Small businesses cannot afford to overlook their search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. With the right knowledge and a reliable toolkit, anyone can improve his or her online rankings. Compared to other marketing activities, SEO can be relatively inexpensive—given a bit of time and effort. There is no secret to moving up in Google’s rankings, only a series of best practices to guide you along the way.
Today, we are going to talk about some of the tools used by SEO professionals. By using these same tools, you can be marketing like an SEO expert in a matter of a few hours. Most of the tools we will talk about you can download and use for free.
Screaming Frog is a tool I use almost every day. It is what we call a website “crawler.” A crawler is a program that searches a website and pulls out all the important information. This is how Google and other search engines are able to search your website, so it is important to understand the information they are looking for. This information includes such things as page titles, meta-descriptions and H1 tags. Don’t worry if those terms are foreign to you, because we will be diving much deeper into this topic in other blog posts. Now that Screaming Frog has allowed us to see our website just as a search engine sees it, we can identify what is holding us back.
Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools are the heart rate monitors of your website. They notify you about any significant issues that might be developing with your site. This is where you can also submit what we call a “sitemap.” Sitemaps are simply a document that tells the search engines which pages you want them to look at, which gives you more control over the content that appears in the search results. The more help we can give these search engines, the less likely we will run into errors. Signing up with both tools is free and both provide full functionality, so both are an essential part of your SEO toolkit.
A free must-have is Google Alerts. Anytime someone mentions your brand online, you will be notified by email. This is important because Google Alerts can reveal other websites your customers are using to find information about your business. If that information is not up to date, you could be losing potential customers.
Take a couple of seconds and sign up for Google Alerts. All you need is an email address and the identification of which terms you wish to be notified about. That’s it. Now, anytime someone publishes anything using those terms, you will get a quick email from Google Alerts.
Social media can be an absolute nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. Hootsuite and Buffer are two applications that make growing your audience base across multiple social media profiles a breeze. What these applications allow you to do is pre-write a lot of your upcoming posts and tweets and schedule them to post at various times of the day that you specify. Not only can you schedule your posts, but you can also post to multiple profiles at once. For example, the tweet I am about to send out can also be sent out to my Facebook page and vice versa. These platforms also provide a lot of detail on the best times to be posting to get you in front of the largest possible audience and will let you know the type of content your audience likes and engages with the most. Both of these platforms are super helpful and super easy.
Two social profiles every small business should have are a Google+ page for your business and an Apple Maps account. If you are like most small businesses, marketing is only as good as the number of people your efforts bring through the front door. Google+ allows you to create a profile on which the customer can leave reviews. I’m sure you have seen a review on the right-hand side of your screen when you typed a business into Google—well that’s Google+. Another benefit is that Google+ allows you to be visible in Google Maps and Apple Maps.
Keyword research is not a particular application, but it is a task any SEO professional does multiple times every day. Mostly, before professionals do any website “optimizations” they want to make sure the effort is going to be worth the results. Every time someone does a search on Google or Bing, that search is counted. Professionals use different tools to find out which are the most popular keywords so they can target keywords with a higher search volume. Essentially, this means that if you have two keywords, one with a search volume of 10, the other with a search volume of 1,000 you naturally want to go after the keyword with 1,000. The more eyes you can get looking at your website, the further your message will reach.
So, some of you are probably wondering, “Well, if I do all this work, how will I be able to see the progress I am making.” Here is where we leverage Google Analytics, Moz and SEMRush. Google Analytics is a small piece of code you need to install on your website that keeps track of how people are getting to your site and what they are doing once they get there. As an SEO professional, I work with this tool for many, many hours a day, so it is definitely something you should get very comfortable with.
Moz and SEMRush have a lot of advanced features I’ll discuss in later posts, but one I want to mention today is their ability to track keyword rankings on a search engine result page, which is a page that comes up after someone has done a search on Google or Bing. The purpose of keyword tracking is to ensure that all your efforts are moving you up in the search rankings, because who doesn’t want to be on the first page of Google, right? Remember, however, that using these platforms takes time, time that is sometimes wasted because a particular keyword is being monopolized by a huge website like Yelp. But if you stay consistent and committed to your SEO strategy, you will move up in the rankings for keywords that are relevant to your business.
Finally, we come to Google Analytics—probably the most important tool in this entire discussion. Google Analytics is a free platform that allows you to track how customers are interacting with your website. Google Analytics is able to tell you where the people who are using your website are coming from geographically, their ages and even gender. Google Analytics can tell you if people are getting “lost” in your website along the way to converting. Without being able to track the number of new visitors on your website or the number of online sales, you lose the essence of what makes digital marketing so valuable.
There are many moving pieces when it comes down to successfully using digital marketing for your business. I know SEO can be very intimidating at first. Breaking things down into clearly defined steps not only will show you how to correctly set up these tools but will also teach you how to use them. So to get started, don’t try to use all these tools right away. Select one or two to begin working with, and I’ll help you grow your SEO toolkit from there.