SEO for marketing is an incredibly effective tool for building a business that has longevity and helps you thrive. Instead of draining you, in the long term, SEO offers you a passive channel to increase meaningful engagement and drive leads. To understand how SEO work as a marketing tool, you need to understand what SEO is, how Google ranks pages, and how to create an impactful and manageable SEO strategy. We also share some SEO tools to help you implement and analyze your strategy.
What SEO Is
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the practice of giving your site the best possible chance to show up on search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher you rank in SERPs, the more visitors you’re likely to get through organic traffic.
Businesses use SEO for marketing for several reasons. First, it’s always good to have a handful of marketing channels to drive leads and sales. Relying on just one channel means your whole business is upended if something goes wrong. If you know anyone whose business Instagram has been hacked, you know exactly what I mean. Secondly, marketing with SEO gives you a chance to build trust with potential clients and get better engagement on your site. We’ll get into that more in a bit. It’s important to understand how Google ranks web pages in the first place.
How Google Ranks Your Web Pages
Before you can use SEO for marketing, you have to understand how Google ranks web pages. Google uses over 200 factors to determine whether a web page is relevant to a query and how highly that page should rank in the SERPs. Not all of these factors are equally important, though. For small businesses, these are the considerations to keep at top of mind.
Google is first and foremost interested in high quality content that’s created for humans, not its indexing bots. That means your SEO for marketing should center around creating engaging, informative content. Answer a question. Highlight a client story. Share your take on an important concept in your industry. Whatever you do, make sure your page is easy to navigate with headings, subheadings, and sections of body text that aren’t too long. In other words, make it skimmable. Most people will view your website from their phone, after all.
Three types of links matter for SEO – inbound links, outbound links, and backlinks. Inbound links connect two pages within your website. That shows Google that you have plenty of related content. In Google’s view, you’re more likely to be an expert on your main topic. For example, if you’re a Seattle wedding photographer, you’ll probably publish multiple pages about venues, florists, and other wedding vendors in the Seattle area. Linking those pages to each other helps Google view you as having more expertise as a Seattle wedding photographer.
Outbound links connect your web page to other websites. Generally, Google prefers that content like blog posts have at least one outbound link. This becomes a balancing act, though, because you don’t want to link to a competitor’s site on the exact same topic. You want to cite statistics and numbers, but when it comes to concepts, try to minimize chances for visitors to leave your page.
Backlinks are the reverse of outbound links. They connect other sites to yours. For example, if you’re interviewed on a podcast, the pod can link to your website. The more established the website, the better for your SEO. At one point, Theo was interviewed in the New York Times, and their photography website saw a definitive boost.
Your copy isn’t the only part of your web page that matters with SEO for marketing. Image SEO makes your images findable on Google image searches. More than 1 in 5 Google searches is an image search, and that number is increasing as the search engine adapts to a more visual, image-driven world. If you’re brand new to image SEO, alt text is a great place to start. Grab a free copy of Alt Text 101 to learn more.
SEO for marketing only works if you publish regularly. There’s some dispute over exactly what impact publishing frequency has on SEO, but many experts believe that it has the single biggest impact on the growth of your organic traffic. At minimum, continuing to produce up-to-date content helps you improve your authority and stay relevant to your clients.
SEO Strategy for Small Businesses
If you want to use SEO for marketing, you’ll have the most rewarding experience if you start with a strategy. Google’s algorithm has an overwhelming number of factors. We’ve found that these three offer a good starting point for most small businesses.
Trying to get published on other sites, whether it’s for visual content like photos or a guest blog, can be well worth the effort for a powerful backlink. Make a list of sites with good SEO who publish people in your industry. Reach out to them and find out if they include a backlink when they publish guest contributors. Depending on your industry, this might not land you directly in front of potential clients. It’s more about the long-term impact on your SEO.
Keywords are really the foundation of SEO for marketing. These are the search terms people enter into Google and other search engines. You want to rank for the main keywords related to your services (“social media VA” for example), but it’s also important to include easier-to-rank-for keywords in your SEO strategy. That way you can get in front of potential clients before they’re intentionally searching for you.
