About Aleyda Solis
Aleyda Solis is an international SEO consultant, a blogger (Search Engine Land, State of Digital and Moz), renowned marketing speaker (at more than 70 conferences in 18 countries, in both English and Spanish.) Included in Forbes as one of the 10 digital marketing specialists to follow in 2015 and in Entrepreneur as one of the 50 online marketing influencers to follow in 2016, she has more than 8 years of experience doing search engine optimisation for European, American and Latin American companies.
In her Learn Inbound talk, Aleyda shares the steps small businesses can take to establish a winning, scalable and cost-effective SEO strategy, with examples & tools.
- Take advantage of the smaller size of your company by executing changes faster than larger companies. Marketers in small businesses typically require less sign off from stakeholders when executing changes to the website.
- You need to create content & resources frequently. Use tools like BuzzSumo to identify what topics and types of content are resonating with your target audience.
- Create & optimise your local external presence by registering your business with services such as Yelp, Yellow Pages and Moz Local.
I have been already introduced very kindly. I share a lot about SEO resources on Twitter, so if you are on Twitter; feel welcome to follow me if you want, of course. And tonight I will talk about SEO for small businesses. I am a small businesswoman myself, a one woman orchestra, SEO woman as they say. So I share a little bit of these experiences in my own circumstances and in my own business, too. And I would like to know how many of you are really small business owners or do you work with small businesses? Please raise your hand. Yes. Okay. Quite a few. I expected that Dublin is Facebook, Google, big companies. Also small businesses, that's nice.
So there are a few challenges, and it's very interesting because BrightLocal, they are focused on small business sector. They did this survey where they identified, year by year, the different type of performance and issues and challenges and plans that small businesses have. Sadly, mostly focused in the U.S., but it's very interesting to take a look at it and see how...which are the challenges that small businesses faced on a day-to-day basis, right? And the thing is, it took a lot of my attention because the people who were surveyed, they say that internet marketing for them was highly effective. Funnily enough, SEO is the second most effective strategy after word-of-mouth, which is a lot to decipher for a small business.
Nonetheless, and this is where the sad part start, budgets are still very, very low. It really shocked me to see that many, a high percentage of these businesses were investing less than $500. Very, very low. And the thing is, they are really small. We are not talking about small 20 or small 30. They are like one person, two people, five, and a team of five. So, at the end of the day, the SEO of the small business, they end up doing a lot of things.
And we all know that nowadays, SEO is more than technical and more than keywords and more than implementations and metatags, etc. It's an integral type of marketing activity that needs to integrate and align with all the actions, of course. But in this case, it's very restrictive, and you have this type of resources that are not abundant, of course. So at the end of the day, for SMBs it is harder to compete, especially in some industries, which there are huge players, too. Because there is a small team, there's little time, the person needs to manage all digital activities at the same time and only it's you. Little technical resources and knowledge, too, small budget. So, hmm, sometimes I wish I live in this interstellar world where one hour was seven years on Earth so I could see the results really fast.
Sadly, SEO is not pay per click, so we need to wait a lot; also it's a long-term strategy. So at the end of the day, some small businesses cannot afford to spend so much. This is why SEO also needs really to be a part of a larger strategy for small business for sure.
But let's focus on the SEO, and let's see something is true. There are a lot of challenges, but as happens with everything in this life, right, we can turn these challenges into advantage for sure. There should be some aspects, some characteristics of small businesses that can definitely make them more attractive or easily to implement or more successfully than some large big corporations in some particular circumstances. So it's about to make the most out of them, right?
So here are three tips. We are going to go on a challenging adventure and see how we can surpass this type of challenges here. And the first tip is that we need to make the most out of the newbie type of status, right? Because when we start with a new small company, we will see very likely that the website is not necessarily completely new, but it's likely if it has not existed before on the web because sometimes it's even in Flash still or is in a two-party platform, or is in Wordpress, the Wordpress platform, not even in their own domain. So it's like starting from scratch, from zero. No authority, no popularity, no previous rankings, visibility, conversions, no... So you really start from scratch.
