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Q&A—SEO for Small Businesses

Our resident SEO expert Andrew Taylor answers your questions, including why regular content improves SEO, why it’s important to avoid “unnatural” activities, how to rank well for local search results, the cost of free content, and finding a good cadence.

Check out our interviewwith Moz’s Cyrus Shepard about how to improve your website with SEO

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Dusey : Hello listeners, this is Dusey. I'm one of the producers for the Small Business Success Podcast, and today we also have Ellis with us.

Ellis: Hello.

Dusey : In studio live in person as always.

Ellis: Always live in person. As you will notice, Clate and Scott are not in this podcast, and that is because this is a new format. This is our Q&A format where Dusey and I jump into the mic from behind our recording booth and answer questions [00:00:30] that you guys send in.

Dusey : Awesome. We have a question about SEO today so we've brought in our resident SEO expert, Andrew Taylor. How's it going, Andrew?

Andrew Taylor: It's going well. Hi everyone.

Dusey : Could you just tell us a little bit about your history, who you are, where your SEO expertise comes from?

Andrew Taylor: Yeah. I started out my career after college getting involved in SEO at the time I guess you could say it was somewhat in its infancy. [00:01:00] I wasn't there at the very beginning, but I definitely have seen SEO evolve over the years as I've seen algorithms change and people's and companies' behaviors change because of that, so definitely have had a lot of experience in a lot of different aspects of SEO and I'm excited about answering a few questions during this podcast.

Dusey : Fantastic, thank you. Ellis has our very first question.

Ellis: I do.

Dusey : Oh, oh, oh. I almost forgot though. If you have a [00:01:30] question, go to SmallBusinessSuccess.com/questions and we will answer them here on the podcast, and sometimes we may be able to bring in Clate and Scott but we also might bring in experts on whatever topic you have a question about, so anything about running your small business, SmallBusinessSuccess.com/questions and send it our way.

Ellis: Can I ask the question now?

Dusey : Okay, fine.

Ellis: I'm kidding. I'm just teasing you Dusey.

Dusey : Fine, go ahead.

Ellis: Geez. Okay, our question is from Robert Foster and his company is Trainers On Site. He says, "I have a [00:02:00] service based business that goes to people's homes. We go to homes in different cities or towns. What should an entrepreneur do to rank well on Google for each city, and does consistently having fresh content or blog posts on your site help improve your SEO?" I hope it does. Otherwise, we have some writers who won't be useful.

Dusey : Well let's tackle those beginning to end each one at a time, but what are your initial thoughts, Andrew?

Andrew Taylor: My initial thought [00:02:30] is he's definitely on the right track as far as focusing in on local. If you have some type of small business that is not offering a product on a national or international level or if you have some type of service business like our friend does that asked the question, you want to really focus on serving your customers in that area. So one of my first rules at a very fundamental [00:03:00] level that I think about with SEO is you never want to do anything that's unnatural, and you also don't want to do anything that you wouldn't do without the existence of the Web and everything else. If I was a local business owner and the Web didn't exist and I wanted to get my name out there and have people hear about me, I would start to do certain events and activities and maybe get [00:03:30] in local publications that starts to give me more and more visibility in that local area for my target audience of the customers that I'm serving. So as you translate that over to the Web, you're really doing the same type of thing. There are certain things that you can do to signal to search engines that hey, I'm in this specific location and I care most about my audience [00:04:00] in this location so when you're building pages on your website you can start to drop city names and stuff like that in your titles and meta descriptions. Of course you're also going to be talking about that if you have other pages on your website that talks about where you deliver to or where your services are provided. Search engines will start to pick up on that as you start to drop those hints so to speak, and they'll [00:04:30] start to rank you for those things over other services that may not be as specific or as transparent that they're in that area ready to serve people at that time.

Dusey : Okay, cool. At the very beginning you said something about not doing something unnatural. What does that mean? Maybe you can give some concrete examples of something that would be unnatural, and why is it important to not do those things?

Andrew Taylor: Sure, sure. A good example of that. When you talk about [00:05:00] unnatural behavior with SEO or any type of optimization in this space, spam would be another word. If I was developing a page on my website about in home training services, I'm not going to unnaturally put city names in the middle of sentences that doesn't make sense, or I'm not going to list other things that [00:05:30] as a general reader would go through the website would take a step back or take a second look at and be like, "Why is it written this way? It doesn't make sense. This isn't what I would expect."

Ellis: Should you put your keywords in white at the bottom of a page so that people can't see it?

Andrew Taylor: You shouldn't put keywords in white at the bottom of the page. You shouldn't go out and pay for links from shady people that are saying, "Hey, buy some links from me and I'll drive a [00:06:00] lot of traffic to your website." Really succeeding in SEO takes hard work, it takes dedication, and it takes a lot of vigilance around doing SEO best practices the right way, and search engines will reward you for that and most importantly your customers will reward that to you, because that's what you're really trying to serve.

