Domain authority trumps everything.
A large part of being able to rank online is increasing your domain authority. Every new domain starts with a DA of 1. Most small businesses naturally start behind the 8-ball. DA is built up using a plethora of factors, however, link building is the most common and accessible way of growing DA over time. There are ways of fast-tracking the process by buying an old domain that already has SEO authority, however, this can be risky. If you don’t know how to evaluate a clean domain, you might end up buying a previously penalised domain.
Image Source: Moz
Since large corporations tend to already have an endless supply of inbound links, large archives of content and a recurring base of online visitors, it is no surprise that they generally have DA metrics of 35+. Although there isn’t a direct correlation between DA and rankings, higher DA sites tend to frequently appear in the top ranking positions of search engine results. Regardless of what field you’re in, you are always going to have at least one competitor who has been around a little longer and has tried harder in building their visibility on the web. This can sometimes be daunting and leave you questioning the viability of investing in SEO.
So, the question that we are tackling now is this: how can you, a small business with limited experience and resources, compete with that level of online domination? – Read on to find out more.
1. Find Your Niche
One of the best things you can do for your small business is to give yourself a niche focus. Instinctively, you may think that the best way to improve your search visibility is to cover as many areas of expertise as you possibly can – this is not always true. If you are trying to layeth the smackdown on your biggest competitors, it is advised that you hone into your own specific niche. SEO is an in to out process, start small and grow outwards. It is also a process that is becoming ever more about relevancy. By focusing on a niche set of keywords you can start to become an authority in that space.
The example below shows an example niche within the family law service area. Instead of targeting ‘family lawyer’ which commands the largest search volume a more applicable term to target for a smaller firm would be “affordable family lawyers Melbourne (or suburb)”. This term would also be more viable given a smaller firm tends to be flexible with pricing that a larger firm with more overheads.
Having multiple areas of specialisation gives you relevance for a wide range of keywords but it does not lead to traffic winning positions. Instead, if you channel all your efforts into just a small handful of keywords, you’ll stand a much greater chance of visibility that will win traffic and hopefully new business. At the end of the day, niches tend to be in the form of longer tail search terms (explained below) and those are usually higher converting terms as the user is further down the purchasing funnel.
2. Use long-tail keyword strategies.
Long-tail keyword strategies try to achieve a similar goal. When you specialise in a niche, you sacrifice minimal relevance in a vast number of topics for maximum relevance in a more dedicated area. You also essentially sacrifice first touch traffic potential from high volume broad search terms and instead opt for maximum ROI in the way of high converting longer tail search phrases. This is highlighted in the graph below:
Image Source: SEMRush
Long-tail keywords are extended phrases Google searches for, such as “how to improve my small business’ SEO” rather than the shorter, more popular “improve SEO”. Ranking highly for a long-tail keyword is a much simpler task than ranking well for short keywords, so even though they bring in less traffic, they still offer more value for small business.
For more information on identifying longer tail search phrases visit this blog.
3. Target localised search queries.
There has been a growing trend of customers who prefer to shop local and this presents another opportunity to climb above your competition. Google My Business profiles are free to set up and now enable smaller companies to capture a niche market segment through proximity alone.
Some great ways to optimise for a specific local area is to ensure that your Google+ Page is well optimised, with accurate locations, phone numbers and business hours of your establishment. Local search ads on GoogleMaps is also a new way for small businesses to really stand out of the crowd in their surrounding neighbourhood.
Garnering positive reviews on Google+ is another way to grow localised visibility, there have been studies that suggest mentioning certain service terms and location-based information within the review helps increase rankings. Building out directories and localised citations on websites such as Yelp is also essential for improving your local presence.
It’s not uncommon for local businesses to operate in less than friendly verticals with regards to acquiring localised links to help boost localised performance. Referencing Search Engine Journal’s article for local link building here are a few ideas of how you can go about getting localised links for a ‘sandwich shop’ in this example.
What this means for small businesses is a more cost-effective way of acquiring rankings without having to worry about bigger businesses and their natural domain authority. Instead, you can focus on cultivating a local presence which can be built on with future growth. Google’s algorithm updates over time have been designed to share more of the SEO pie up so if you haven’t started on Google Local, now’s the time.
4. Personalise your brand.
Aside from local search optimisation, you can also increase your chances of beating the competition by stepping up the “personality” factor in your brand strategy. Bigger corporations tend to lose a lot of their personality once they hit a certain point in their growth as culture is hard to disseminate. People buy into people at the end of the day and although you might not win every piece of businesses with this approach you will win the right type of business which in turn leads to more organic and sustained growth.
At the end of the day, we all want to feel special! Being smaller and humble gives you the advantage of giving each potential customer a more personalised and humanised experience. To achieve this, actively engage with your followers and customers on social media, respond to comments and emails and showcase who you are and what you stand for on your website, GMB and other social profiles.
Sole traders will lean on this approach, as it allows them to slowly build a dedicated audience that is engaged and interested in their brand identity.
5. Produce high-quality content.
Building brand loyalty, awareness and credibility requires frequent and quality content publication. Most companies have an on-site blog where they publish content, whilst others do this by publishing ebooks, web seminars, podcasts, videos and other forms of engaging media. Whatever route you choose to go, ensure that what you post is interesting, legitimate and of value to your readers.
The keys to building your brand name through content strategy are quality and consistency. Maximising the reach of your publications can also maximise your return on investment. Being consistent with your post schedules will also help you become recognised as a dependable authority.
Small Business SEO Tips Summary
Whilst there are no shortcuts when it comes to topping the SERPs (aside from PPC services), these strategies can help you, in time, slowly climb up the rankings and give your competition a good run for their money. As always, don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any queries on the art of kicking your competition’s butt!