Ah, SEO, the digital growth tool that everyone loves to talk about, but few fully understand. In order to fully utilize SEO in your company’s marketing strategy, it’s important to know the facts. Yes, SEO still matters, and yes, it’s more complicated. But it’s also a fundamental tool that offers great potential to those who use it well.

How Do You Get Started?

This is how.

Step Number 1: To Succeed, We Must Adapt

If you began using SEO techniques for your small business even three years ago, you’re likely seeing a significant difference as to where it is now.  It used to be enough to stuff your pages with your desired keywords and let the algorithm do its work. Now, it requires keyword research, a consistent content strategy, the right length of content, and just the right mix of keywords in each post.

To succeed in SEO for your small business, staying on top of algorithm changes will keep you moving forward. This means following industry blogs, testing new changes quickly, and implementing those that work for you.

The better we adapt to these changes, the better we’re able to reach the ideal consumer through the right content at the right time.

Step Number 2: Don’t Skimp on the Keyword Research

Keyword research will give you the direction you need to go in order to see results. If you only have time this week to do one of these things, this is it. This includes the keywords people are looking for, the search volume, and what your competitors are using.

When done well, you can meet shifts in demand or market conditions with your own content. Those searching will see your content, and get brought into the marketing funnel for your company.

These are some questions to ask while researching keywords:

  • What is the value of this keyword to my niche?
  • Will searchers find relevant content when visiting my site?
  • Is this traffic that can convert into sales?

Once you’ve filtered keywords through this series of questions, plug it into a search engine to see what already exists. This gives you a foundation to work off of as you create content that stands out from what already exists.

A tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer can make this easier, and Growthbot can give you competitor keyword rankings.

It’s important to realize that when we talk about keywords, we don’t mean stuffing your content with the exact keyword. Instead, use this as a foundation as you create content that’s built on tangential content.

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Step Number 3: Take Advantage of Google’s Tools

Google gives you free tools, so why aren’t you taking advantage of them? One of these is Google My Business. Google My Business gives owners an opportunity to create a listing on their company, and have it fully integrated into Google’s products. This includes search results, Google Maps, Google’s Local Pack, and Local Finder.

“Google My Business should be a focal point for any small business,” explains Mindy Weinstein, Founder and President at Market Mindshift, “It’s free, easy to update, and can make a big impact.”

Include information about your company’s background, services, and how to reach you. Make it consistent with your other content so it reads like a natural extension of your brand. Once complete, your information will be more readily available across Google’s platform, including organic search results.

Step Number 4: First Page Results Don’t Come Easy

This is one of the greatest lessons to learn when using SEO as part of a digital growth strategy. As both search algorithms and people get smarter and more sophisticated, first page ranking became harder and harder to achieve. (Without paying for sponsored listings. Or black hat tactics.)

This change doesn’t mean you should give up on SEO. Rather, it’s integrating it into your marketing strategy so there’s a balance of SEO and social. Your company’s social profiles may appear as some of the first listings on a search engine result page, so make sure you’re active on them.

As consumers become more educated, it’s essential that companies recognize the power of education in the buying cycle. Using inbound marketing tactics like a thorough blogging strategy will help further educate consumers to move them through the brand discovery process.

As Jessica Carmack, a Director of Digital Marketing, describes, “It’s no longer enough just to show up organically on the first page of Google. You can’t just do SEO and you can’t just do social. It’s definitely a balancing act and it takes both. We are marketing to educated consumers… Consumers can smell inauthentic marketing jargon from a mile away. It’s the culture we live in. If something feels or sounds like a generic hard sell, consumers don’t want it.”

This focus on conversational marketing may not be the easy way to first page rankings, but it will provide long-term growth the right way.

Using SEO as a digital growth tool is one of the most complex challenges in marketing today, but it comes down to a few key assets: continual growth, research, tools, and strategy. When we bring those together, the variables are controlled and success, though complicated, is on its way.