And the thing is, the first intention can be okay. "I'm going to do an audit." It's great to do an audit. I actually share here a template, and I created this post that you will be able to see afterwards because I am going to upload the presentation later so you can go and easily click on the link and see the template to facilitate and to make it more digestible. But this same template can be sometimes even challenge to understand and really easy to get lost into for big businesses. So a small business owner or small business specialist who handle everything to provide a recommendation, huge recommendations talking about technicalities, can be very complex, and not actionable necessarily, and not easy to implement for them.
So, at the end of the day, what we do, people don't read. We don't like to read in general. So the best in these circumstances and what small businesses always ask to me when I provide recommendation, at the end of the day, I need to provide a delivery after the audit, right? Just like you, can you implement it for me directly? So I don't need to go to my developer because at the end of the day, usually a smart technical person, too. Can you implement it right away? It's like, of course, if this person has a flexible CMS, easy to use CMS like Wordpress, it's very easy. So what I usually say is like, "Okay, independent of your initial status, if you still don't have that much popularity or that much authority and is easy for you also to migrate to a new CMS, let's do it," because in the long term, it will eliminate a lot of pain for the small business owner to implement things.
And I also created, in 2012; I was since, crazy how fast time pass by, this checklist to identify the criteria to take into consideration when choosing a CMS. So, for example, of course, for crawlability and flexibility functionalities that...also from a web architecture and content optimization. Does the CMS allow us to optimize the website that we're creating? That is correctly internal linked every page and that we can have the flexibility to optimizing and update certain aspects of the navigation, too, and to optimize the layer type of navigation and organization of the site. And at the end of the day, also the manageability of the CMS, I think , really allow us to publish content really easily, and most importantly, it really allows the business owner or their people, their team, their small team, to update things easily, right? So these are the characteristics that we should look for.
And additionally, and this is fundamental and basic, and this is why I just... I added it in an additional slide only for it. It needs to be multi-device friendly nowadays, especially for small businesses, which tend to be a little bit of local businesses, too; Mobile is key. A lot of people search on the go. A lot of people are known to search all about local queries to just convert afterwards to go to a store, or when they arrive home to actually buy on their desktop but they have searched for it initially on their mobile. Google is taking it more and more into consideration for rankings. So, yes, this is a must of course. And the thing is, and this is the good news for small business owner, and coincidentally, big companies cannot say the same. There are a lot of open CMS out there like Wordpress, Magento, and Joomla. A lot of them are, by default, mobile-friendly nowadays, most of their templates. A lot of them are free, too, or really, really cheap. And there are a lot of resources, a lot of guides, and a lot of plugins.
For example, the one from Joe's for Wordpress in this case. Also Paul Rogers has published and has created guide and resources and extension for Magento.
So at the end of the day, this challenging task to create and optimize easily and have a great web foundation, SEO-friendly web foundation is far easier for small business because we have all these resources that are reachable and feasible to implement and to use. Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't need to validate and to do a proper audit. For a small business, I really like Screaming Frog because it's free up to 500 URLs, to crawl, you know, 500 URLs. So it makes it really easy for a small business to validate their site without buying something. If you're, of course, a enterprise, you can buy instead or have an account with Deep Crawl, which is an enterprise level type of crawler. But in this case, it's really, really good to validate.
And additionally, and this is another characteristic, another thing that small businesses can do independent of your business model and the type of services and products that you provide, of course. A small business can always distribute and diversify their presence beyond their own website and make use of additional platforms like, for example, if they create their own product, their manual product. They can create a profile or a small story net. Or if they sell electronic or they are resellers, they can do that with eBay. So they can piggyback this huge platform that has a high authority. So in case they cannot rank at the beginning because they likely won't be able to rank at the beginning for highly competitive terms, head terms, they can easily piggyback these other big platform and optimize for these big platforms in order to leverage that traffic. That doesn't mean, please, this is very important, that they won't create and optimize their own website. That's the wrong presence. That's the wrong house. That's the wrong store. That doesn't mean that they cannot use other platform for distribution though, and they should do it so. And this is, again, something that big businesses have a lot of restrictions to do because at the end of the day, they won't use their competitors or they are their own platform themselves, right?