Dusey : Yeah, it shouldn't come at the cost of customer experience, right?

Andrew Taylor: Exactly.

Dusey : This [00:06:30] might not make any difference at all, but I'm curious. If somebody is working, maybe they're a small franchise just getting started and they're working in different locations, so you've got somebody doing some service in New York and someone else doing one in LA. Do you just do both those together and have blog posts and stuff on your page that talks about those specific areas, or is there some best practice for something like that if you're segmented that way?

Andrew Taylor: Yeah, I think so. At the very [00:07:00] beginning there's some basic stuff that you can do if you've got multiple locations, especially if you're going from state to state like the example you used. One of the first things I would do as a small business owner is list my business on Google Maps so Google Maps starts to put a pin on the map and say, "Okay, this business is here." And that starts to incorporate into how you're representing yourself to the public and to your customers in those specific [00:07:30] areas. As you start to progress and build out your content and get to that second and third level, you may want to start to address certain customer needs in those local areas. Continuing along with the theme of this personal trainer, if he happened to have multiple locations in different states, maybe there's a difference in personal training as it relates [00:08:00] to different seasons in those states. Maybe you end up writing ... Let's just say one of your locations is in Fargo, North Dakota. You might write a post or some type of information around what you do when you're all snowed in in the winter and it's super cold outside to keep yourself active, keep yourself in shape. So as you start to build out that content, customers certainly [00:08:30] hopefully would appreciate that but also you start to really establish yourself as that local authority compared to some of your other competitors and some of the other services in that area.

Dusey : Awesome. That's fantastic. The last part of his question was about having regular content. You were just talking about creating content for different things. To someone who's brand new to this, what is an effective way for someone to get started creating [00:09:00] regular content and why is that good for SEO? How does that work? And another part of his question was just about doing blog posts, but also stuff on the homepage, so I don't know if there's something important about updating what would typically be static pages more regularly. Maybe you can just give me a quick overview of some of that?

Andrew Taylor: Again, as you're trying to establish yourself as a local authority, your customers or your potential customers, they want to know that you're active in your industry, [00:09:30] you're innovating, you're doing things that would serve as their best option when they're thinking about going out and buying your services or buying your product. So there's definitely an advantage to keeping in sync with customers but also letting them know that you're very active in what you're doing. At the same time, you can go over that threshold and just be pumping out a bunch of content [00:10:00] that might not be necessary depending on what your business does and who you serve. I'm trying to think of an example of this, but maybe if you had a small business that sells the same widget and that widget's never going to change and it's just more of a commodity, you might not need to write about that as much. But if you're [00:10:30] talking about something else that's up and coming or warrants more conversation around it, that's when you try to meet the demands of the market and those prospective customers with content, with answers, with more information.

Dusey : I think one way that when you're struggling with what that constant content should be, and maybe it's not something that's that dynamic and changing very often, even just industry [00:11:00] news can be something regularly that you can write about and like, "Look at this thing that was related to the industry." And it just keeps fresh content coming even if it's about something that's not really dynamic like you said.

Andrew Taylor: Yeah, I agree. I think that point you bring up is a good reminder to all of us that SEO is just one weapon in your arsenal as a small business owner to go out and grab new business. It shouldn't be the only thing that you use. [00:11:30] You should use a lot of different things. For some companies SEO might not even be one of your primary answers or one of your primary channels. That's okay. Commonly though it's usually higher on the list just because it's free first of all, and second of all most businesses find that they'll benefit from ranking in a high position organically, so [00:12:00] it's been a very popular channel, a very popular marketing tactic for many, many years because of that but the point I'm trying to get at is it shouldn't be the only thing that you're doing. You have to think about what the core of your business is and what marketing channels or communication channels best serve your business and your customers and go with those first.

Dusey : Yeah. I know something that we see here a lot at Infusionsoft is someone maybe put some effort into SEO, or [00:12:30] maybe they finally rolled out some of their first paid advertisements and stuff, and then they get all these leads and they're overwhelmed. So having the rest of the funnel set too, right? So you don't have a small conversion rate and only one conversion spot where a bunch of people drop off because you weren't able to get to them. Having some way to step down, get the people that are highly interested moving first and keep everyone else engaged.

Andrew Taylor: That's right.

Dusey : The SEO is just that first big wall that people come running [00:13:00] into.

Andrew Taylor: Exactly.

Dusey : And you have to have the rest of the system set.

Andrew Taylor: Yeah, and if you were to profile small businesses that continue to grow, you'll probably notice a pattern or some type of theme where even though it's free to write content and get your information out there and start ranking in Google, in the grand scheme of things it actually isn't free, right? You end up paying for writers. You're paying for [00:13:30] thought leaders to come in. I guess my point is you're still spending time, and with the old adage of time is money, you're still making some type of investment in SEO, so that's something to keep in mind too.

