There is plenty of advice about SEO available from various sources. But that advice varies in its usefulness and there is still plenty of information around that is seriously out-of-date so the success of your SEO campaign is very much dependent on whose advice you take.
There is one thing that most experienced SEO consultants are agreed upon which is that the process of optimisation has to be done gradually. It takes time to build a website that is successful in the search engine rankings but the effort also has to be regular and you have to make a serious commitment to the campaign. But investing serious, regular effort will ultimately produce results.
One of the reasons optimisation has to be done gradually is that Google and the other major search engines favour websites that have grown organically just as a bricks-and-mortar business would do. Conversely they penalise websites that appear from nowhere with hundreds or thousands of irrelevant and poor quality links and a dubious social media presence.
But also from a purely business perspective it is more sensible to start gradually. If you have a new website with low rankings and little content then trying to target highly competitive keywords is simply unrealistic. The major competitors in your market will already have high rankings for the competitive keywords and will have the advantage of more, and better-quality, links, an established social media presence and perhaps a brand name recognised by potential visitors. They may have been neglecting their optimisation efforts for a while but don’t let this persuade you it would be an easy matter to overtake them. You can be sure that if they start slipping in the rankings they will soon resume their search engine optimisation efforts and will be starting from a stronger position as a well-established site trusted by the search engines.
So as a new, small business, what can you do that will be effective in terms of search engine rankings and the success of your business? The best approach is to start with keywords comprising 3 or 4 words and less competition. It will be quicker to achieve a high ranking for these keywords and because they are more specific it is likely that a greater proportion of visitors will convert to customers.
As the SEO improves gradually over time your website will start to appear high up in the rankings more often for your targeted keywords and that will actually help your efforts in achieving a high ranking for the more competitive keywords. But remember that many 2-word keywords are so general that the conversion rate can be very low so you may find that a number of longer keywords combined together give a better overall conversion rate than a single 2-word keyword even though the general keyword brings in much higher visitor numbers. It’s customers you are after, not just visitors.
And whilst a healthy amount of competitor analysis is good for every business, don’t be tempted to employ un-ethical optimisation techniques – they may be providing immediate results for a competitor but results achieved through un-ethical (or “black-hat”) methods only last for a short while and eventually put your website at risk of being blacklisted by the major search engines.
So resist the un-ethical SEO methods and if you see an offer that looks too good to be true, then it will be. Automated link building that creates quantities of links that simply could not be created manually by a human during a single working day can be detected by the likes of Google and will, in the best-case scenario count for nothing and in the worst-case scenario end up seriously damaging the reputation of your website and affecting the success of your business.
Using ethical methods for a small business SEO campaign will always have to be done gradually but will ultimately achieve high rankings for your website with lasting results and a long-term, viable business instead of one that appears from nowhere and disappears just as quickly.