Managing your own SEO may not seem like that much work if you’re a local business. You see the reports from your account manager every month, and for the truly trackable results you get the idea that it may not be too hard for you to pass this task off to a lower level employee or put in an hour a day on the task.
In this article, we will discuss the time and tools it would take to manage your own SEO for a local business spending only your time on the subject.
5 hours (one time)
There is some setup time we should account for here. We will use this section of the blog to outline some free tools you can use. Most of the setup time will be creating accounts and installing code on your site anyhow.
Do you own your domain and website?
The very first thing you need to do is make sure you have ownership of your domain and website. Many bloated marketing agencies will sneak you onto their GoDaddy account or BlueHost server and charge you monthly for maintenance and server use.
Not only will they upcharge you and make money off of 0 effort, but we actually had a client who was being charged what can only be described as a ransom to get ownership of their site files. Our now client had paid what they were told was a one time fee for a website build and were also paying monthly for SEO services over the course of many years. Even so, they were asked to pay $800 for their site files.
At all times, you want to make sure you own your website and domain as well as administrative control.
Once this is in place we can move to the most important, and free, tool for SEO.
“To start collecting basic data from a website:
For example, you can:
For almost every web building platform there will be a plugin or section of that builder that allows you to install your tracking code on your website with a quick copy and paste. For WordPress sites we suggest MonsterInsights for its ease of use and clean presentation of relevant data.
You will next need to set up “Goals” inside of Analytics.
A goal is what you want your visitors to take action on while on your site. Do you want phone calls, contact forms, a purchase, or any other action? Visit this link here to set up your goals.
Now that you have Google Analytics taken care of, we can talk about a few key areas you’ll want to spend some time analyzing to make better decisions about your SEO efforts. We will talk about a few of the clickable menu items you’ll find along the left of Analytics.
Use this tab to find out who your audience is. Spend some time comparing this data month over month and track any fluctuations. Understanding who is viewing your website will help you create a better experience for the end user.
Pretty much every category here is self explanatory and if you’re willing to undertake doing your own SEO this data should be easily digested. Odds are most of this info will stay fairly consistent but it is a good idea to keep an eye here.
This is another section we should be benchmarking if we want to track organic growth. This section let’s you better understand where your users are finding you on the internet. Here you can connect your Google Ads and Search Console for an even better understanding of your data.
We will spend some time talking about “All Traffic”.
All Traffic shows you...all your traffic.. The section we like to spend some time in is “Source/Medium”. This page shows you a clear breakdown of the number of people visiting your website and where they came from.
There is a calendar in the top right hand corner where you can compare time frames from as far back as the code was installed. Here you can track your growth in organic as compared to all your other traffic sources.
An even more in depth approach to this section can be found under “Referrals” which is conveniently right below “Source/Medium”.
In Referrals you can get right down to the individual websites. This means you can track individual backlinks and the traffic they bring. This can be incredibly helpful when backlink building and paying for advertising space on other websites.
Behavior is where the SEO experts spend a lot of time. Here you can track the flow of traffic through your site and why they stay or go on certain pages. In 2020, things like page speed and time spent on page are 2 of the most important factors in ranking and Behavior is where you get this information.
In this section you can see a flowchart of all your tracked visitors and their drop off rate. From here you can make inferences on behavior and if you’re skilled enough, convert that inference into a page design that converts more sales.
This is a great area to track A/B tests for different clickable copy, page structure, and many other variables.
Here you can break down your traffic by site content and assess which articles and pages are getting the most attention. This is useful for you when you want to create new content in the future. What works here will most likely work again. Copy what works!
Site Speed is something we put a lot of emphasis on because everyone loves fast sites. In this section you can see your page speed interpreted by Google and see which pages may be slowed down for any number of reasons. Luckily, Google will tell us these reasons! Whether they are feasible changes is another conversation.
This is a conversation worth having.
If you use a web builder like Wix of Shopify there are certain things that come out of the box that you can either never change or need to be a serious coder. The purpose of this article is assuming you will be paying no one to improve your SEO, this includes site speed. The best thing you can do here is Google search that recommended site speed changes and your web builder and see if there is a solution. You may find out there isn’t one and that is generally ok.
Google Search Console
“If you're interested in improving your site's appearance on Google Search, and you're willing to put in a little time learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and Search Console, here is your getting started guide. You don't need to understand HTML or coding, but you do need to spend some time thinking about how your site is organized and written, and be willing to make some changes to your site. The good news is that a little effort can go a long way in improving your search results.
Once Search Console is successfully connected there are a few key features you can take a look at when reviewing your SEO.
Much of the data you will find here is also on Analytics and may even be better reported on Analytics and for that we will keep this section on the shorter side.
It is worth noting that Google does plan on merging these 2 platforms together in the future at some point. For now, you can connect the two for better reporting.
Requesting a Page Index
This is the most useful feature of Search Console based on the available info on Analytics. Simply take a URL you want Google to crawl and paste it into the top search bar on Google Search Console.
Once pasted, you will be brought to a page where Google will either tell you that the page has already been successfully indexed or you’ll see a button to request an index.