Ellis: I know on the content team a question that we get a lot as it relates to content and SEO is, how often should I be publishing? So yeah, you're spending the time. It's a lot of time to dedicate. Is it okay to post once a month? Does Google like it better if you post everyday or multiple [00:14:00] times a day, or once a week, or does it matter?

Andrew Taylor: Well, I don't want to give a vague answer that it depends on the business, but it kind of does. It takes us back to a point I made at the beginning of the conversation of don't do anything that's unnatural. As you start to assess your business and what it's trying to achieve you should land on a natural frequency [00:14:30] of communication of posting. There may need to be some adjustment as you continue to progress, but I think if you're posting on a regular basis and keeping in sync with your customers, in sync with the industry that you're in, I think that's going to put you in a good place. Sometimes I think a lot of small business owners get intimidated because they look at these big enterprise businesses and they [00:15:00] observe the fact that man, these people are posting multiple times a day. They're doing these very extensive studies and providing a lot of really rich content, whether it's textual content, video. All the other things that could rank for you in search results. You don't have to get there overnight. You can start to build on your momentum over time. If you feel comfortable with writing [00:15:30] one post a month because that's as much time as you have to allow, that's a great first step. Start to look at Google Analytics that I hope you have on your site so you can monitor how that stuff's performing, and then look at that data and say, "Hey, is the effort that I'm spending to write this article or add that one extra page to my website really giving me something back in return?" If the answer is yes or even if you have a hope that it's yes, [00:16:00] then you can start to take that information and either carve out more time or start to think about making an investment and building out more of your SEO program.

Dusey : Fantastic. I'm going to put you in the hot seat real quick. Are there any resources that you would point people to? Someone wants to do a deep dive about some of the stuff that we've talked to. You just mentioned Google Analytics so you can see what's effective. Where else might you point them?

Andrew Taylor: That's a great question. [00:16:30] Probably the first place that I would point you to is some of the stuff that Google actually provides. Since they're the makers of their own algorithm, they're the ones that have all the power to deem who's ranking in first position and who's ranking in 50th position. It's good to familiarize yourself with what's important to them and what some of their policies are [00:17:00] around good SEO best practices, so I think that if you were to go to Google and type in "Google beginner's guide to SEO," you should see some results there that are developed and published by Google that would start to set that really good foundation. A couple other resources to consider. I've always really liked the company Moz. They have great information [00:17:30] around people that are getting started with SEO that are amateurs in the space. They also have something that's similar to a beginner's guide, but they even have a whiteboard Friday session where Rand, one of the founders, live feeds some ongoing topics about SEO that I try to join as much as I can too, and even if you're just getting started in SEO, listening to an expert like [00:18:00] Rand talk about SEO even at a more advanced level will start to get you exposed and then maybe start allowing you to keep it more top of mind in some of your daily activities.

Dusey : Cool, and how do you spell that? Moz?

Andrew Taylor: Moz, M-O-Z.

Dusey : Just M-O-Z? Okay, cool.

Andrew Taylor: Yeah.

Ellis: We actually did an interview with an expert from Moz almost two years ago when we did our YouTube show Ignition, so we'll put a link to the show in the show notes.

Dusey : I feel bad that I didn't know who it was.

Ellis: [00:18:30] Even I know. I'm kidding.

Andrew Taylor: Then there's some other more publication-type based resources. SearchEngineLand.com is another great resource that you can get into one of your feeds and just start monitoring. Then if you really, really want to nerd out, there's also some books out there that you can do, but I think for small business owners going [00:19:00] out and buying a book is probably not your first step. Getting to some of these beginner guides will really get you off on the right foot.

Dusey : Fantastic.

Ellis: Awesome.

Andrew Taylor: One other resource that comes right out of the Infusionsoft book is our SEO guide for small businesses. Definitely want to check that out. I think we're going to throw that into the podcast notes.

Dusey : We are, absolutely.

Andrew Taylor: That's one more resource that you can go download and get more information.

Dusey : [00:19:30] Perfect. Yeah, we'll make sure that's in the show notes. I think that about wraps it up for today. Thank you Andrew for your time and your expertise.

Ellis: Yes, thank you.

Dusey : I think there are a lot of small businesses out there with this question that'll be happy to hear some of these answers and be able to get started. We wish all of you the best of luck in beginning your SEO endeavors, or if you're intermediate or if you have more specific questions, just reach out back to us. Again, SmallBusinessSuccess.com/questions. We can bring Andrew back on or we can continue to bring experts in other areas, but whether [00:20:00] you have questions about SEO or any other aspect of running your small business, send them our way.

Ellis: And may you always rank number one on Google.

Andrew Taylor: That's right. Thanks everybody.

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