Blogging is a powerful tool in SEO for marketing. SEO blogging gives you a chance to:
- Rank for a lot more keywords
- Connect with clients before they’re explicitly searching for you
- Provide value and show your expertise
- Build trust before you even get folks on sales calls
SEO blogging helps you improve SEO and connect with clients while building long-term stability for your business. (As in, you’re less reliant on the whims of Meta.)
When you dive into SEO for marketing, it’s important to have tools to form an evidence-based strategy and track your progress over time. We don’t have affiliate links for any of these companies. (Alas!) They’re tools we use to create stellar SEO strategies for our clients.
It’s not enough to have a keyword for your web page. It should be a keyword that people are actually using in Google queries. Ubersuggest is an easy-to-use tool for keyword research. It has a free option and helpful features like the “Keyword Ideas” section. We walk you through how to use Ubersuggest to find the right keyword for your SEO for marketing here.
At the end of the day, the whole point of SEO for marketing is to drive leads. However, that doesn’t mean tracking rankings is a waste of time. It helps you understand where your strategy might need an extra boost or what you can put on autopilot. We use the app SEO Edge to track rankings on Google.
Nothing will give you the precise data that Google Search Console can. It’s not the most intuitive tool, but it’s worth being persistent. Google Search Console can show you exactly what search terms people are using, how many impressions you get, and how many clicks you get for each search term. You can also request that Google index new pages faster, giving you an edge over people who choose to wait for Google’s spiders to come to them.
How to Use SEO for Marketing
This brings us back to how to use SEO for your small business marketing. With the right strategy, you can put more of your eggs in the passive marketing basket for a less stressful, more aligned business.
Of course, it all starts with driving organic traffic to your website. Since SEO helps people find you on search engines, it’s helpful for getting in front of your dream clients. Think about this in comparison to Reels. Instagram is designed to keep people in the app for as long as possible. People go to Google to get on other websites. Organic traffic also tends to be more engaged, meaning visitors from Google stay on your site longer and explore more web pages. That beats hoping viewers will actually visit your Instagram bio links.
Once people are on your site, the more nuanced part of SEO for marketing kicks into gear. As a small business owner, you’re not just answering questions. You’re marketing your services or selling through affiliate links. Make sure that you’re spending your time creating content that inevitably leads visitors to inquire or get curious about a product. Funnel them from the larger topic to the solution – you.
We mentioned before that Google prefers content created for humans, not bots. This means that SEO for marketing requires you to provide value. Chances are that plenty of competitors will be blogging about the same keyword. What insight can you offer that sets you apart and connects with your ideal client?
When to Outsource SEO for Marketing
Despite what hustle culture would have us think, no small business owner can do it all. That’s a recipe for burnout. At Brandcendent, we’re all about finding ways to make your business sustainable. There are seasons for DIYing and seasons for getting expert help. Here are three signs it might be time to outsource your marketing to an SEO copywriter.
You don’t have time/interest/capacity to learn SEO.
SEO for marketing is a unique combination of technical knowledge and writing skills. It takes time to create compelling, on-brand content and optimize it. If you’re in a slow season, you might have time to learn everything you need to know and implement it. If, on the other hand, you’re at capacity, it’s probably a good time to reach out to an SEO expert.
Writing is not one of your strengths.
As we mentioned above, SEO for marketing involves a lot of writing. There are some AI tools that are streamlining this process, but these bots can’t write in your brand voice. They still sound like, well, robots. Whatever you create has to sound distinct from your competitors and connect with your ideal client to be effective. A professional copywriter can help you define your brand voice and clarify your messaging. Even if you love writing, it can be hard to articulate something so close to you.
You want help staying consistent.
SEO for marketing is most effective when you’re consistent. What does consistency mean in this case? Based on our research and experience, small businesses see gains when they publish an SEO blog post at least once a week. That can be a lot when you’re running a whole business. An SEO copywriter can keep your blogging on track while you focus on the parts of your business only you can do.
Do you want support with SEO for marketing? Brandcendent specializes in done-for-you SEO strategy and copywriting to help you build a more aligned business. And that includes connecting you with dreamy clients on Google! Reach out to learn more.
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