Do you ever wish that your company’s website was your hardest-working employee instead of your biggest mystery?
Join the club! If 2015 is going to be your best year yet, it’s time to start getting that future "Employee of the Month" in ship shape. To help you out, I recently sat down with Mike Belasco, CEO of InFlow, an inbound marketing and search engine optimization firm in Denver, and asked:
How can small-business owners do a detailed SEO checkup on their website without spending a fortune?
Here’s Belasco’s list of what every small-business owner needs to do to get their website’s basic SEO needs squared away. And if you get started now, you’ll have every one of these tasks crushed fairly quickly—and for less than $100.
First Order of Business: Install Google Analytics
What if you could understand your audience big picture by staring at a single screen? Well, Google Analytics makes that possible (and with a series of single screens). Discover everything you've always wanted to know, from which websites are sending your site the most traffic to understanding how visitors behave on each and every page of your site—and everything in between. That’s the power of Google Analytics. And the best part is, it’s free.
To get started, you’ll need to create a Google Analytics account. For those not running a website built in WordPress, I recommend this guide from Hubspot to get you started. If you do run a WordPress website, then do yourself a solid and follow this freshly updated step-by-step guide from WPBeginner.
Next, you’ll need to install your tracking code on your website. Google has a handy guide here. If your website was built in WordPress, you can use a simple (free) plugin, and you’ll be up and running in two minutes once the plugin's installed.
For those of you unfamiliar with Google Analytics, Google has an entire online learning center for this tool, including numerous self-study courses for the uber geek on your marketing or IT team. To really get the most out of this cool tool, Belasco recommends turning on the advanced features in Universal Analytics.
Second: Get Familiar With Google Webmaster Tools
After you’re all set up with Google Analytics, head over to Google Webmaster Tools (another free tool). Webmaster Tools will help you make sure there aren’t any “Manual Actions” active against your site. In English, these are penalties that may be preventing your site from being able to rank on and obtain traffic from Google. Here’s how to get started:
- Visit Webmaster Tools, and click "Add Site."
- Verify your site. Click "Alternate Methods" to verify your site using Google Analytics (which you awesomely already have installed).
- Click "Google Analytics" as your verification method.
- Once your site's been added, you can check to see if Google is having any issues with your site on your dashboard—it'll tell you if you have any critical issues that might be affecting your search rankings.
Next: Run Some Free Competitive Analysis
Wouldn’t it be swell to know where your competitors are getting their traffic? See which keywords they’re ranking for (and you’re not)? How powerful their social networks are becoming in sending traffic to their sites?
I thought so. Which is why Belasco recommends digging in deep—and on the cheap. Sites like SimilarWeb and SiteAlerts allow you to view some astonishing stats for any website, not just your own. Simply drop in the URL for a competitor’s site, and you’re on your way. Both sites will let you see a boatload of data on any website you choose for free, but both also have paid models available for ongoing competitive tracking (with SiteAlerts being by far the most reasonable for emerging businesses at $10 per month).
The benefits of competitive analysis to your SEO strategy? For a start, how about better Facebook ads (since you can target fans of other brands and geotarget your ads based on top referring countries)? And then there’s the benefit of seeing which keywords are bringing your top competitors business so you can adjust your content strategy and pay-per-click and AdWords campaigns. Lovely, isn’t it?
After That: Become a Better Local Yokel
For businesses that are focusing on local traffic, Belasco says many are missing the boat on local SEO optimization benefits by not having consistent and complete online local profiles. If you’re interested in better local rankings, he recommends that you head over to Moz Local (at $84 per year, it's a steal) or Yext (plans begin at $17 per month when billed annually). You can input your business’s contact data and make sure you’re showing up the way you need to show up to the people searching for you locally.
This is an easy fix for businesses that rely on local traffic, and you can knock it off your to-do list in under 10 minutes.
Then: Check Your Site Speed
Did you know that the speed at which your website loads affects your search engine rankings? You could be doing everything else right and this alone could be killing your efforts.
Belasco recommends heading over to Google’s PageSpeed tools (again, free) where you can use resources to increase your page-load time. WordPress users can instantly increase their site’s page-load efficiency with a plugin like WP Super Cache. Be sure to test plugins before setting them live on your site, however. Your developer can help you avoid any potential conflicts with your existing site and a new plugin.
Finally: Make Every Page of Your Site Work Harder Than Ever Before
If you’re fighting the good fight and consistently creating new content (which the search engines love), then why not make that content completely search engine lovable? Belasco refers his clients to this handy, on-page optimization, SEO checklist from Altitude Marketing. Putting the 16 points on this list into play will help ensure that anyone creating online content for your company is following best practices for maximizing your search engine rankings. All the tips are easily executed by someone with little to no tech savvy and can easily help you better position every piece of content for maximum benefit. You can also use this checklist to review previously published content and spruce it up so it can perform better online.
So there’s the dish on demystifying the SEO process. If you implement everything on the list, then Belasco's advice helped me keep my promise that you could accomplish everything here for less than $100. Making sure you have the best tools and tactics that will make your site searchable and put it well on its way to becoming "Employee of the Month"—which is exactly what it should be every month.
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