November 23, 2014

5 Tips for Being Naturally Good at SEO

As a small business owner or consultant, getting on the Web and developing your presence can be scary enough.  When you’re in the thick of things, you don’t even want to hear terms like “search engine optimization (SEO)” or “Internet marketing.”

off page SEO

It certainly doesn’t help that new and improved SEO concepts are being touted each week. It can be hard to know what to believe or understand where your time is best spent.  But for your business to reach its full Web potential, SEO is something you need to consider. Because SEO matters.

It matters a lot.

If you’re an SMB not sure where to get on the SEO train, fear not. As a small business, there are plenty of easy things you can do, all by yourself, to set up your site to be naturally good at SEO. Get the basics down; then worry about the more difficult components.

Where should you start?

1. Build your site for users: Putting together a full website that represents you and tells the world what you’re all about can be paralyzing. Where do you start? What do you focus on? Who do you speak to? There’s so much to consider.

Your first step is to focus on your customers. And that means focusing on usability. Build a site that is intuitive and easy for people to digest. Sticking to best SEO practices like using breadcrumb navigational elements, creating easy-to-skim content, having a simple interface, selecting the right keywords, and organizing your content into topic silos can go a long way in helping customers understand your site better.

By making your site intuitive and easy for a user to parse, you also make it easier for the search engines to index and rank.  Remember, the search engines are using algorithm to “read” your website. That means the structure and organization of your content is paramount.

2. Become a subject matter-authority: Want to naturally attract SEO magic? Work toward asserting yourself as a subject matter authority in your niche by focusing on two things:

  • Becoming a source of content: Adding unique, expert content to your website is a great way to set it up as a leader in its field and to build authority. For a SMB or consultant that may mean writing tutorials about your service or product, publishing opinion or thought-leader type pieces, writing e-books or whitepapers, creating videos, guest blogging on other authority sites, and using social media to share additional content. By making your site The Source for trusted information about a topic, you become a subject matter-authority in your customers’ eyes and build your expertness.
  • Building your personal brand/reputation: By establishing yourself as a content hub, you’re already well on your way to building your personal brand and reputation. But don’t just stop on your own site! Start building your presence in your local community and your niche by speaking at events, participating in webinars, and being vocal about whatever it is you stand for. The more people see you participating in your online community, the more authoritative you become.

By making yourself an authority in your niche, it allows you to naturally attract the links, likes, mentions, and shares all the SEO experts will tell you that you need.

3. Do stuff to attract links: Any SEO worth his or her salt will tell you that you need to build links in order to increase your SEO efforts. But as a small business, how do you do that? And how do you do it in a non-spammy way that you’re comfortable with?

The easier answer is that to attract links you have to do stuff. You have to give people a reason to talk about you. And on the Web, talking about you means linking to you.

Again, becoming an authority and writing content are obviously two great ways to do something and attract links. But be on the lookout for ways to insert yourself into press mentions, hold contests and giveaways, sponsor events in your area, support local charities, blow something up, disagree with an industry demigod, anything.

While it’s easy to get caught up working inside your business, you also have to work on your business and attracting attention is part of that.

4. Increase social and be social: When you’re creating cool stuff, kill two birds with one stone by making that “stuff” inherently social. Add social calls to action, incorporate social share buttons, allows for user participation, etc.

Not only will adding and encouraging social activity help your content and ideas be seen by more eyeballs, it will give off important signals to the search engines that your brand and your content are things that consumers want. The search engines are looking at social signals to help them find the meat in the vast sea of content that is being produced. Likes, shares, mentions and comments help them to do that.

5. Think about performance: One thing many business owners don’t think about is the way their site performs, both on the Web an on mobile. They create sites in Flash not understanding the underlying SEO issues or they don’t worry too much if a page (or the whole website) takes too long to load. The result of this is a bad experience, both for users and the search engines.

Google has been very clear about the importance of a quick load time and how it plays into the Google algorithm. They’ve even developed a tool to help you analyze and optimize your page speed.

If performance is something you haven’t considered or thought about in terms of your site, you want to start thinking about it. Because when it’s between you and a competitor for the top sport in the search results, the little things can end up being big things.

Above are some ways small business owners can cover the SEO basics without really even trying. Because, as it turns out, the best SEO means simply creating the most positive experience you can for visitors.

SEO Photo via Shutterstock

29 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

29 Reactions

  1. Lisa: Thanks for highlighting this topic. I have several individuals in my contact sphere that are experts on SEO. I like the natural way of getting better at SEO. I often show the example of my 10+ years of blogging that have created an organic SEO over time.

  2. Great post, Lisa,

    Thank you for not JUST writing that, “content is king,” or some of the other bland and over-used SEO-related terms that are too easily found on other websites and blogs these days.

    None of the things you suggested are necessarily easy. They all take time. it can take years to create a powerful online presence.

    But once you have it….

