When you grow up online, a little broke and a little creative, it’s easy to find solace in the idea of a digital career. For those whose main skill set involves being good at the Internet, almost any idea you have can be profitable, so long as you have a basic understanding of digital marketing — specifically, small business SEO and how it can make your brand more profitable.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a few of the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) that I think every entrepreneur should understand. No matter what industry you’re looking to break into — music, beauty, fashion, etc. — there are indisputable things you’ll need in order to get your business logged by Google and seen online.
The Foundation Of Your Small Business’ SEO
1. A Website
…she types, on her two page, bare-boned website.
Hey, I know better than anyone that when you’re working a full-time job, maintaining a life and easily trapped in Netflix binges, it’s hard to set aside time creating content for an idea that sometimes seems like a pipe dream. Part of the reason I decided to write blogs like this is to motivate myself to work through my own to-do list.
Regardless, a website is a necessity for any brand, artist, company or person looking for an online career — no question.
Not just any website either. Websites are essential in establishing your small business’ SEO. SEO is really a bunch of ever-changing little processes working together, but with a few minor additions and adjustments you can make real progress online.
2. Keyword Research
There’s a reason recipe bloggers take 45 minutes to tell you the damn recipe. They’re packing the page full of extra keywords, repeating the same phrase or phrases like it in order to signal Google: “This page is about crabcakes.”
The easiest way to conduct keyword research for your online business is to use Google Keyword Planner. You’ll need a Google Adwords account to start, but the tool is free.
Let’s say you want to start a small streetwear brand. Yeah, you and everyone else, right? How do you stand out in an industry that’s simultaneously niche and oversaturated?
Quickly, I threw the phrase “streetwear clothing companies” into Google Keyword Planner. The phrase itself is searched anywhere from 1-100 times a month. Other similar phrases, like “urban clothing websites,” are searched as many as 10,000 times a month.
If I were building a website for a streetwear brand, then, I’d use the phrasing “urban clothing websites” before the former.
3. Page Optimization
Once you find your keyword — the main one, the one that accurately describes your brand and is searched an enticing amount — there are specific ways to incorporate that keyword into the framework of your website.
Page Titles (h1, h2, h3)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been familiar with these formats of titles since middle school, when I used to throw <h1> the top of my Body section on MySpace to really make the Panic! At The Disco lyric stand out. They work the same way in your website now, and they have an added benefit: Google weighs headings like this more than simple paragraph text, and including your keyword phrase in them seriously boosts Google’s understanding of what your site is about.
Image Alt Tags
Websites deserve to be beautiful, and visuals are an integral element of capturing your visitor’s (ahem, customer’s) attention. The images you incorporate, like the titles, have an added benefit of standing out to Google as well.
When you upload a photo to your website, you should have the option to edit the Alt Tag of the image. Here, you should write out a description of the image (a courtesy to make the web more accessible to those with disabilities) and you should also include your keyword.
One of the most creative ways I like doing this is uploading a Pinterest photo to any blog I post. Like this one:
Since this photo is optimized for sharing on Pinterest, the alt tag serves as the caption that comes up when your “pin it” button navigates you to Pinterest.com. By typing a description of the article (including the keyword), you kill two birds with one stone: add another flag to Google that your page is about that phrase, and ensure that you’ll pop up when people search for your keyword on Pinterest as well.
Once you notice SEO, you’ll never miss it again. In fact, scroll back through this article and count how many times I say “small business SEO,” or some variation thereof. Even if that’s a keyword I have no chance of competing for right now, due to other factors like my site’s age and amount of content, this page establishes a foundation that I can link back to over time. Which brings me to the last primer:
One of the biggest influencers in the rank of a site are it’s backlinks, or the amount of times other sites link to it as a source. That’s why major sites and recognizable names come up before small, indie websites: more people link to Complex when they say “rap blog” than the small site you started in college.
That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t a million ways to increase the amount of sites that link to you. While some ways are a little sketchy, you can start today by combing back through your old blogs and linking phrases to others. There’s no real reason for me to say “SZA CTRL lyrics,” here, but I decided to try my hand at ranking for that in a blog post earlier this month (this site is all over the place — an experiment, really) so why not?
I still believe in blogs. I believe in informative, perspective-driven writing and I believe in small designers, musicians and any other creative person trying to make a living online. There’s room for all of us. We just all have to start putting the work in.