Scaling SEO as a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. But it can be one of the most efficient ways to acquire customers, enhance your brand visibility and get your product or service out there.
However, with a low headcount and budget, it can be intimidating to build your organic search presence from the ground up. Fortunately, search is nothing if not predictable: which means with the right approach and focus, anyone can do it.
6 tips for scaling SEO as a small business
1. Establish your SEO goals
As is true when scaling any marketing channel, the first thing you should do is to outline your main objectives for the channel. Why do you want search traffic? Do you want to multiply your leads by a certain amount? Do you want to increase your site traffic, and if so, by how much? Why? Are there certain keywords that you want to conquer the results page for? How many?
Establishing these goals beforehand ensures that you can tie your aspirations back to something concrete and measurable, like revenue. It’s easy to become egotistical about SEO, particularly against competitors. But traffic in isolation is worthless. If there isn’t any tangible value to be gained that benefits the business, what’s the point?
Use this as an opportunity to determine how scaling SEO can help your small business to achieve its long-term goals and how your SEO targets tie back to your company-wide objectives.
This should leave you with a clearer understanding of the extent to which you want to scale your SEO strategy and the specific routes you’re going to take to do so.
2. Get buy-in from key stakeholders
Next, you’ll want to get buy-in from the stakeholders within your business. This will help you to get the resources you need to get started, like additional team members, freelancers and software.
You can’t half-ass SEO. It’s a channel that requires commitment in order to get results. You’ll need to dedicate time as well as resources to it, both of which can be in short supply within a small team. It can be an even bigger challenge, therefore, to convince managers to make SEO a strategic priority, particularly when it competes with shorter-term tactics like outbound sales.
Despite being ultimately one of the cheapest ways to generate leads for a business, SEO can be extremely time intensive, and the hours you invest in creating and optimizing content will rack up. It can also take a long time to see progression in SEO, particularly as a beginner.
However, it’s also an incredibly efficient and scalable way to grow your business and website traffic, and one that offers an extremely attractive financial return on investment (ROI) once you start to see success. Communicating this ROI should support you in getting buy-in from business stakeholders.
Not only can SEO drive a lower customer acquisition cost when executed well, it can also be scaled for a low cost. What’s more, SEO is the perfect opportunity to compete with larger businesses within the same space, as SEO success isn’t necessarily tied back to the budget you have behind your business, but rather how well your content performs.
Communicating the direct impact that it can have on your bottom line is the best way to educate colleagues on the importance of SEO and get the buy-in you need.
3. Be smart with your keyword research
One difference between scaling SEO in a startup or a small business and succeeding in SEO as a large enterprise is that you have to pick your battles wisely and be more resourceful.
Keyword research for your content is one area of SEO where a smart strategy can produce big gains.
A large SEO team in a big business can naturally produce and optimize more content, whereas a small business with a small team needs to be more selective about the content they produce and address the biggest areas of opportunity first. That’s where keyword research comes in.
When deciding what content to prioritise, it’s important to identify which opportunities will bring the most value. To do this, you should use keyword research tools like Wordtracker to establish:
- How many people are searching for the keyword: it’s important to find keywords with enough addressable traffic to make the time you invest into the content worthwhile. Investing your time on keywords with low search volume can mean that you’re only reaching a small number of people if you do manage to get your page to rank. Will this number be worthwhile?
- How difficult it will be to rank high enough to receive this traffic: some keyword research tools will have a score for ‘keyword difficulty’. This indicates how difficult it’ll be to rank for the term, which you can use to determine whether reaching a position is feasible or not. The lower the difficulty of a keyword, the easier it’ll be to rank.
- What the intent of those searching for the keyword is: segmenting keywords by intent is an important way to establish whether the traffic you’ll receive if you rank highly for a keyword is worthwhile in terms of revenue, or other business metrics. Consider what someone searching for that particular keyword is looking for and how far along they will be in their buyer’s journey. The closer they are, the more valuable that traffic will be.
- How well the keyword aligns with your offering: lastly, consider how well the keyword you’re assessing aligns with what your business is selling. For instance, as a provider of contract lifecycle management software, we focus on creating content that helps legal and business teams to manage their contracts more efficiently. Creating masses of content on other legal processes with no relation to contract processes will therefore be difficult to tie back to our expertise and value areas.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula when deciding which content to prioritise as a small business scaling SEO. Although these numbers are all important, you’ll need to use your own intuition and weigh the different considerations for certain key terms. After all, it’s rare that keywords perform perfectly in all areas, so be prepared to know when to compromise. Keyword research tools provide extremely educated indications, but seeing how your content performs in the wild is the true litmus test.
4. Outsource certain aspects of your strategy
One of the biggest barriers to scaling SEO as a small business is the lack of resources, particularly when it comes to the costs of hiring SEO professionals and allocating work in an already stretched marketing team. Not only that, but it’s also inherently difficult to find and hire generalist SEO professionals with experience in all areas of SEO, particularly as a small business.
Therefore, it’s often beneficial to outsource certain buckets of work to freelancers or agencies when you’re first beginning to scale your SEO efforts.
Outsourcing to freelancers means that you won’t have to pay to hire an employee full-time and that you can draw on the expertise of different individuals for different tasks - something that the budget of a small business can’t accommodate in-house.
Depending on where you are in your SEO journey, this may mean outsourcing technical SEO work and audits to a consultant or hiring freelance writers to produce the content for your website.
Firstly, consider what you can hire for in-house, or the skills you can utilise that you have already. From there you can identify any gaps and find affordable ways to outsource the other projects and tasks as efficiently as possible. Personally I find in-house content creation is many multiples better than what you can get from even the best external writers, so I tend to look for other parts of the SEO machine to outsource, like technical analysis, keyword research and link-building.
5. Optimize what you have already
One of the best ways to scale SEO as a small business is to utilise the resources you already have and leverage your existing content wherever possible.
If you’ve already invested time into creating specific pieces of content, whether they’re for sales enablement, brand marketing or a different channel, repurposing this content or optimizing it for search can be an effective way to do more with a little.
For example, our competitor alternatives pages where we compare competing software were originally designed to enable our sales teams. However, we’ve since considered SEO in the content and design of these pages, meaning that they also attract organic search traffic at the same time.
Likewise, our company-owned publications often have plenty of useful material that can be repurposed into blogs at a later date. By repurposing this content, small businesses can minimize the time they spend creating new content and leverage what they already have with only a few small tweaks.
6. Commit to the channel
My final piece of advice: don’t give up when results aren’t immediate.
SEO is a long-term growth strategy, and you won’t see results overnight. But equally, the organic search presence your business builds over time won’t disappear overnight either. For long-term SEO success you’ll need to commit to your strategy and dedicate time to the tasks that have the biggest impact.
Once it starts to grow and compound, you’ll be a hero in the business, but until that biting point, you need to hold your nerve and trust the process.
You’ll need to be prepared to learn more every day, including about your audience, your site and Google’s updates to its algorithm.
SEO at scale: is it possible for small businesses?
There will be lots of businesses out there wondering whether SEO is a scaleable way to grow their revenue and acquire new customers. And contrary to what most people think, it is.
In fact, it’s one of the biggest opportunities for small businesses to compete with larger organisations, because execution is everything, meaning the right strategy and focus can enable small businesses to steal traffic from larger enterprises.
Of course, SEO is a form of marketing that requires research, dedication and perseverance. But with the right level of commitment, buy-in and prioritization, it’s entirely possible for small businesses to scale their SEO performance and see similar results to their better-resourced competitors.