    The Franchise King®

  3. I’ve seen far too many sites where they built it with SEO in mind and forgot to make a clean, easy user experience. Of course that meant a site that was clunky to use, abominable to look at, and doesn’t make money.

    As for the content, realize that you have knowledge that isn’t common. That’s why you’re the business owner and people give you money. You’ve just got to put some of that knowledge (with some personality) into your site.

  4. Lisa,

    Thanks for tying it all together. Too often content producers just focus on one area when it comes to optimization. You have put it in a simple strategy hitting on what a lot of people tend to forget. I will be using this as a reminder for those I work with.

  5. Thanks Lisa – always enjoy reading your articles. Natural SEO building is definitely the way to go for long-term web success, but it’s definitely not an easy task to achieve. We’ve done as much as we can on our end to ensure that our new app will be found by users, very close to your pattern of suggestion.

    Do you have any thoughts for those of us looking for advanced natural SEO building?

  6. Hi Lisa,

    It’s informative post, I really liked it…

    All 5 points you have mentioned are useful and I do agree with all of them. I think all five points are necessary to be adopted and to be in the competition.

  7. With all the updates, it’s tough to make SEO “Natural.” I think SEO comes naturally only after you’ve been in its trenches for two years or so.

    Good for bringing up the contest thing, Lisa. That’s something I’ve shied away from for a while now. I’m going to check out your posts on that topic.

  8. Great info, social media an area we are constantly working and interacting with. There was a time not long ago when social media did not play as big of a factor in algorithms as it does now.

  9. Amazing, Lisa! I’m going to share this with all my small-business clients!

  10. Nice sensible piece and shining some common sense onto SEO. For some I think a storm is coming with the next penguin change at the end of the summer. I believe if you follow the advice on this piece you wont go far wrong

  11. The one major point that is in this article which gets rarely talked about in the field is page performance, especially with the major shift to mobile. The EDGE network is still used in a lot of areas on the planet. Making the search engine and users wait will ensure that they will not put your website icon on their valuable smartphone front screen real estate.

  12. Thanks for taking the time to write this. But is it really any different than any other SEO articles? 5 Tips for Being Naturally Good at SEO, but I feel a little bit like it’s just a repeat of everything else on the web about SEO.

  13. Honestly this is worthless advice. Natural seo is an absolute lie. Googles algorithm is easily manipulated yet people fail to act on that reality and instead become paralyzed into inaction because they feel like they have to become an expert in their field. Keyword research + consistent on page optimization + link building = high rankings.

    • Hi Aaron,

      While I appreciate there’s more to SEO, for a lot of small business owners and marketing managers the approach Lisa lays out above is practical and achievable. That’s what I like about it.

      And remember, rankings aren’t everything. The name of the game for small businesses is about getting an audience — the right audience. An audience who wants what they have to sell. High rankings aren’t necessarily the answer (or the only answer).

      – Anita

  14. Lisa,

    I like how you framed points 2 and 3 because it focuses on activity – many times business owners feel that SEO is a matter of gaining a few tips, doing a few things to the site code, and traffic will automatically come. SEO does not function that way because human beings are at the other end of that laptop – the task is to position the material to where people can respond best.

    I disagree with Aaron’s comment – being consistent with optimization is what your points in 2 and 3 are touching upon. By developing activity that is organized, businesses will be better positioned to incorporate SEO tactics and improvements.

  15. Hi Lisa, no doubt it was again another informative article to take action to grow a business portal online.

    But I always thinks how to attract the peoples to link back because even your articles are getting 1000 of likes and shares in social media sites even only 20-30 quality links are coming back.

    Anything you can on my doubt ?

  16. Lisa, glad I found you, missed your blog, which I read diligently! Great article and quite insightful, if only clients understood these concepts. I find myself educating and informing on SEO before they sign up!

    John

  17. It amazes me how I often I still hear folks equate SEO with keyword stuffing and haphazard link dropping. In today’s online environment, content is most certainly king. Tip #2 resonates the most for me, “Become a subject matter-authority”. To create lasting SEO is to create worthwhile content. To do this, you need to become an authority, or what you write will mean nothing.

  18. Really informative blog Lisa, I am always trying to emphasize the affects of natural seo on websites. I always implore others to stop the un-ethical seo techniques and concentrate on quality links, fresh content this worth sharing and people see this as un-natural but keywords in the right place.

  19. Google has recently began really clamping down on SEO that makes the content harder for the user. Keyword stuffing and making your content more “readable” for Google actually can harm your rankings now, not improve them. Another thing Google is starting to push is content authors for websites, this can really help increase your SEO rankings with Google if they can see it is linked to an author on Google+.

  20. Many of us focus so much on good keywords and backlinking that we forget about the importance of good content. I agee with you that you can target certain keywords or gain backlinks day after day, but at the end of the day if your content is crap you won’t get very far.
    It is important I believe that as a blogger we incorporate the total package. You have outlined some of the most important aspects of SEO that we should be focused on.

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