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You know you need SEO for your small business, but figuring out where to start can be a challenge. Should you hire a Nashville-based SEO company or handle it yourself? If so, where do you even start?

We offer SEO packages for small businesses looking to increase their company’s reputation, website traffic, and sales conversions. But we also understand that sometimes, you just want to get a handle on the basics before investing in an entire strategy. This guide will give you a strong foundation in the fundamentals of SEO for small businesses.

Contact us to set up a discovery call to learn how our SEO services can help you grow your business.

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The elements of an SEO strategy

An SEO package from any experienced SEO company will include a well-rounded strategy that looks at your online presence from all angles. But if you’re not familiar with digital marketing or SEO tactics, you might not even be sure what that involves.

The following elements are essential components of any SEO strategy.

Keyword research is the first step of any SEO strategy. Keywords are the words or phrases related to your business that people use when searching online. Your goal is to rank for these keywords by including them in your website content.

Keep in mind that not all keywords are created equal, so it’s important to organize your keywords by factors such as:

  • Search volume: how many times a specific search query is made every single month across the country. It’s important to find (and then use) phrases that people use for searching for solutions like yours.
  • Ranking difficulty: how much competition there is to rank for the keyword (a generic keyword like “coffee” would be much harder to rank for than something more specific, like “organic coffee shop in Nashville”, for example
  • Intent to purchase: whether the keyword is more likely to be searched for by someone looking to make a purchase versus looking for general information (for example, someone searching for “inexpensive running shoes” is showing more intent to purchase than someone searching for ‘the history of shoes’)

Content creation is the creation of online content such as blog or social media posts, podcasts, or infographics to entertain, educate, or inform your audience while often working towards improving your SEO. SEO for small business and content creation are very much entwined. Adding high-quality content to your website can increase your brand’s domain authority, win backlinks (see next section for more on why backlinks are critical to your success), and improve clickthrough rates, not to mention helping you rank for industry keywords.

Onsite SEO optimization includes keyword optimization for all the copy and content that site visitors will see, plus behind-the-scenes aspects such as alt tags, URL slugs, and metadata. But it also takes into account a visitor’s overall experience on the website and how easy it is for a search engine to understand what the site is about. To optimize on-site SEO, you’ll need to focus on elements like site speed, mobile optimization, and site map layout.

Digital marketing and SEO campaigns aim to position your business as an industry expert. Backlinks, or links from other reputable websites to yours, are crucial in building domain authority because they show search engines that other businesses see you as a reliable resource. They also increase the chances of leads discovering your website while visiting another site, driving traffic from multiple sources. Backlink development is vital for brand awareness and domain authority.

Well-rounded SEO packages include reputation management services that present your online business in the best possible light. This includes highlighting positive reviews and minimizing negative ones, as well as responding to customer comments on social media and review sites. Reputation management may also include setting up a Google My Business account, as well as sending out occasional press releases to ensure that you’re turning up in searches for all the right reasons. Good reputation management isn’t about tricking people into leaving reviews or respecting your business, but actually emphasizing that you practice what you preach and care about what your audience has to say, good or bad.

Social signals affect your website in much the same way that backlinks do. When you hear an SEO company talk about social signals, what they mean is a business’s overall social media visibility and engagement, based on factors like likes, shares, and comments. Strong social signals tell search engines that a lot of people trust your business, leading to more domain authority and higher rankings.

Keyword research is the first step of any SEO strategy. Keywords are the words or phrases related to your business that people use when searching online. Your goal is to rank for these keywords by including them in your website content.

Keep in mind that not all keywords are created equal, so it’s important to organize your keywords by factors such as:

  • Search volume: how many times a specific search query is made every single month across the country. It’s important to find (and then use) phrases that people use for searching for solutions like yours.
  • Ranking difficulty: how much competition there is to rank for the keyword (a generic keyword like “coffee” would be much harder to rank for than something more specific, like “organic coffee shop in Nashville”, for example
  • Intent to purchase: whether the keyword is more likely to be searched for by someone looking to make a purchase versus looking for general information (for example, someone searching for “inexpensive running shoes” is showing more intent to purchase than someone searching for ‘the history of shoes’)

Content creation is the creation of online content such as blog or social media posts, podcasts, or infographics to entertain, educate, or inform your audience while often working towards improving your SEO. SEO for small business and content creation are very much entwined. Adding high-quality content to your website can increase your brand’s domain authority, win backlinks (see next section for more on why backlinks are critical to your success), and improve clickthrough rates, not to mention helping you rank for industry keywords.