Making sure that each page on your site is properly indexed is the first step towards getting ranked and appearing on the first page with this piece of content. Indexing a page allows Google to understand the information you are presenting and how best to present that to searchers.
Each new page or blog you create should be indexed but DON’T WORRY you don’t have to stress over this day and night. There is usually little reason to request an immediate index for a local business. If you have a sitemap successfully submitted (which we will talk about next) the majority, if not all, of your pages will eventually get indexed by Google and it won’t take that much time!
This section is similar to requesting an index of a page. On the left hand side, under “Coverage”, you will see “Site Map”.
Depending on where your site is built you will need to go fetch the link for your sitemap and submit it here. Once your sitemap is submitted Google will crawl your site much more frequently and pick up new keywords and information to provide the searcher.
There is so much on Search Console, like Featured Snippet info, in between “Sitemap” and “Links” but we are going to skip ahead.
Links is a page where you can see your top external, internal, and sites. You can also see the anchor text most used to link to your site.
Although much of this info is on Analytics it is better presented in Search Console. Use this page to assure you have an organic mix of external and internal links as well as a diverse range of anchor text.
Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to use small and maybe on the surface “meaningless” words for anchor text. If you’re an electrician and all of your guest posts use the anchor text “best electrician”, Google may be inclined to penalize you because it assumes the post was paid for. Use words like “website”, “blog”, “here”, “read”, etc to keep everyone on their toes.
This is the last free tool we will discuss for now when setting up your website to be tracked for SEO.
Ubersuggest has grown with time and now there is a paid feature however, many of the key features you will need for basic, local SEO can be accessed for free when you login with a Gmail account.
The first thing you need to do is create a project. This will encapsulate all of the info you need to manage your SEO. Simply follow the steps as Neil Patel guides you along the process of establishing keywords and setting up a location. We like to use counties for local businesses as it’s rare a business will serve just one town.
After you have set up your account you can start looking at a lot of really in depth data and information about your backlinks, keywords, pages, and content.
We will briefly talk about the sections for backlinks, keywords, and content ideas.
This part of Ubersuggest is where we can track all of our valuable backlinks we’ve spent so much time on. If a link is taken down or now redirects to a page that no longer exists, you can address the issue here.
You want to check up on your backlinks every now and then to make sure everything is still working as designed. If you lose a backlink, reach out to the site owner and see what you can do to restore the link. If your rankings drop suddenly after a lost backlink this can very well be the cause and you will want to do everything you can to get the link back and live.
Pro tip: Type in your competitors URL and go see all of their broken links. Reach out to the sites and see if they’d be interested in linking to you instead. No one wants a dead link on their site and these could be some of the easiest backlinks you’ve ever earned.
This section is very important when setting up your game plan for SEO. You want to find the right balance between long and short tail keywords, their difficulty, and the competition of who currently holds the top couple spots.
For a local business, odds are your KD (keyword difficulty) are relatively low on the 0-100 scale and the competition should be the competition you already know exists simply by conducting business. Long and short tail keywords refer to the length. A term like “plumber” (which is short tail) may have you competing against Wikipedia's page on plumbing. This word is going to be very difficult to rank for depending where you are. A term like “24/7 plumbing in New Haven” (which is a little bit longer tail of a keyword) may have you competing with just these types of service providers in your area.
Give a search to some broader, short tail, keywords and see if there are any long tail keywords you can use to create a blog, video, or page to address. If you can drive enough backlinks to this page you can start to rank not only for the long tail, but eventually the short tail as well!
Now that we have our mix of keywords we want to go after we need to create a content calendar. You should shoot for anywhere between 1 and 6 pieces a content a month if you’re an average local business.
Content can be anything from a video to a blog, an online quiz, a PDF/infographic, or a page on your site dedicated to providing a specific answer.
Take your keyword list and input them one by one into the Content Ideas section. You will then see all sorts of content (mostly blogs) from across the internet with similar topics. Figure out which one is performing best in their area by searching for these keywords.
Now that we know Google is rewarding one piece of content with a top ranking they are likely to rank our very similar (but better) post.
Take what this leader has done and expand on it. Write more, link more (when appropriate), provide better images and videos, use good meta descriptions and alt tags and then start sharing!
Pro tip: Now that we have this great piece that is better than anything out there online you can start reaching out to the websites that were referring to the post we just mimicked. Offer your post as a new fresh link to better help their readers understand the topic.
4-6 Hours Weekly
Now that we have our tracking tools in place on our website and understand how to interpret some of the data provided by these tools we need to create content worth sharing. Content can be a video, a blog, an infographic, a meme, a gif, or a standard website page.
Your content should be built around two important questions.
Is this content accurate, informative, and unique?
Is this content easily digestible and shareable?
If you can build a piece of content that answers “Yes!” to both questions that you will have no problem getting other authoritative websites to refer to your content and create a backlink network worthy of the top of Google.
