multiple major keywords.
3. Keyword related and non-keyword related on-site SEO
This is a cornerstone of your on-site SEO efforts and is important, esepcially in the content of your pages. Although there is a lot more to it than simply the content of a page and is something to consider.
Rather than offering you an essay, this is broken down in the points below.
4. Keyword-rich content
Previously I have mentioned keyword reasearch but it is important to note that there is such a thing as "keyword-stuffing", there is a balance to be found in using keywords wisely and not over-saturating your content with them.
5. Metadata or "Copy" for your pages
Metadata or "copy" for your pages are not a major ranking factor but this is the titles, etc that are going to be shown to users in the SERPs or organic search results, thus it is a click factor which means it is still necessary to make sure your metadata is relevant to what users are searching for.
The titles and descriptions especially are what users are going to see of you first when browsing, so will be a deciding factor on whether they click through to your site or continue scrolling the results.
6. Long-Form Content
According to Hubspot, in 2019 the average length of blog posts was 2,164.
Although this is the average, this should not be the target, as many posts with as low as 1,500 words have managed to gain top spot on Google through having quality content over their competitors.
Although the length of content is a factor, the relvancy of that content is just as important as we dicuss below.
7. Informative Content
Years ago, keyword stuffing pages was the standard for getting page to rank well on Google and that was it.
Now things are very different, Googles's Panda update was put in place to cull pages with thin content and pages with more thorough content was given a higher likelihood of ranking highly.
Blog posts that are full of relevant information and contain trusted sources make it to the top of google in today's Google algorithm but it is important to note that just because a post is long does not mean that it is informative.
A post must offer value from start to finish, through word based content as well as additional advantages gained from visual content such as infographics, videos and screenshots/photos.
There is no denial that relevancy is key, making sure to have lengthy content that provides value for a specific purpose rather than remaining vague are ideal for users looking for answer and thus are more likely to gain traction.
Finding a balance with quality and quantity is key to getting the most out of your content.
10. Mobile Friendly Website
An obvious one but important to mention, nearly 60% of searches made online are from mobile devices, and this trend will only continue as Google continues to cater it's algorithm to suit this trend should be reson enough for it to be on this list.
Optimise your site for mobile-friendliness and if you are having a new site design make sure it's design with a mobile-first mindset.
Below are some of the teps to make sure your site is ready for mobile users.
11. Page Load Times
A while back, Google announced their Mobile-first Index, they went out of their way to make it clear that site speed has become a ranking factor, others looking in to this have found it to be true.
In order to ensure your site is seen on Google, site speed should be on your mind, this raises teh question "how do I improve my site speed?", thankfully, Google have you covered although you will have to be technical to make most of the improvements, there are some that are possible without being technically inclined.
Below are a couple of the easiest methods of improving your page speed.
12. Minify, Minify, Minify
Websites are composed of code (Shocking, I know) and depending on who designed your site or which website builder you have used, there will be spaces, commas, numbers and other such things in the code.
Not all of this is always necessary and thus can be removed to help speed the rate at which a site is loaded, you will have to have an idea of what you looking at though.
If you aren't technical this should definitely be outsourced to a web designer or SEO savvy individual, that can take care of this without potentially ruining your web site.
13. Image Compression and Formats
Images are an element that can take a lot of space and stagger your site when loading, visuals are important to use butnot if it costing you seconds of your load time.
To properly optimise your images for SEO it is important to look at the dimensions of the image and make sure they are not to large for displays thus making them a higher quality and taking more time to load because of it.
There are ways to do this without compromising the quality of the image, the easiest being changing the format to one that compresses the image a bit more as well as altering the resolution or using one of the many tools online that can help do this for you.
14. URL Structure
When adding new posts or pages to your site it is important that they don't look like they have been take from your site's code, an SEO friendly URL must be short and easy to read, giving users an idea of what they are about to click on.
Research has show that URLs are among the key elements searchers look at before they consider clicking on a link.
