By Ash Buckles
Imagine the kind of impact your business could have if you had an unlimited budget for marketing. Unfortunately, most businesses are limited on what they can spend, particularly when it comes to online marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). But with a little creativity and smart planning, business owners can make the most of what resources they have while making a major impact on the Internet through SEO.
Have a strategy
Without strong SEO, a website might not be found by potential clients. When people are seeking information, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are among the first places they visit. Statistics have shown that 85 percent of website visitors come through search, with most individuals not looking past the first page of results. Without strong SEO, a website might not appear in the first few listings, making the business ultimately miss out on valuable clients.
You can also lose visitors by not having a strong website. Your website strategy should focus on attracting visitors through search and then keeping them on your site by providing the kind of information they are seeking.
When someone visits your website, what do you think will stand out to them? What parts do you think they might skip over or don't provide as much value? Take time to analyze your website and the competition. Come up with a strategy for what areas can improve to help attract and keep visitors. Google's Webmaster Tools can help with your strategy by providing insight into what pages have the most visitors, what search queries bring traffic to your site and where your users come from. The free software also helps identify issues with website malware, such as broken links and duplicate tags.
Create a timetable and set goals you would like to reach as a result of your SEO and other marketing efforts. Would you like to attract more patients or get more people signing up for a certain type of service? Would you like to reach a certain group of people? Document your goals and evaluate your progress, making adjustments as needed.
Pick strong keywords
One of the keys to drawing the right kind of visitors to your site is smart keyword usage throughout your content. Think about what kinds of terms people might use when searching for your business and use those words throughout your writing. Use Google AdWords to help gain an idea of what kinds of searches people are doing.
Using long tail keywords in your content is one way to draw a more targeted audience. Long tail keywords are longer search terms using certain keywords that, when combined, are less common. For example, instead of focusing on the keyword "dentist," you could concentrate on "cosmetic dentistry in San Diego" and get more targeted results with patients looking for a specific type of service.
Focus on content
Strong content is the most valuable commodity your website has to offer. To save money, some of this content could be created in-house, while an SEO agency focuses on your site's technical side of things. Include articles, blogs and patient testimonials to help drive visitors to the website.
People want to find information as quickly as possible when visiting a website. Breaking apart the text and making it more scannable will also keep visitors on your site. Use bullet points, headers, bolded text, short paragraphs and articles.
The search engines are not just seeking written text; they are also looking for pictures, graphics, videos, audio files and more. The wider the variety of content you offer on your website, the better.
Not only will it appeal to youraudience on different levels, but it will also help with search rankings.
Link building is another area that could be contributed to in-house to help build your website's presence in the search engines. Email business contacts to arrange a cross-promotion or combined press release. Be sure to include links so both businesses receive credit from the search engines and readers.
Another alternative is posting content on various sites to attract customers. One of the best ways to do this is to look for guest blogging opportunities. Most sites that accept guest posts will let the author include at least one link back to their website in exchange for the content. And the bigger the website the better. Search engines give more prominence to links from popular websites, news media sites and blogs.
Social media and SEO complement each other greatly. With social media being one of the most active parts of the online experience, it's now making an impact on search rankings. People find new websites through search, but they also find them through social media.
Content creation and the links that come from social media sharing show the search engines that people are talking about you and can help boost visibility. Likes, Tweets, Pins, and Google +1s are all considered by the search engines.
Including "share this" options on your website that link to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is one way to encourage visitors to share content and make the material even more searchable. It can also help spur conversations with potential patients, expanding your network even further.
Getting to the top of the search results rarely happens overnight. The search engines are engineered to look for both stability and credibility when assigning a page ranking. It could take three to six months before search rankings and traffic increases.
Continuous effort with your website will pay off and have a powerful impact on search traffic and rankings. Don't let a limited marketing budget keep you from achieving your SEO goals. Search rankings can be improved by being vigilant in your content, link building, keyword and social media strategies.
Ash Buckles is the President of SEO.com and has worked at the forefront of branding through SEO, pay-per-click advertising, blog marketing, social media, and ColdFusion development. He is a recognized industry leader with experience consulting hundreds of enterprise and small business clients in online marketing. Under his direction SEO.com has been ranked the #1 search marketing agency in three consecutive reports by Website Magazine. For more information visit SEO.com.