We can see here an example, two examples, of one website that have full of this type of approach. The architecture is good, and you can see also it's attractive. It provides content that is relevant. It makes me want to start doing yoga. You know, I actually...you are going to see I include a lot of examples with yoga and hot yoga. I have a client who is in the gym business and it's crazy. A lot of people are doing this, and now it's natural for me to search for yoga this, yoga that. And there are a lot of actually yoga studios here in Dublin, so great examples of local businesses doing a lot online, too. There's a high community and active community online for them.
So at the end of the day, what do we have? We have this type of flexibility and this type of resources available for small business that, hey, big companies, big corporations don't have at the end of the day, Hmm. They have this legacy system, and believe me, I have consulting in the last year for huge companies, huge companies, and you won't believe me of the type of changes that they cannot do, and the typical answer that they give me is like, "Aleyda, we are going to update our system next year, anyway. Let's focus on building links, or let's focus on doing content things. But we cannot change the URL. I have 500 404s, and a lot of these 404 pages are pages have incoming links, very highly authoritative incoming links. Yes, I know I am wasting the popularity, but I cannot do any redirect right now for the following months." That's the reality for big businesses, too. This is very restrictive. So we need to make them a little bit.
The second factor and the second tip that we can leverage for small businesses is the advantage of ownership and size. Even if you are not the owner yourself of the small business, at the end of the day, you have it sitting beside you, right? A small business, a small company; so you all know each other. It's easier and faster to make decisions, even if you're not taking this decision yourself, right? This will help a lot to execute fast, to implement fast, and to take opportunities that arise every day in your industry. And this is how you end up closing that gap with big businesses, with big companies at the end of the day.
So we start with a keyword query term, however you want to call it. Research, to identify, which is your audience's behavior online, how your audience looks for your business, look for your products and services, how you can connect and for which queries you should be shown and is profitable for you to be shown in Google results. And you want also to identify your competitors, see how they are ranking, for which keywords or terms they are ranking, how they are ranking, which type of content, the format of that content, what is the topics, which are the topics that are more shareable online and prioritize those.
So we start by using tools like Keyword IO. It's like a little bit of cool suggest but on steroids because they provide you all the keywords that suggest that the queries are searched from a user and Google following a pattern. So you can copy all of them really easy generate ideas that you can validate the volume afterwards with the Google keyword tool or with SEMrush, too. And then what you want to generate are different modifiers, and to validate and identify different patterns followed by your users. Because at the end of the day, you want to connect with them in different ways; in different stages of the customer journey. You want to create personas. You want to identify who they are, why are they going to buy from you and not your competition. You want to really understand and you want to really get to know your customers. And you know what?
This is far easier for small business because small businesses have a closer relationship and they can even ask, oh, I asked a client once. "Oh, you know why your customers, and why do you have this section? I show you that there's no traffic here. Why do you still have it?" "Oh, because the customer a year ago told me about this and that, so we create it." "Oh, for one customer. Let's do a survey," in person, you know. Real life survey. Let's implement and validate and see if your customer really likes it and is really something attractive, and you can connect them, fulfill a need with it, or is a waste of resources.
So this type of validation and understanding and connection with your customers and their audience is sometimes even easier for a small business, it's more feasible to test and to validate. We use tools, again, to identify the search volume, the relevance, how the competitors are ranking already, which are the terms for which the competitors are getting at the end. We are going to get this list. We are going to map this list and identify the topics that are more relevant, and there are really not only feasible but attractive for us to create content for. And what need with a brand new structure or in the process to create the new structure of our website is to map, okay, this type of content and this type of format of information, we are going to enable it in this section of this area of my website. So like that, I will avoid content duplication issues, cannibalization issues. My website is going to be much more usable. It will be much easier to identify the different type of contents in the right section, the right area of my website like this, mapping. And not only per area, but also per performance.
I love this content matrix done by the Distil team. It show us how content is not only text, the text that we have on descriptions of our services or our products. It's also all the type of...all the different type of information that lives on our site. And also to our site. Maybe in our social presence, too. Maybe in our community, but that we can create. So from webinars, to guides, to resources, to videos, to how-to's, all those are opportunities to connect and fulfill our audience's needs. And we need to identify also which are the opportunities here.
