Effectively optimizing a small business for better search rankings is no "small" feat.
Today, we are going to look at the steps you should be taking in the first 30 days of trying to improve the visibility of your website.
30-Day Action Plan
Keyword Selection - keyword selection is probably the most important part of the entire process. Thankfully, there are some readily available tools that can make the process a lot easier. SEMrush is one such tool that will allow you to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for and how much traffic they estimate each keyword is sending to their site.
If you are new to finding keywords, this is one of the easiest ways to find some quality terms to target, but I also suggest checking out the keyword research guide from Brian Dean before settling on your target keywords.
Competitive Research - Identifying your top competitors is also very important. Finding sites that rank for the terms you wish to target can help you develop a roadmap to follow. The best way to find "online" competitors is to complete various searches for your products or services (in your area if optimizing for local SEO) and then record the sites that appear the most often. Those sites are likely to have a strong SEO strategy. You should review the keywords, citation profile, link profile, meta data and the content of competitor sites.
Google Analytics Setup - Analytics will provide you with a wealth of information about the progress of your website. Traffic, conversions, user behavior, popular pages, and so much more can be collected and reviewed for free. Google also offers free training for Analytics so there is no excuse not to set up and use it!
Google Search Console Setup - Search Console allows you to view which pages on your site Google has indexed, what terms people are searching to find your site, and it is used to notify you if your site is hacked or manually penalized. Set it up and verify your site, then re-visit in the near future when it comes time to submit your sitemap.
GMB SETUP - If your business has a location that customers can visit, you should setup a Google My Business listing. If you want to rank in the local search results, it is vital that you complete this step. To register visit this page and follow the directions: https://www.google.com/business/. Take the time fill in each field with as much detail as possible, this will save you time in the future. (Image source, Google.)
Website Technical Audit - There are a number of issues that your website could have (too many to list) so you need to run or have someone run an audit to pinpoint the exact issues your site has. SEMrush offers a good site audit tool, Screaming Frog is nearly the industry standard and Website Auditor from SEO PowerSuite is also a great option. More importantly, take advantage of the educational material from each service to understand the results and how to correct them. If you are not familiar with website coding, you may need the help of a web developer to correct some of the issues.
Website Speed Review - Site speed is important to Google and people trying to visit your website. GTMetrix is a free tool you can use to scan your website and make sure it loads quickly. If your website has speed issues, the tool will outline them so that you can correct those issues. Again, a Web developer may be needed to correct some of the issues if you are not familiar with coding.
Link Audit - Low quality backlinks can cause website penalties, de-indexation, or at best, can act as an anchor, reducing the effectiveness of new links built to your website. Additionally, knowing a websites past is the best way to plan for the future. Link Research Tools is a good option but you have to set it up correctly for maximum results. If you are new to SEO, you should enlist the help of a professional for this critical step, if you are more advanced, make sure you closely check the anchor text ratios, look for links with "money keyword" anchors, and links from sites that are not indexed.
Create and Upload a Disavow File - Upon completion of your link audit, a disavow file should be created and uploaded to Google Search Console. This is a more advanced activity so, if you have a professional complete a link audit, you should also have them create and submit the disavow file for you. If you want to tackle this yourself, check out The Complete Guide to Disavowing Links for Google and Bing.
Content Audit - There are a number of reasons why you should audit the existing content of your site. Poor content can lead to content-related penalties and poor user engagement, all while making it difficult (if not impossible) to rank. While auditing the content on your site, you should be comparing content length and keyword density to that of your competitors.
You should also make sure that you have pages targeting the keywords you identified during keyword research, and if not, add them into your content calendar to be created. If you are ready to go beyond those basic steps, check out this content audit guide from the Moz blog. As you complete the audit, be sure to make simple spreadsheet that allows you to pair keywords to specific URLs, this is often called a keyword map and it will help you keep things organized in the coming months.
Page Title & Meta Description Reviews - Upon completing your content audit, you should have a good idea of which pages will target which keywords. This is where competitor research can once again come in handy. For each page on your site that you want to rank, check out the page titles and meta descriptions for the top 5-10 ranking pages. Here are some questions to get you started.
Gather all of that information and it will create a basic roadmap for you to follow. That is not to say you should copy your competitors directly, just that you should take note of the key points and include them in your own titles and Meta descriptions to entice more people to click.
Corrective Planning - Once you have gathered all of the information you need to start optimizing your website, you need to plan out how you will go about correcting those issues. This will be largely dependent upon your knowledge prior to conducting the audit and how much free time you have each month to work on these issues. Moving forward, you should map out the following:
That‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬•s all there is to it. If you have any extra 20-50 hours this month, follow the checklist above and your site will be in a lot better shape than when you started. If you don‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë‚àö¬•t have the time to spare, you know what to do. Either way, SEO is very powerful means of marketing for small business and failing to take action will cost you big now and in the very near future.
If you would like to see a full, detailed six-month small business SEO plan, let us know in the comments below.
Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Spring Hill, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz.