In February, Clutch.co released the results of its 2016 survey of 352 U.S. small business owners and managers. The survey’s focus was on whether these businesses have embraced search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising, and—if so—what role these tools play in the companies’ digital marketing strategies.
The results indicate that approximately half of business that operate a website do not engage in any type of search engine optimization efforts to improve their online visibility, citing the perceived costs of implementing such a strategy as a primary deterrent. However, the number of businesses neglecting SEO is likely to decrease through 2017 and later, as fully 60 percent of respondents who do not currently employ SEO indicated they intend to explore an SEO strategy in the next year or two.
The Most Commonly Used SEO Tactics
Of businesses that do utilize SEO tactics, the most commonly used tactics are 1) onsite optimization and 2) local search optimization. More than half of respondents—57 percent—utilize onsite optimization, and an equal number employ local search optimization.
Of course, onsite optimization and keyword selection are crucial, and it is encouraging that a majority of SEO users are embracing this tactic. Moreover, local search optimization is also imperative, and becoming more so. However, the survey results indicate that small businesses are neglecting three important tactics that could boost their online presence.
These three neglected tactics are as follows:
- Publishing quality content onsite to build backlinks
- Guest blogging
- Maintaining an onsite blog
Only a quarter of respondents said they employ content creation or guest blogging strategies to drive traffic and improve visibility. Furthermore, only 2 percent said they maintained an onsite company blog.
Small businesses that do not take time to develop content and publish it on their own or others’ websites (or to maintain an onsite blog) are quite simply missing out on some of the best ways to boost their search engine rankings, drive traffic to their site, and generally improve their web presence.
The sections below explain why.
High Quality Content
Regularly publishing high quality content on your own site offers numerous benefits, both for SEO purposes and for the end user. Some of the most important of these benefits are discussed in the following sections
Fresh Content Influences Rankings
Google utilizes a “freshness score” when assembling search engine rankings for many types of searches. Sites that regularly add new content and update their existing pages with new information receive a better freshness score than do static sites. Some SEO pros suggest you add at least 20 to 30 percent new content to your site each year.
Quality Content Builds Trust
Great content is one of the best relationship building tools you can find. By publishing material that answers your readers’ questions and solves their problems, you build their trust, improve your brand image, and create a loyal following.
Quality Content Positions You as an Expert
Cutting edge content that contains new ideas and starts energetic conversations positions you as an expert or thought leader in your industry. Once this happens, others will likely start sharing your content with others. In this way, you gain more exposure, drive more traffic, and engage with more readers.
Remember, the content you publish must be consistent, engaging, and of the highest quality.
Publishing guest posts on other peoples’ sites is a powerful way to increase your online presence. Unfortunately, over the past two years, detractors of the practice have published countless articles about how guest blogging is “dead” for SEO purposes. The reason for this is that, in January 2014, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, published an article on his website declaring that the practice had gotten too spammy, that it was no longer an effective link building strategy, and that practitioners should “probably stop.” His position: What had started out as a useful tool had become just another way for marketers to game the system by flooding the web with low-quality garbage.
To avoid Google’s ire, publishers started “no-following” links to guest bloggers’ websites. The upshot is that guest blogging as a link-building tool is no longer effective, since search engines do not include “nofollow” links in their algorithms when compiling search results. In other words, even a thousand “nofollow” links from sites on which you’ve published guest blog posts won’t improve your Page Rank.
However, to declare guest blogging “dead” is absurd. Great content is great content, and if you publish it where new readers will see it, even better. Even a “nofollow” link is valuable, because although it doesn’t send web crawlers to your site, it does drive human traffic. Guest blogging still offers a terrific opportunity to develop new relationships, build brand awareness, and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Moreover, these new readers who discover you through your guest blogging efforts are likely to read your onsite content and share it with others on social media or their own website.
Who says guest blogging as a link-building tactic is dead?!
Maintaining an Onsite Blog
Only 2 percent of the respondents to the Clutch.co survey who practiced SEO indicated that they maintain an onsite blog. The other 98 percent, unfortunately, are leaving money on the table.
A blog is a fantastic way to boost your SEO efforts, and it doesn’t take a lot of backbreaking work to get results.
As mentioned above, Google and the other search engines love fresh content. It indicates that the site is dynamic, up-to-date, and worthy of an improved freshness score. A blog is an easy way to churn out that 20 to 30 new content each year.
Curation Saves Time
Unlike with guest blogging or the “quality content strategy” mentioned above, blog posts need not require a lot of research, planning, and writing effort. You can curate content from other sources, add comments of your own, and publish in minutes rather than hours.
Shareable Content Means Backlinks
Visual content—i.e. infographics, memes, and videos—is eminently shareable, and is a terrific way to build backlinks to your site. Whereas a reader might spend 30 minutes reading your articles and never once think about sharing them, a funny image or a clever infographic can send them scrambling for the “Post to Facebook” or “Twitter” button.
Every “share” of your blog content creates a backlink to your site and improves your Page Rank.
Embrace Powerful SEO Tactics
Certainly, onsite optimization and local search optimization are essential, and it is great that nearly 60 percent of the respondent’s to the Clutch.co survey say they embrace these tactics. But too many are neglecting powerful methods of getting their websites more exposure, traffic, and search engine love. A strategy of publishing high quality content on your site keeps your content fresh and improves your rankings. It builds trust among your readership, and helps position you or your company as an expert in your field. Guest blogging took a few hits over the last 24 months, but it can nevertheless drive traffic and improve your web presence. Finally, maintaining an onsite blog is a great way to publish new content without steep time commitments, and by publishing shareable content there, you can encourage readers to do your link building for you.