Let's see which is the type of content that is ranking in Google for these queries. So for a lot of how-to's, there are a lot of videos. There are a lot of images. So we may need to compensate that I don't create a static section of how-to on my site in text, but actually I create a video. Or actually I generate a graphic for that because it will have a better visibility. Or a text along a video too. That can be another feasibility.
So it's very, very important that we do this type of mapping, and that we understand that, yes, at the end of the day, we might not go all directly straightforward to target these highly competitive keywords, for which our biggest competitors, big corporations are already ranking well for. But we can start with more long tail type of queries, more niche type of queries. The search volume will be lower. The relevance is higher. The conversion is likely to be higher, too. So it's very, very important that we prioritize well based on the wrong situation, based also on our competitors that can change, certainly change from each industry to industry. And based on this, we optimize our content. We optimize our web presence. We optimize the experience that our users are going to have on our site, not only from a text relevance perspective, but the content needs to be created to be shareable, to fulfill a need, to connect with the audience, to answer a question that our user had when they arrived to our site.
I love this infographic because it summarizes all of it rather nicely, and it's a good graphic to have when you create something new because you can ask yourself, "Oh, does my content, is my content really fulfilling all these criteria? Is it shareable? This is attractive. It's really worthy to be on my site."
And the most important thing, and I believe this is the key in this aspect for small businesses is that small businesses are able to advance in a way that is much more lean, flexible than big corporation. You launch. You don't wait until you create older content, all the ideas, all the planning. You create a calendar schedule, and you start publishing. If at some point you identify that this type of content is not having the type of result or response from the audience, then you stop for a minute, reassess, and you can change your strategy on the go a little bit. And then you start a new iteration after that, and tweak what the different characteristics that you have, identify, and then test the results. So this type of approach for bigger companies is a pain. It's very difficult once they have taken a decision, and agreed on a budget; identify the internal resources and teams. It's very, very difficult to change the execution of something. This is something that small companies have much more flexibility to do, and I really, really, really stress small companies to make the most out of this specific characteristic.
BuzzSumo, again, more love, definitely more love. The content and the resources that you can create, you can easily validate and see which are really the topics that have been mostly shared? Which are the content that is the high share content in social networks from your competitors or in your industry in general? Which formats? I'm not saying that you should copy them, but that you can have them as an inspiration and as a reference to what your audience loves to share, and what they really like to consume, to read.
Additionally, and this is key, this type of content that you create, this type of resources, the assets, maybe, and this is something that sometimes you need to explain a little bit more to small business owners or people who, in general, don't have the many resources to implement this type of things. They ask, "Oh, that won't help me to sell directly." Oh, no, but, you know, you establish as an authority. You show that you care about your audience, about your community, about your customers. You are not only shown on the results when it's a transactional query, when the user looking to buy something, but you are there also when the user is trying to make decisions about your service, about the type of product that you provide. And also you're shown there when the users are looking for support. You're there in the overall customer journey. This is very, very important. So from tools to infographics that, yeah, maybe some time ago, sadly, a lot of people use them and sometimes even ugly things, graphic things that didn't fulfill a purpose. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do that if this is what your audience loves, what your audience shares. If you have a specific topic or some data that will be much easily digestible if you have it in a graphical way, why not?
It's also about taking the opportunities to be alert, to monitor, and be agile enough to react. I love this, you know, the O’Neill. He generates comics about any topic, and I love how he sees an opportunity. Something happening in the world, and he publish about something. The latest one is about the selfie stick. Should you buy a selfie stick? No. Are you Japanese? Yes. Okay, buy one. Are you not Japanese? No. Don't buy it. And the belfie stick. So this is crazy. This is genius, you know. If I had had a selfie stick company, distributor, or whatever, my god, selfie stick companies. Well, they should have...they should exist, right? I will have invented this, and I was like, what people takes photos of like belfie stick? Photo from behind. So this is crazy. Even I don't know even the product is real. This is a viral content type of action. It should be, you know, it's amazing. Its super funny, everybody. I share it, of course. This is why I know it. So you say, "Oh, Aleyda, this is great as a concept, but this is too much work." Remember, we are talking about a small business. One person, two people. It's like not enough resources, not enough time.
