Search engine optimization (SEO) tools help companies position themselves to get a favorable ranking in web search engine results. When considering search strategies, companies also need to consider business intelligence (BI). Coming up with the right keywords and designing a website’s content to get high page rankings in search engine results are important to any company’s digital success. But SEO can be a box of black magic in many instances that requires specialized staff and expertise. When small to midsize businesses (SMBs) have tight budgets, they often need to be creative to improve their page rankings.
SEO tools provide position monitoring, deep keyword research, and crawling through customizable reports and analytics. We spoke with Chris Rodgers, founder and CEO of Colorado SEO Pros, a Denver-based boutique consultancy, to get some best practice advice on how SMBs can approach SEO. Whether you’re building a new website or just looking to optimize an existing site, here are some tips to keep in mind.
PCMag (PCM): What advice do you have for SMBs as far as how to approach SEO?
Chris Rodgers (CR): The first thing to consider is what resources you have as a company, like whether you have the budget to hire an agency or a consultant. What in-house resources do you have to put toward the campaign, and then what do you do if you don’t have a budget? If you lack a budget, then what I would recommend is that you educate yourself. So, if you have someone who’s in charge of email marketing, for example, then that person can start learning about SEO so that he or she understands the basics. We have some good resources in the footer of our website in a section called “Learn SEO,” and we link to a number of reliable professional industry resources. So start learning it on your own. Then I would look at hiring an SEO consultant if you don’t have enough [money] to hire a company. Another thing I think is super important here: Make sure the company that you’re dealing with specializes in SEO.
PCM: How should SMBs approach budgeting for SEO?
CR: It’s different for every business, but for smaller businesses on the lower end, if you’re spending less than $1,000 a month, then there are typically going to be flags going up. For a lot of companies, it may be a minimum of $2,000 a month for them to even be doing this properly if they’re trying to hire a company to help them. If you’re anywhere south of $1,000 to $2,000 per month, then be critical in terms of what you’re paying for and what you’re getting because, once you get south of reasonable budgets for this, there are a large number of SEO providers that are not providing real value. So they may be automating things. They may be outsourcing overseas. They may have an in-house add-on option.
PCM: Why does link building cause trouble for companies?
CR: Well, because it’s one of the more technical areas of SEO, and it’s also one of the areas that learning a little bit can be really dangerous. So, when you start learning the basics, each link [you] get is going to have a domain authority and a page authority. Well, I know that if I get higher domain authority and page authority links, then my site’s going to do better. Well, there is a whole sector of Black Hat SEO taking place on the web. It’s one of the ways you can set off flags with Google in which you’re trying to implement manipulative practices that are not abiding by Google webmaster guidelines. So there’s just a lot of ways that you can get in trouble with Google, and potentially get a penalty if you’re not really careful about the links that you’re building, how you’re building them, what kinds of links, and where they point to.
PCM: How do you know when an SEO campaign is working?
CR: You’re going to see increases in key performance indicators (KPIs). So, generally, you’re going to see organic traffic increase. You’re going to see landing page organic visits going up. You’re going to see rankings rise, and you’re going to see conversions. It does move slow so you can see the progress along the way, but you’re still looking at three to six months on a lot of campaigns before you’re going to see notable progress. But if you’re doing it right, and you do it over a considerable period of time, then you should see new opportunities you can track back to your SEO campaign. If your KPIs are going up and you’re not seeing new opportunities, then you may not be making a dent in your campaign.
PCM: What are some SEO tools that companies should consider using?
CR: Moz Pro [is] a good tool around keyword difficulty. I think SEMrush is a super-solid tool for people who are trying to manage things in-house. SEMrush has an audit tool that you can use to crawl your site, and then it’ll come back and give you recommendations. The other cool thing that SEMrush does is it has a visibility index. It will show you all of the keywords and pages that you’re ranking for on your website. And it’s a snapshot, so it’s not going to be all of the data but it will give you the trends from month to month on how many keywords you’re ranking in the top 10 pages of Google. So I think that’s good to measure visibility and see where your performance is.
Other than that, I’d be using Google Analytics [GA] to be looking at KPIs, like where is your organic traffic coming from and which pages are the top performers. Moz has an SEO training guide. With the more advanced tools, you really need to have expertise to truly get value. They start getting pricey once you get out of the SEMrush and Moz and SpyFu and some of those entry-level tools.
PCM: What are the common mistakes that companies make with SEO?
CR: I would say one of the biggest ones is trying to design and launch a website without first figuring out your SEO strategy. All of your research and planning should be done before you even sit down to think about what your website should look like. We’ve seen a lot of horror stories of large websites with a lot of rankings and SEO equity. They go and redesign their website launch and they just lose it all. And that does happen. Developers are not trained to be looking at SEO factors the way a specialist will. So that’s the first one.
A second mistake is trying to do SEO when you either don’t have the budget or don’t have the resources to do it properly. You’re better off educating yourself and hiring a consultant on a limited basis than trying to hire an agency that sounds like it’s going to give you the magic solution. And another thing would be hiring an SEO provider that does not specialize specifically in it. SEO is very difficult to do well, and unless you don’t sleep, there’s not going to be a way to be a true expert at SEO.
PCM: What does the future of SEO look like? What will change SEO?
CR: I’d say one would be the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), which is already a factor in Google’s algorithm. We have voice search and that ties in with mobile usage. Voice search is changing the landscape, and people are searching in a more conversational format. While keywords are still important, the way we use keywords is shifting over time.
In Google, we’ve got more searches on mobile devices today than we do on desktops. So you can see there’s this whole “mobile-first” kind of movement where now companies are restructuring their websites so that they work first and foremost on mobile devices and then also work on desktop. You know, speed is a really big one; that ties in with mobile. It’s really important that your website loads quickly.
Big picture, Google would like nothing more than just to rank the best websites and companies at the top and not have them jump through all of the hoops that they have to today. I think if Google had its way, then it would eliminate SEO companies. That being said, we’re a really long way off from that. We’re still going to need SEO to understand what customers’ needs are [in order] to be able to create strategies on how to create content and solutions that meet those needs—and then, ultimately, how to translate traditional marketing objectives in the digital world as they relate to search engines.[“Source-pcmag”]