How to Choose the Right SEO Tactics for Your Small Business

When it comes to SEO, many business owners are overwhelmed. There’s so much information out there, much of it conflicting, making it nearly impossible to drill down to the right strategies you should be employing. In this post I’ll try to walk through several of the considerations you should be taking into account in determining which SEO tactics to prioritize for your business.


Different people often describe different SEO tactics in different ways, but at a high level we can think about SEO in two basic categories:

  • On-site SEO: This is basically anything that you’d do to your own site to generate more relevant search engine traffic. This includes specific on-page elements such as title tags, image ALT tags, meta descriptions, internal linking strategies, as well as technical SEO (i.e. duplicate content issues, etc.). On-site SEO is important for any Website, but may be more or less valuable depending on the type of site you have – for instance this should often be the primary focus for larger websites that have a lot of robust content, broad distribution “built in,” and already have a lot of authority and trust with search engines (such as news sites).
  • Off-site SEO: This is essentially a variety of things that would be classified as “link building” such as guest blogging, link outreach and producing share-worthy content. If your site has a relatively small amount of content and is targeting a smaller basket of keywords that are highly relevant to your business, after you get the basics in place with regards to on-page SEO your focus will likely be on building links to help rank for your core terms.

Choosing the right SEO strategies – those that make the most sense for your business — is the first step to a successful campaign. This is followed by the decision between managing these tasks in-house and outsourcing to an SEO agency. Here’s a breakdown of the main strategies falling under each category and how to determine what tactics will make the most senseyou’re your business.

On-Site SEO

On-site content: The content appearing on your Website is the foundation on which you can build the rest of your SEO strategy. Without a solid base of content, traffic-building efforts will produce lackluster results. If your business involves highly technical information, and you have someone on staff with both the bandwidth and the skills to produce quality content, it makes more sense to retain content production in-house.

On the other hand, if your content needs exceed the capabilities of your staff, options include outsourcing to a content provider or hiring a dedicated staff writer. It’s also possible to maintain production in-house and outsource to an editor to refine content before publishing.

Blogs: Blogs alone can require a significant time commitment. But the nice thing about blogs is that having multiple voices is encouraged. In this case, multiple staff members can often contribute content, at least initially. But as your audience grows you may find that you need more frequent updates, so you may choose to outsource to an agency. Like on-site content, if the blog content is highly specialized, it’s probably better to keep it in-house.

Keywords, site structure, & technical SEO: Formatting the navigation and code of a website is one of the most technical aspects of SEO. This is one task not easily managed in-house, unless you’re already employing an SEO specialist or developer knowledgeable in SEO best practices. That said, for many smaller content sites a periodic SEO audit can be effective in keeping your site up to date with best practices without having to retain an SEO on an on-going basis.

Off-site SEO

Overall link building strategy: There are a variety of methods that can be used to drive traffic and links. One of the most effective that is also highly useful for branding and thought leadership is content marketing. You’ll want to spend some time thinking about the different types of content creation and promotion that will be the most efficient and effective for your business, and consider how best to use your resources to execute a content marketing strategy. This could be as simple as periodically publishing well-thought out articles and infographics, or it could be as complex as publishing multiple posts a day and adhering to a strict editorial calendar.

Guest blogging: Guest blogging is a widely-used strategy for both networking and linkbuilding. The process involves outreach, pitching and producing content appropriate for placement on related websites.  Guest blogs are often used as a way to establish thought leadership and brand awareness, so informative posts coming from a CEO or other high-level executive have a bigger impact. Still, it’s possible to have posts ghostwritten if you don’t have the capabilities to produce it in-house.

Content creation and linkbait: This category includes case studies, white papers, list posts, edgy blog posts, infographics, webinars, and all the content pieces that can be used to grab attention and encourage social sharing. Infographics should almost always be outsourced unless you employ a skilled graphic designer, while the other tasks can be managed either in-house or via outsourcing depending on the skill level required and the technical level of the content.

Before you determine whether your focus will be on on-page SEO or more on content creation think about some of the following questions:

  • Do you have a large site that targets a number of different keywords on a variety of different pages? If so your focus should likely be on technical SEO issues and internal linking and information architecture.
  • Do you have a smaller site focusing on a shorter list of keywords? If so you’ll want to find a way to build links into specific pages, likely spending more of your efforts – particularly your ongoing efforts – on content marketing and link building.
  • What types of content resources do you have available (who has the ability and bandwidth to write a blog post, an in-depth article, etc.)?
  • What types of outreach resources would you have available (in the event that you need to identify a list of sites to promote a contest/piece of content/etc. to who could carry out contacting those sites, if anyone)?
  • Do you have any graphic resources available internally?
  • Do you have any programming resources available internally (someone who could potentially build a simple widget designed to attract links or make updates to the site that would benefit SEO)?