So that's the thing. Ideally, we should take care of everything by ourselves. We should always be involved. Sometimes, there are some specific tasks that can be easily outsourced and can be easily automated. There are tools for it. Of course, they require a little bit more of investment for on-page analysis. There are also good, reliable sources of content writing, of multi-format type of content generation. They are the cheap ones, of course. You can always go to Fiverr and end up with a spammy text, but there are other sources that are much more reliable, and it's about testing, and it's about validating if it's worthy for you or not for the money. That's certainly the key in this case. So big companies, they can execute for us. They have huge corporations is a pain even to be able to agree with different teams. There are silos. It's hard to communicate and to agree on things. So this is certainly another aspect and characteristic that small businesses can take into consideration, can leverage.
And the third tip, maximize your social and local nature. This is something that you will say, okay, yeah, big companies can be social and can be local; sometimes, yeah. The reality is that small businesses, a lot of small businesses have a local presence, and are target to one local presence. Instead, big corporations, aggregators, for example, they are everywhere, but they are not from somewhere specific. They don't have a local real presence there. You can take advantage of that.
The first thing to do is to understand how in your country, the different types of local citations and directories and ecosystem works. Like usually are the yellow pages types of websites that provide other source of data for Google. More and more, Google is relying on their own Google Plus for business, local places or whatever they are called now. They are changing name every day, but, yeah, their own ecosystem, local ecosystem works, and how they attract, are attracting much more direct reviews and information from there, right? But it's about creating an optimized presence, a consistent presence. You know a lot of these different websites from Yelp, to Yellow Pages, to Foursquare, to all of these local players that you see that are used by your audience that you see that are also shown on the web results. It's also to, at the end of the day, make the most and leverage the Google my business places or Plus for business or whatever it's called, presence. Because at the end of the day, this how you are going to be shown in the Google Map results. So you want to have a good presence there. You want to incentivize users to review positively there, as in Yelp, for example.
It's something very, very important that also we understand that even if Google say, "Oh, you don't really need to have a website." There's a post like this in Google Master Central actually if you look for it. You don't need to have a website. You can create and optimize your local presence with our service and also Facebook for businesses, and Bing for small businesses. Hmm. Again, as happened with big platforms, you can use those to extend and distribute, and in this case, to be shown in many different ways and for many different additional queries in the results, more local results. But, of course, it doesn't replace your own website at the end of the day. We can see also that it's not only to optimize externally, but also internally your own web structure. If you have different offices or you cover different areas, you should do landing pages for each one of them. By just targeting and providing specific information for each one of these types of customers that you have, that is also meant to rank and to be used easily, highly convertible type of landing page. And you can see here how all these pages are taken into consideration if I search for, for example, hot yoga Dublin in this case. In general, if you, of course, want to dig deeper with these topics, you can go to the local search rankings, surveys that Moz developed, that they named. He's a real expert in this area, and he shares gems really, and he gathered all of this information, leverage, and all this information with each one of his post.
There's also this local search, local SEO audit checklist that is really, really actionable and easy to follow. So if you really want to make sure that you have certain local type of characteristics and want to...and you happen to identify that you have local type of queries, you really want to follow this type of guides.
Additionally, be a local, social. You need to understand that, yes, maybe your community and your users, they are on Google, and they use Google to identify some type of information. But more and more, they also use Facebook. And they also use Pinterest to gather, to organize information, to search for information. Naturally, Facebook is pushing more and more with search functionality, and they have stopped collaborating with Bing. They decided to develop their own thing. So we need to keep a close eye for that, too. So what do we need to know? How do we know in which social network we should invest our time? Which one is cost effective? We use again BuzzSumo to identify where the audience of my industry is sharing, in which social network? Everybody say, "Oh, Twitter or Facebook." No, but maybe my specific industry, everybody is in Pinterest. Everybody say, "Oh, Pinterest is for women. Maybe there is a specific topic where men are, for some reason, sharing everything in Pinterest, online marketing, for example." Sadly, there are more men in our industry and see a lot of online marketing things on Pinterest. Shoes or clothes and the type of other things that are more typically tagged for women, right?