Onsite SEO optimization includes keyword optimization for all the copy and content that site visitors will see, plus behind-the-scenes aspects such as alt tags, URL slugs, and metadata. But it also takes into account a visitor’s overall experience on the website and how easy it is for a search engine to understand what the site is about. To optimize on-site SEO, you’ll need to focus on elements like site speed, mobile optimization, and site map layout.

Digital marketing and SEO campaigns aim to position your business as an industry expert. Backlinks, or links from other reputable websites to yours, are crucial in building domain authority because they show search engines that other businesses see you as a reliable resource. They also increase the chances of leads discovering your website while visiting another site, driving traffic from multiple sources. Backlink development is vital for brand awareness and domain authority.

Well-rounded SEO packages include reputation management services that present your online business in the best possible light. This includes highlighting positive reviews and minimizing negative ones, as well as responding to customer comments on social media and review sites. Reputation management may also include setting up a Google My Business account, as well as sending out occasional press releases to ensure that you’re turning up in searches for all the right reasons. Good reputation management isn’t about tricking people into leaving reviews or respecting your business, but actually emphasizing that you practice what you preach and care about what your audience has to say, good or bad.

Social signals affect your website in much the same way that backlinks do. When you hear an SEO company talk about social signals, what they mean is a business’s overall social media visibility and engagement, based on factors like likes, shares, and comments. Strong social signals tell search engines that a lot of people trust your business, leading to more domain authority and higher rankings.

The hat tricks of SEO

Whether you’re speaking with a local Nashville SEO company or reading your favorite digital marketing blog for SEO tips, you might come across these hat-related SEO terms. You’ll see these divided into three categories:

  • White hat
  • Black hat
  • Gray hat

These hat tricks are groups of established techniques that businesses use to rank well on search engines. The color of the hats refers to how kindly Google looks upon the tactics, and whether you can unintentionally damage your rankings if Google notices that you’re using them.

To anyone who’s done SEO for a while, these concepts are ingrained into their way of doing business. But if you’re new to digital marketing and the SEO game, the idea of making a misstep and losing your ranking can be intimidating. Fortunately, once you understand the difference between the three, it’s very easy to tell them apart.

White hat

White hat SEO tricks are Google-approved tactics a company uses to rank well. These tactics are seen as acceptable in the industry and can only benefit your website. The SEO elements for small businesses that we list above are examples of white hat techniques.

In short, white hat techniques add value for your site’s visitors. If you focus on building a user-friendly site with lots of helpful information and tools to make their buying decisions easier, you’ll be in the clear. Focus on white hat techniques like these as much as possible in order to achieve sustainable rank stability and growth.

Black hat

As you might have guessed, black hat tricks are the opposite of white hat tricks, and are tactics that Google (and other search engines) have flagged as inappropriate ways to increase rankings. Black hat techniques include:

Black hat techniques are designed for the sole purpose of tricking search engines in order to increase traffic to a website, with no regard for providing value or giving site visitors what they’re looking for.

While these tricks can work in the short-term, they can lead to your website getting flagged and potential SEO penalties. In some cases, your domain might even be flagged and your website unable to rank within the top 50 pages.

Google makes about 10-15 SERP (Search Engine Results Page) updates a year to ensure that their users are finding answers and solutions to the things they are looking for. These updates often render black hat techniques obsolete, so even if these tricks are working right now, they can ruin your rankings overnight.

Our Nashville SEO company believes that the risk associated with black hat techniques simply isn’t worth the effort. There’s no shortcut to success when it comes to digital marketing, you have to take the stairs and build a strong foundation step by step.

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Gray hat

Gray hat techniques are, well, a gray area of SEO. These techniques aren’t specifically outlined by Google, but they’re still somewhat “sneaky” and clearly designed to bend the rules. Gray hat tricks change every time Google updates its best practices guidelines, since these techniques consist mainly of finding and exploiting loopholes.

Gray hat techniques include:

  • Cloaking (making it so that search engines see one thing, but humans that visit the site see something completely different)
  • Buying old domains
  • Buying social media followers

If you’re not sure whether an SEO technique is black, white, or gray, you can generally figure it out pretty quickly by analyzing what its purpose is – is it adding value, or is it solely for the purpose of increasing your rankings?