Obviously in areas that are logical for you to focus on where you have adequate resources you can get those internal resources to work for you. If you’re lacking in the areas that you’ll want to dedicate the most attention to, however, (if your focus should be on technical SEO but you lack technical resources, for instance) those would be areas where you’d want to consider outsourcing.

SEO Photo via Shutterstock

More in: 20 Comments ▼

Tom Demers Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. Learn more about Tom by following him on Twitter @TomDemers or find him on Google Plus.

20 Reactions
  1. Perhaps the most important thing for SMBs to remember about SEO is that they should be a more tortoise and less hare. Create great content consistently to build your links and authority consistently. Frenetic bursts of effort tend to look spammy and often come from spammy tactics.

    Also, never forget that Google is changing the algorithm constantly. You’re rankings will vary. Traffic will vary. You need to look at the bigger picture & trends.

    • Great points Robert thanks for the comment!

    • So true – especially after the Penguin update where doing plenty of spammy SEO work can actually be detrimental to you. Google is really cracking down on making sure people create visit worthy, quality content.

      I was nailed by Penguin because I made some awesome visit-worthy sites, but all of my external SEO ended up working against me… sad day.

  2. This is a great place for business owners to start. There are so many places to look for link building opportunities. I would consider associations, networks and sponsorships to name a few.

    Keep up the good work Tom.

  3. This is very interesting information. I am just starting my online business so information like this is very valuable to me.

  4. When “small business” also means “small budget,” on-page optimization is more important than ever. Time spent perfecting a keyword assignment, generating titles, metas, H-tags, alt tags and top notch content is by far the best way to improve the search engine friendliness of a site. Add in a fresh blog post on at least a weekly basis, as well as the right internal linking set up, and the site will be ready to receive the full benefit of a linking strategy whenever the budget becomes available.

    Thanks for the post!

    • You make a good point about the budget. I would love to be able to throw money at the internet and tell everyone to visit but that’s not particularly practical. So making sure the proper SEO components are in place is vital. That way what budget you do have you can spend it on filling the holes which you can compete in; e.g., a highly competitive keyword.

  5. jonathan schlackman

    great summation of basic SEO techniques. When you don’t have much of a budget this info really makes a difference. thanks

  6. Hi Tom, thanks for this great tutorial on the basics of SEO.

    One thing I’d add about guest posting to anyone reading this: if you want to guest post on high quality sites, then present your request as focused on getting visibility and building up your expert status — NOT based on link building.

    We see literally dozens of guest post requests a week, and only a miniscule percentage make it through our criteria for guest posting. One of the things that will rule out a request immediately is if we get the sense that the request is all about link building. Put yourself in the shoes of the site owner who pours their blood, sweat and tears — not to mention buckets of money — into a site. That site owner is not going to want to go to the trouble and expense (yes, there is expense in bringing on guest authors) who are only interested in using the site to build links back to another site. That turns us off faster than the click of a light switch. Typically the content from such link-driven requests is substandard compared to what other experts write, too. We turn down requests that are not about sharing expertise, but instead seem to be motivated by link building.

    Just a little tip…

    Thanks again for the great article, and welcome aboard, Tom.

    – Anita

  7. Very nice write up. So many people try and approach SEO with a cookie cutter approach. That usually won’t work because the strategy you choose really depends on a lot of variables you can’t control. Personally I think the guest posting thing is being abused. Not by everyone, but a significant portion of people.

  8. @Robert – I am beating this drum all the time. It is not about linking others content, but building your own or at least contributing to the conversation rather than just a repost or a link. We all have value to add (ok maybe not all) and we can use an article to start a conversation, create controversy, or just educate.

    @Anita – I agree. Become a voice, an expert, a guidance counselor that is there to help not just promote. I talk to all sorts of SMBs that are experts in their niche fields but have not taken the time to let the community know. As a guest they can promote this knowledge and as they build reputation people will come to trust and seek their advice and ultimately find their way to their site… you are a great example of this. Love your posts and your articles.

  9. @Anita – Definitely, good tip, and depending on your resources this can be a good reason to keep guest posting “in house” (you can control which blogs you’re posting to and keep a focus on high quality publications and thought leadership).

    @Chris and @Alex and @Chikara and @Brian – Good points all around thanks for the comments!

  10. Thanks for this info. I’m not good with computers (I’m an artist). This is something I’ve been wanting to do. Actually I tried a couple weeks ago and lost all my content on my web site. Then I got it back but it’s in a totally different design! I’ll try again.

    Best regards

  11. Don’t drive yourself nuts worrying about Google algorithm updates. Remember the goal of all search engines is to show the best sites for a particular query – the ones that provide the most value to a searcher. Focus on that and you’ll get good rankings despite any algorithm changes.

    • GaganDeep Singh

      You are absolutely right. The only aim of google updates is to bring up quality to the user. Internet marketing has become so competitive that one way or other spammer find their way in. Google updates are meant only to derate those spammer. If a person has been continuously focusing on quality, these updates aren’t going to matter a lot.