Selecting a Topic
This article already assumes you have great services pages on your website that talk about how and where you conduct business. You should use your blogs to link to an average of 1 service page, 1 other relevant blog on your site, and 1 off-site authority on the topic per approx. 700 words.
We know what our content needs to accomplish now. It should be unique, informative, accurate, and shareable. But what should our content be about???
What we like to do is Google a service we provide. You can then scroll down and see something like what you see below on your screen.
Google is hungry for these answers. These are questions that Google gives attention to. This is a great start to find a question that needs to be answered or a topic that should be covered by everyone in this industry.
How long should my blog be? What should I talk about?
The most important thing to remember when writing is that you need to write about your own experience. Google loves long form content in 2020 and what you have lived, you’ll be able to write the most about. Talk to the reader like you’re talking to someone you are trying to sell in person. You can use jargon on occasion and write in a conversational fashion.
If you are still stuck, try taking a look at the website that already is ranking for this answer. Click on the question, go to the link, and see why Google loves it! How is it laid out? How long is it? Are there videos or pictures? What you want to do for your article is top the ranking article in every way. If their post is 800 words, make yours 1,200. If they are linking to authorities you consider important you should think about also linking to these sites or similar sites.
How do I structure my content to rank?
Each platform/website builder has their own way of marking up content for Google’s eyes. If you are on WordPress, the Yoast plugin does a great job of allowing you to easily edit the slug, meta description, and schema in one place. Yoast also does a great job of making sure your content is well balanced.
No need to live or die by the little red, orange, and green lights on Yoast. Plenty of content ranks at the top of Google with orange or red marks by Yoast. There are many other factors worth considering.
If you aren't using WordPress, heading over to YouTube would be your best bet to figure out where to access similar features that Yoast provides WordPress users.
How often should I post?
Now we know how to select a topic and properly mark up said content we need to create a schedule. This all depends on what you can handle and the industry you are in. Most businesses can see positive growth with 2-4 pieces of content a month.
The most important thing is that you don’t repeat yourself over and over. If you can’t come up with anything unique to say, you are better off doing a recap of a recent job or posting about some recent reviews.
If you’re an HVAC company you can only write about replacing air filters so many times before Google starts to grow weary.
Visit other sites (preferably ones that rank above yours) and get inspiration. There's no reason you can’t write about the same topic as your competitor except make it even better.
4-10 hours weekly
You now have the tools to analyze your website and create content that is worth sharing. The last major piece of SEO you will need to spend time on is backlink building. A backlink is a link on another website referring to yours. We are going to discuss a few things you can do to help find these websites, reach out to them, and get those valuable links.
The best thing to do is to make a master list of sites and then reach out to them one by one once they’re all in one place. Reaching out to sites here and there will leave your inbox a mess and your backlink count low. What we like to do is make an excel doc and name each tab a search term with the word “blogs” at the end.
For example: If you are a full service salon you might have a few tabs on your document named “beauty blogs”, “makeup blogs”, “beauty products blogs”, “fashion blogs”, and more. When you search these terms into Google you will get hundreds of links to blogs from all over the internet. Copy and paste the URL’s into the appropriate tab.
Filtering Your List
Now that we have a few hundred blogs to reach out to we need to make sure these sites are worth our time. We recommend using this free tool to check out site health, spam score, age, and many more metrics. Enter 1 per line and check out the results. Anything with a spam score above 10% or an age under a year you may want to investigate further and consider deleting from the list.
Pro Tip: Having a higher spam score or being a young site does not mean it will be a bad link. Use your judgement. If the site is very specific and authoritative but has a lot of ppc ads all over their site they may show a high spam score and still be worth posting on.
We finally have our list of sites to reach out to. But don’t copy and paste the same email to everyone. We want to create some A/B testing so break up your list into a couple days worth of work and try out different subject lines, messages, attachments, and signatures. Some things work great for some and not so well for others. This is much more of an art than science.
As you send out more and more you will start to get some feedback. It’s not uncommon to get 1 or 2 responses for 100 emails. Establish trust with the site owner and understand what their needs are.
Mention to them that you just came out with a great blog that could be an asset for their readers. The more a user clicks around on their article the better results they will get so it can create a symbiotic relationship.
Pro Tip: After you get that link, ask if they have any other sites they manage. They may have access to 100’s of other worthy sites that will save you a lot of work in the future.
Approx. 8-12 hours a week
You now have the information needed to run a reasonable SEO campaign for your small business.
You have the tools to make sure your website is up to industry standards.
You know how to create great content.
And, you know how to reach out to other sites to get them to link to your content.
SEO can get much much deeper than this but for a local business, if you put in consistent work, you will see results over time.
These results are much more impactful than paid ads because they have lasting power and are usually trusted more than the advertisements Google produces above the map pack.
If SEO seems like too much for you, consider calling the experts at Mad Mango Marketing.
We have years of experience and paid systems that make everything above much more efficient. We have moved clients from spot 100 to page 1 for very competitive keywords in a matter of months and look forward to providing your business the same quality work.
All blogs are written by our incredible staff here at Mad Mango Marketing. Your Connecticut SEO, App Development, and Online Advertising experts.