SEO FAQs

The team at our Nashville SEO company loves advising clients on SEO best practices and helping to dispel myths. We’ve been in this business for a long time, and there are some questions we hear over and over again.

To help round out your SEO education, we’ve compiled some of the questions we hear the most. As always, feel free to reach out if you have an SEO question not answered here.

SEO is important for small businesses that want to gain organic traffic to their websites through search engines like Google. Organic traffic can help most businesses gain brand awareness, build reputation, and increase conversions.

From a budget perspective, one of the best things about winning organic traffic through an SEO campaign is that the benefits increase over time, giving you a greater return on investment the longer you stick with it.

SEO doesn’t work for every business model, but it’s especially important for new innovations or businesses that don’t have widespread user adoption yet.

Search engines like Google are always being refined so they can help people find the websites that most closely match their needs. Search engine optimization helps you rank better in search results by using a combination of:

  • Keyword research
  • Content creation
  • Onsite optimization
  • Backlink development
  • Reputation management
  • Social signals

SEO optimization lets search engines know what your site is about. It also shows them that you’re a legitimate business and reputable information source.

At first glance, SEO can seem incredibly complex, especially if you’re new to digital marketing for your small business. Fortunately, it’s not as daunting as it seems. The bottom line is, you’re trying to help search engines do their job by making it clear what you’re trying to rank for.

The average business owner can get started with SEO practices by:

  • Doing keyword research to find industry-related keywords that:
    • Have a reasonably high search volume
    • Aren’t impossible to rank for (don’t try to compete with national retailers)
    • Show an intent to purchase
  • Writing regular content using the keywords you’ve decided on:
    • Write about questions commonly asked by your prospects and clients
    • Write about current events or write listicles to entertain your readers
    • Write about industry-related questions that are commonly asked to search engines

Remember to organize your keywords to get the most out of them.

This question is one of the ones we hear more frequently, and unfortunately, it’s one of the most difficult to answer. It can be challenging to strike the right balance, and it will look a little different for every business.

Focusing on more keywords can create a larger number of small funnels that send traffic to your site, but going this route will also take you a lot more work and oversight. If you have a lot of budget or time constraints, you might want to focus on trying to rank for fewer keywords. It’s a matter of balancing the time and money you have to invest in SEO with the level of aggression you want to put towards this method of lead generation.

It will probably take some trial and error before you find the keyword balance that you’re happy with. That said, our general rule of thumb is that you should have one focus keyword that you spend a large amount of time and money on for each service or project you offer, so you can use that as a strong starting point.

A strong SEO strategy will help your business website get high quality traffic without having to pay for advertising. Organic search results land 8.5 times more clicks than PPC ads, meaning you get more results while spending less of your marketing budget.

Every aspect of your company’s web presence can benefit from SEO:

  • Brand awareness
  • Industry authority
  • Brand loyalty
  • Reputation management

Unlike finite ad campaigns, SEO strategies continue to work over the long run, giving you more return on investment as time goes on.

Ready to take the first step?

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Why Take the Stairs for SEO services?

We’re not the only SEO company in Nashville. So why should you trust us with SEO for your small business?

Tier-based keywords

Our tier-based keyword organization focuses on a combination of search volume, rankability, and show of interest to drive only interested traffic to your site.

SEO checklists

SEO checklists ensure we’re working effectively towards your goals and that nothing gets missed. From keyword implementation to style preferences, we deliver exactly what we promise, every time.

Elite landing pages

We create elite landing pages that drive traffic, add value, and increase conversions by using a number of modules like accordions and sliders to help people easily navigate to the information they are looking for.

Get started with a Nashville SEO company

Even the most experienced Nashville SEO company can find it difficult to rank for an SEO page. Ranking for a small local market can be especially tricky, requiring specialized local SEO techniques. Learning the basic elements of an SEO campaign will get you started, but remember that ranking for SEO is more of a marathon than a sprint, and is about creating a brand image that will stand the test of time rather than aiming for a quick sale.

When done right, SEO can make your brand a household name, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

If the idea of implementing SEO for your small business is overwhelming, you’re not alone. Many business owners have enough on their plate as it is, and they simply don’t have the time necessary to dedicate to it. Our Nashville SEO company offers several packages that can help you with every aspect of your SEO strategy.

Contact us now to set up a discovery call and we’ll be happy to discuss your current goals.

Schedule a Discovery

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