Years ago it would be common to see sites with a jumble of letters and numbers in their URL but we have come a long way since then and it is now standard to properly layout your URLs to make them relevant to the page.
Take a look at the illustration below to get an idea of what you should and should not do when it comes to URLs.
Source: Neil Patel - SEO Friendly URLs
15. Internal Links
Linking from one of your blog posts to another of your related blog posts has become standard when writing blog posts.
This is done for a purpose though, it benefits the linked to post by providing "link juice" from one post to the other, showing Google the relevancy of the post and makes it easy for Google to find and index your pages, as well as keeping users present on your site for longer.
There doesn't mean it's a good idea to stuff your posts with links to your other posts and it is important to avoid exact-match anchor text in the link as there is the potential for Google to think it's an attempt to manipulate and penalize you for it.
16. External Links
Google has been using link signals as a major ranking factor for years now, they are still one of the most important SEO factors as well as the most important external factor and I wouldn't expect them to be going anywhere anytime soon.
When building backlinks it is important to get links for your site as a whole first (This puts up your domain's authority) and then start putting focus on your money pages (Driving up that page's authority).
It may seem straightforward but there are a few things to aware of when building backlinks that you need to be careful about or you may end up getting your sited penalized by Google.
It is important to look back at one of the previous tips, keyword research, with the long-tail keywords you have found, we can use these as they are the most unlikely for competitors to have relevant backlinks for.
Take a look in to their backlink profile and identify the weakpoints for these long-tail keywords.
To break this down for you, if I was to make a post for "digital marketing tips", and my competitor has 15 backlinks, to be able to beat them, I would need to get at least 16 backlinks to a similar post to out rank them.
Coupled with on=page SEO this can a defining way to beat competitors for keywords.
These are some of the best tips I can give when building backlinks.
A. Quality, not quantity
Chasing sites with low domain authority may be a fast way to get backlinks but it may end up hurting your SEO efforts.
Although it is not necessary to only go after the hightest domain authority sites you can find, going after a site with 60+ DA is fine, although even having some 40 DA sites are also useful. If you go after low domain authority sites in the interest of haste, you risk hurting your SEO.
B. Having a healthy mix of anchor text is necessary
When looking to rank a site for a keyword such as digital marketing, you may be tempted to build a link profile with just those two keywords.
This may seem like a great idea but is a quick way to end up with your site penalized, Google is suspicious about an unnatural amount of links all with the same anchor text pointing to the same source, make sure to keep the anchor text varied around the keywords you are going for.
C. Avoid black hat link-building no matter the glamour
Weekly I find emails in my inbox from link vendors, who are trying to sell me on quick generic links, the problem is that these links will get me penalized much faster than they are to get me ranking well.
Linkbuilding is time consuming and quick difficult for anyone on a small budget and the temptations are there to take shortcuts, having patience to do it correctly is key. Do not be in a rush to gain a rank that will mess up your efforts so far.
Even if you pay for these generic links and they seem to work in the short term, Google will catch on and give your site a penalty, completely removing your site from results.
To be clear, completely avoid buying links and all other forms of black hat link building that are being shown to you.
The end goal should be to build a large and healthy link profile around your low-hanging fruit. This can be done through participating in guest posting and willing to withstand a lot of rejection.
Another route is to create content that others want to link to in the form of valuable articles that bloggers may want to naturally refer to.
There is also blogger outreach and there are many resources online that can show you the way to do this.
As you build up your backlinks profile, your domain's authority will grow as well allowing you to start going big and eventually compete with large competitors who seem untouchable in some cases.
Useful Resource: Backlinko - Linkbuilding Guide
SEO changes regularly but even through all the changes these factors have remain consistent and have thus become fundamental when working on SEO.
The main take away from this post should be that not matter how small you start, with enough hard work you can build yourself up with a minimal budget to be able to compete for SEO ranks against big companies.
Looking for the top SEO trends? Checkout our other Blog post that lists SEO Trends in 2020
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