Is SEO dead?
Cartoon by Andrew Grossman — From 123rf.com

 

First, the difference between “paid” search results and “organic” search results:

  • Paid search: You pay for it (think Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and such)
  • Organic search: You earn it with your content

Anyone who tells you they can guarantee your site will soon get found on the first page of Google search is either planning on running Google Ads on your behalf … or is claiming the capability to do something nobody outside of Google can promise to deliver. 

I can use the fundamentals and intricacies of search engine optimization (SEO) on your behalf to considerably increase the odds your website will rank high on the search engine results page (SERP), but I darned sure can’t and would never guarantee it. I don’t own Google. And neither does the salesperson on the phone (perhaps even claiming to be from Google). Be careful out there. More on that topic soon.

How to get ranked on the first page of search by using SEO for your local company

There’s no reason for a local company to NOT get found high in organic search. Those who aren’t ranking aren’t taking the necessary steps. Notice I didn’t say they aren’t trying to rank or they aren’t paying some agency in Los Angeles or New York City to take care of their SEO … I said, “They aren’t taking the necessary steps.”

That leads us to this: What are the necessary bases a business must cover to get found on local searches? What are the basic components of local SEO?

Great question. I’m glad you asked.

Here’s why I’m qualified to answer that question: I’ve been working exclusively with small businesses to help them get organic search rank (versus paying Google or Bing for pay-per-click ads) since 2010. Before that, I helped small businesses develop their strategies and launch.

Since May 10, 2013, when I left my corporate copywriter job (a job I loved, by the way), I’ve been on a mission to help the little guys succeed at getting more business and finding ways to effectively compete in an often cutthroat marketplace. I’ve a heart for entrepreneurs.

To be clear: Most local businesses should be able to do well in search results by employing professional SEO tactics. That said, some niches are much tougher to get search engine rankings on than are other niches.

Call me, and we can talk about that: 541-588-2077

Let’s get right into it. Do these five things, if you want your business to boom.

The Necessary Components of Local SEO

  1. Avoid SEO charlatans as if they have lice: And they may. The first thing I tell my clients is to hang up when someone calls them or emails them, promising to get them ranked on the first page of search. The scammers often claim to be from Google. Here’s a saying you should hang on your wall for everyone in your company to see: “Google isn’t calling you and NOBODY can promise first-page rank unless it is Google.” Those companies will not only take your money and ruin your day, they’re quite likely to get you penalized by the real Google … meaning you can bend over and kiss your chances of getting found on search goodbye. 
  2. Selling is good: Businesses must sell products or services. That is as it should be. Stop being ashamed of selling (if you’re that kind of person). On the other hand, if you’re only trying to rip people off with low-quality goods and crappy services, go drown yourself (I speak figuratively only, of course). Our economy is based on buying and selling. Never be afraid to ask for the order, and stop telling your content writers not to push too hard. Get real. Stand up. Be genuine. You have something of value to offer … offer it. I include this in the list because all the traffic in the world won’t help you if you aren’t able to convert that traffic into sales … and selling requires selling.
  3. Employ a professional copywriter to write your website content. I know, anybody can write. Your cousin’s daughter is a poet. Good for her. Copywriting is writing aimed at selling something. That means every page on your website will NOT be all about you and how wonderful your company is: “We make the best pizza in town and we love both cats and dogs. Come try our pizza today! And, by the way, we not only have the BEST ingredients, but we have the lowest prices too! YUMMY! You’ll love our pizza.” No, your content should call out the problem (Hungry?) and provide a solution (Get your butt in here and chow down) along with a reason why to choose you and some social proof (we’re open until midnight, we deliver, and we’ve been named the “best pizza in town” the past five years). The content on your primary pages (Home page, product description pages, sales pages, checkout procedure …) is crucial. So is the content on your landing pages, but few of you know what those are or how to write them with SEO in mind. If your copywriter doesn’t, call me.
  4. Develop an intelligent content marketing strategy. Most small businesses don’t have a content marketing strategy at all. The owners SAY they do, but they can’t produce it. Therefore, they waste time and money chasing their tails instead of focusing on high-value activities. As with the charlatan SEO creeps, though, this area is jam-packed with crooks who will sell you a multi-thousand dollar sure-sell package that consists of trying to trick people into becoming your customers. Tread lightly. Talk to your local Small Business Development Center. Talk with a SCORE counselor. Get real help from someone who knows what they’re talking about and has been in the trenches before. An effective content marketing strategy will get real clear on what you’re selling, who your best prospects are, where those prospects hang out, how to reach them, and how to speak their language. It will also develop a clear-cut path people can use to buy from you, it will clear the rocks out of that path, and it will follow up with your customers to get them to come back for more and to become evangelists for you. And it will take a microscopic look at your competition. It will know them intimately. Don’t settle for less.
  5. Make sure to cover the SEO basics. This is the realm of legitimate SEO practitioners. It includes things like making sure your metadata is optimized (backend SEO), developing your keyword list and optimizing for your strongest keywords and keyword phrases, getting you listed on appropriate (be careful here) directories, building supporting content for your site that will play well with the keywords, earning mentions and backlinks from sites relative to yours (be careful here too), making sure you’re hooked up with Google My Business, developing your social media presence, and on and on. There’s no end to the tactics you can use to help build SEO klout. I tell my people that proper SEO isn’t one thing or a few things: it’s 1,000 little things that all matter. The charlatans will focus on big, quick wins like building a zillion low-quality backlinks. Those might give you a quick bump, but they’ll soon drag you down to the bottom of the pit and you’ll never be found again.

SEO Is Alive and Well

Some say SEO is dead. That’s not true. SEO used to be the tree, now it’s the forest. SEO is what happens when your onsite content, your offsite content, and your content marketing strategy are combined with technical principles and tactics to get your message in front of your best prospects.

Most small business owners and entrepreneurs won’t stop to make sure the five bases of effective SEO are covered. They either think they’re already in place (and they aren’t) or their nephew who loves gaming and is a computer geek is taking care of all that for them. That gives their competitors an open door.

A few small business owners and entrepreneurs know exactly what I’m talking about, but they can’t find the people with the real-life experience and skills to help OR they don’t think they can afford the help. Hey, if I pay you $10 and you give me back $100 on a regular basis, I can afford to hire you … believe me.

Most don’t get that, though. Most won’t put out the money upfront to do the hard work required and wait for the results (typically, there should be a positive ROI within six months, but that all depends on the beginning situation and the competition).

The real champions will not only dig into the five major components, but they’ll include rigorous analytics and testing. They will never stop improving, and they’ll OWN the market. Those are the elites, though. They aren’t whining about how tough things are, they’re taking names and kicking butt.

That’s it, friends. I wish you great success. Those five components, by the way, aren’t in order and they’re not meant to be done in order. Smart business owners will make sure all five are being covered all the time. The others will blame the government or the weather or their customers.

Such is life.

Call me. Let’s talk.

About the Author Don Sturgill

Writer, Dreamer, Believer - Bend, Oregon, SEO and Content Marketing

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