So we really need to validate the different stories, but it's always good to validate. So we validate with this tool. We also use social crawlytics that will crawl the domain of any website. So I go and crawl the domain of my competitor, or the number one site in my industry, and see which the social networks are, what people share usually for them. So I know where people really invest their time, the people for my audience, my specific audience. I can use also BuzzSumo to identify my users. I know who are these people who can really distribute in a much more effective way, authoritative way, my content, my information. There are other tools like Twitter land, the tools from Simply Measure that they will help me to analyze and track frequently the activities that I do to identify which are much more effective, which are the type of posts or shares that get much more interaction, much more shares and after actions from my own customers. So I identify which are the ones that I should really, after a while, start investing more and more time, which are the ones that connect better, the ones that really generate me traffic to my website, the ones that really generate conversions to my website.
This is the key. I need to make it actionable. I need to make it connect this type of activities to my real goals, and sometimes, this is what is lacking from social activities. And you see how here I really align all of these activities with the goal that I have, the goal that the online marketer, who also does SEO but is not the only thing that does, should align with all of this type of activities. My content, too, should be easily shareable. And it's true, social signals are not an SEO factor nowadays. But the reality is that social, because my community is there, they are sharing, they are consuming information. They are referring. It's a great outlet to distribute my content, and thanks to this distribution, is that a lot of people will see it, and at a point, link. And maybe there are not that many links, but these links will likely have also a high share of traffic, and these people will actually buy from me. I prefer conversions and money than links. Sorry, because at the end of the day, my final goal, right? So let's make our content easily shareable with buttons and with call to actions and the creating groups and creative presence in those social networks that I have identify, that my audience share timeline.
Like for example, in Facebook, there are this validation and research with the Hot Yoga. There are groups of thousands of people. Nice. Good enough. This is great enough to invest time in. And let's think. When we speak about communities, let's think beyond social networks. Let's think about forums.
Remember how a few years ago, everybody in SEO, oh, forum posting, because they always left a link on their signature, right? Like various...of course, this is not recommended to do nowadays. But you should go and look for forums to identify additional ways how your community is interacting and communicating and sharing information. It's crazy. There are a lot of people stuck in the early year 2000s or something because there are a lot of forums, right like this. I mean, not necessarily highly attractive, but there's a ton of information that we can surely identify, also as a source of ideas as a source of information that we need, we can take as an input for our strategy.
And beyond this other type of forums and in general, social networks, what we need to think is that we shouldn't go there only to analyze and research and then to promote our own content, but also to communicate and connect and support our own customers. This is how they are going to see us in a different way than big companies that are out there, that need validation before tweeting anything. It's crazy idea.
I used to work in the past for a Forex, big Forex Company, who was targeting the U.S. And in the U.S., there is an institution that needs to validate every social activity and post and tweet that all of these Forex companies publish on their own presence. It's called NFA, and the they... after the burst of Wall Street a few years ago, they are very restrictive. So it's very sad. They cannot even answer without wondering, "Oh is this pre-approved? This is one of the pre-approved messages that we have from the NFA?" Hmm, it's highly restrictive. Of course, this is a very extreme type of example, but in general, big companies have much more policies.
So get support, get ideas, and share your content. At the end of the day, you will earn one of the benefits by doing this with your community. And as I said, big companies, hmm, they have a harder time by doing this. It's not so easy for them, though maybe things in many countries and sometimes, they don't even align, and the other day I was trying to get help from Air France, and it's a pain when big companies tried to do a little bit of social...there are very few ones, like for example, this airline, if you know them. They are Germans, but they also have presence in many countries in Europe, in Spain. They do it amazingly. They have this style that you already know where they do jokes about every type of politics, type of topics, everything. So they have increased their popularity and seen as an authority, local authority, not as these Germans that are here, but local authorities because of this. It's very funny.
So you can really leverage this way also for your own industry. So it's time to run. It's time to start implementing all of these little tips. You can see they are three main topics, but there are many different tips that you can really make the most out of them, and try to change these challenges into advantages and to make the most out of your small business, local type of characteristics. At the end of the day, being small is not so bad, and I know by myself not only because I run a small business but because I'm small. Not so bad, especially in long flights, you know. I can even sleep... Don't worry. Thank you very much.