As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate; from developing your product and managing staff, to day-to-day financial concerns.
When people start talking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing, considering all the other plates you’re juggling, it could seem like the latest in a string of techno-jargon pitches from marketers trying to get your business.
Or maybe it seems like a toolset outside of your reach, that only a lab of ivy-league-graduate computer programmers can understand.
In reality, SEO is a lot more straightforward and easily manageable for anyone. Yes, anyone! In fact, as a small business owner, you’re probably already doing it to some degree.
What it takes to really leverage the vast potential of SEO marketing is really just a shift in perspective.
Here is my favorite SEO trick that you can start using today to make a big impact on your traffic.
Know Your Customer
Smart businesses are in ongoing dialogue with their customers to develop and continually refine their product. Let’s assume you manufacture and sell headphones, and you know your customers prefer blue headphones instead of yellow.
They want a pause button on the earpiece — so you add that. You’ve developed a product to match their needs.
Now, what do those customers think about when they’re looking for you online?
What do your customers like about your product? What are its unique features? How do they use your product? It’s an enlightening exercise, getting into the brain of your customer.
A first step is to think about how your customers approach solving the problem of finding your product. Your product is filling some niche or need, so naturally, your customers are going to type keywords or key phrases into search engines that are going to answer those needs.
Thus, an important part of SEO is knowing that when your customers search your company or product, they’re likely searching using a phrase or keywords like “blue wireless headphones.”
But, it might be as broad as a query, “What are the best headphones on the market?”, or as simple as some keywords like “awesome blue headphones.”
Luckily, there are tools out there that allow you to test your suspicions about how your customers use search.
Here’s the A of our ABC approach to SEO.
Go to Quora, a popular question and answer forum, to discover how people are asking questions and do some simple keyword searches. For example, I typed in ‘Best Headphones’ and here are some of the questions people have asked related to that:
These similar questions are so important to pay attention to, because they are a strong indicator of how people are searching the internet for your product.
And if you have content on your website that matches how your customers are searching, there’s a much better chance Google will rank your content higher in the search results.
So now, once you have a sense for how potential customers are searching for your product or service, you need to check Google. For a search engine like Google, it’s all about relevance.
Google has data about billions of searches and they’re able to use this data to rank their results — and continually re-rank them — by popularity, quality, and match of content to the needs of their searchers over time.
You don’t need to know exactly how Google works. Many SEO experts only wish they could figure it out, but there’s one Google feature that you should get comfortable with.
It’s called Autosuggest (or at least that’s what we called it when I worked at Bing). Autosuggest is hidden at first, but it shows up when you start typing in the search box:
You’ve all seen it. It looks like Google is trying to help you with your search, and they are. The beauty of it is that Google only knows what to suggest because thousands or even millions of others have done those searches before you.
When you combine Autosuggest with Quora you’re going to start looking like an SEO magician.
Step B of the ABC
Start typing in the questions you found from Quora into the Google Search Box and see how Google completes them. In this example, I started typing in, “What are the best headphones” and you can see the results ranked by popularity (most searches). Think of these as potential blog post titles. You’re looking for something near the top that piques your interest.
Keep in mind that what Google suggests to you is just as powerful as what they don’t suggest. If what you’re looking for doesn’t show up in Autosuggest, it means there’s a good chance other people aren’t thinking the way you do and your question is not a good candidate for a blog post.
This little Google feature is a goldmine of free data at your fingertips.
Now for the C of ABC
Pick one of the searches and make that your blog post title. For example, you could choose, “What are the best headphones for working out?” Now go write a high-quality article that matches the title and post it on your blog.
Now go write a high-quality article that matches the title and post it on your blog.
It usually takes some time for Google to recognize your new blog post, but if you’ve written a quality article you should start to see it showing up closer and closer to the top of Google results over time.
Here’s the first article I wrote using this technique back in November 2015 and it’s now ranked #4 in Google Search results and drives reliable organic traffic to my website every month.
“But, Jess,” you say, “I don’t need a bus driver in Tokyo reading my blog! I want to target real potential customers!”
Well, that’s exactly what SEO does! Remember, the goal of SEO is simple: help potential customers find you using search engines. The higher your website is presented on a search engine (aka, how you’re ranked), the more likely your potential customers are to find you. So now just apply the same technique above but use more local search terms like city names, or local attractions.
So now just apply the same technique above but use more local search terms like city names, or local attractions.
Be the SEO
In a lot of ways, business owners are already SEO experts IRL (in real life). They’re constantly in conversation with their customers, working to better understand them and optimize their product and marketing for customer needs.
SEO is just an extension of that thinking using search engines as the conduit.
The fun thing about SEO, and why I love it so much, is that you can start simple (play with a few keywords) and get more and more complex using tools like SpyFu and Google Analytics as you get more comfortable.
The world of SEO and analytics leave much room to tweak and experiment with your online content strategy.
Don’t be intimidated. All it takes is a shift in perspective, and in no time you’ll be comfortable adding SEO to the ABCs of running a business.
Written by Jessica Jobes
Jessica Jobes is the Founder of OnTheGrid, a Marketing Agency in Seattle. At OnTheGrid we work with funded startups to accelerate marketing and generate early sales success. We’re agile marketers relying on running multiple tests and collecting data to systematically gain traction for our clients.