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The Future of Small Business SEO (Hint: It’s About Content)

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Phil Singleton – Enjoy!

2013 was an exciting year for small business Internet marketing.  Search engine optimization transformed from a game of link popularity into what it was supposed to be from the beginning: high quality, relevant content from trusted sources.  Make no mistake; quality links pointing to your website are still really important.  It’s just that content marketing and social network participation are (collectively) more important.

volume-backliningAddressing The Content Gap

There is a great line from a Duct Tape Marketing Blog post from last year: “Content is King…Really, we mean it this time.”  As a boutique web design company that creates SEO-friendly web designs, we can report to you with absolute certainty that high quality content is king.  How do we know? We are on the front line of small biz SEO – we have dozens of SEO clients and have seen first-hand how client companies with both active blogs and social media networks handily outperformed their competitors in 2013.  If you are a small business owner and somehow still have high organic search engine rank without a content strategy, let me be the first to tell you that at some point in the near future you will be kissing your organic rank goodbye.

Here are five reasons why small business SEO strategy should focus on content marketing versus volume backlink accumulation:

1. The Fall of Boiler Room Link Building – Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Low cost, high volume offshore link building is not only dead, it’s super risky.  Google dropped the granddaddy of all backlink penalties on October 4th 2013 (Penguin 2.1 aka Penguin 5) – and guess what – more Penguin updates are coming.  If you are using an offshore link building strategy, you may soon find your website flagged with a Manual Action or an Unnatural Link Warning message in your Webmaster Tools account.  Don’t know what a WT account is?  Start Googling and get your account setup today – it’s the best way to check the search engine health of your website or to see if you’ve been hit with any penalties – and probably the best way to keep tabs on your SEO company.

2. Death, Taxes & Google 

Remember Ben Franklin’s famous quote? In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. On the Internet, pretty much everything you put out there is a part of permanent digital record.  This is especially true of your website’s backlink profile.   Even though your site may not yet have been slapped by Mother Google, your website still may be at risk.  Further, today’s white-hat SEO methods may become tomorrow’s prohibited activities – and Google always catches up with short-cut link building techniques.  By focusing on quality content and by creating your own content distribution channel, you can start naturally attracting quality links instead of artificially creating risky links.

3. Social Networking

We’ve been in and around web design and SEO for over ten years.  If you can believe it, we didn’t have a blog or any type of social media account until last year.  Why so late to the party? Because until last year, we could dominate our own online niches with a static website and passive SEO strategies.  Social media is now a critical component of SEO.  Just creating great content is not enough. The search engines need some way to determine if your content is valuable and the best measureable way for them to do this is to calculate the number of social signals (shares, likes, pluses, tweets, links, etc.) pointing back to your content.  So when our agency discusses “content marketing”, part of what we mean is promoting content through your active social media channels.

4. BLOGGING – NOTE THE ALL CAPS

In terms of small business websites, blogging represents both the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge.  Blogging not only helps to establish your company as an authority, but it’s also proven to increase website traffic conversion rates. Most importantly, blogging is the best way to add high quality, relevant content to your website.  The search engines love high quality blog content.  Search engine ranking factors have changed dramatically over the years, however, most SEO industry experts agree that blogging is now critically important.  This is never going to change.  All small businesses that want to achieve and sustain maximum search engine visibility will have to maintain an active blog.  Ideally, company blog posts are written by the business owner or some other experienced employee. If your company does not have an active blog, you should consider making it a priority this year.

5. MORE BLOGGING

We said it: maintaining an active blog is essential. There is more you can do.  Guest blogging is a phenomenal way to get exclusive, relevant, high-quality content on your website.  What’s even better is that the guest author will typically market their guest blog post for you.  That’s right – they will go out and blast your website to their social networking channels and help market the content for you! Supplementing your own blog with a well-executed guest blogging program will get you both great content and coveted social signals…free of charge.

Guest blogging goes both ways.   You also want to target high quality, relevant websites and post on their sites.  Reciprocal guest blogging is a secret weapon for many SEO companies.

content-marketingA Word Of Caution 

Organic search engine rankings are more important than ever.  The ranking factors have shifted from being backlink-centric to being content-centric.  Companies have to be careful to avoid the same types of SEO short-cuts that got webmasters and business owners in trouble in the past.  The search engines are getting really good at filtering out copied and low quality content.  Spammy filler content from domestic and offshore content farms will hurt your rankings.  Google has declared war on all forms of webspam.  In fact, they just recently condemned content stitching and warned against misusing guest blog posts.    In other words, you should only publish unique blog content that is interesting or useful to your audience.  If you try to blog only for the sake of the search engines, chances are you will fail to get any SEO value.  For most businesses, great content is everywhere.  It’s just a matter of extracting stories and lessons from everyday business experience and having the discipline to document and publish them on a regular basis.

phil-singletonPhil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications, and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page.

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