Most people think that SEO is just about getting Google and other search engines to display a website in search results. And that IS an important part of SEO. But I believe it’s so much more than that. SEO is a way to make it easy for consumers to learn about your business and its products/services in all the online places they visit most so that, when a need arises, YOU are who they turn to FIRST.

Here’s why this distinction is so important.

If, like most people, you believe that SEO is just about getting Google to rank your website, you won’t even think about starting SEO until you have a website.

On the other hand, if you believe that SEO is about making it easy for customers to get to know your business and see it in all the places they frequent online, then you’ll make SEO an integral part of your business from Day 1. And this mindset will put you ahead of most of your competition!

So wherever you are in your journey of business growth, I’m happy you’re here to learn more about SEO. And now that you know what SEO is and how it works, you’re probably wondering where to start!

NOTE: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking an affiliate link, I may receive compensation although you will not pay more for the product or service.

Where To Start With SEO Really Depends On

What kind of business you have

  • Product
  • Service
  • Information/Media

Where you operate your business and want to find customers

  • Brick-and-mortar business serving local or regional clients at your location
  • Brick-and-mortar business serving local or regional clients at their locations
  • Home-based or online business serving local or regional clients at your location
  • Home-based or online business serving local, regional, and/or global clients only online

What stage you’re at in your business

No Website Yet? Start Here!

Can you really start with SEO before you have a website? Absolutely! Here are...

Four Important Factors for SEO Ranking That Don’t Require A Website

Accurate and Verifiable Business Information

Specifically, Google and other search engines want to know that the businesses they’re referring consumers to are legit.

Legitimate businesses typically:

  • Have only one business name and use this name consistently wherever they are found. Shady businesses tend to change names often so consumers don’t find out about their bad reputation until it’s too late.
  • Have a real physical address that can be verified by official business documents like a business license, utility bill, or phone bill. And the address matches where the business actually operates, or where the business headquarters are located.
  • Have a phone number that is answered by a real person so that consumers can actually contact the business in the event of questions, concerns, or problems. And the phone number matches the location where the business is physically located.
  • Provide consumers access to their website, if one exists. And they consistently use the same domain (www.sitename.com) whenever their website is referenced.
  • List their businesses online and locally so customers can easily find them.

Social Signals

Legitimate businesses use every opportunity to reach potential customers, including social media. So they’re publishing interesting, informative, and entertaining content that followers want to consume and share with others.

And they’re reaping big benefits besides SEO ranking by doing this because customers acquired through social media are:

  • 137% more likely to remain long-term customers,
  • 4 times as likely to purchase significantly, and
  • make purchases 29% more often than customers acquired through other methods.

Authority

Legitimate businesses are subject-matter experts in their industry, profession, and niche. They provide reliable information, education, answers, and resources to consumers. And, because of this, others share links to their content and resources.

When it comes to SEO, search engines like Google take into account the total number of links to your website and the authority of the websites that link to your site (links from well-known, authoritative sites like government sites, industry associations, educational institutions, and trusted business names are more valuable than links from a small local blog or social media).

They also track the number and authority of other websites where your business is mentioned.

You don’t have to have your own website to write articles, white papers, publish research, or be interviewed or featured on other websites.

So finding ways to contribute to the body of knowledge and information in your industry, profession, and niche as well as share what you know with audiences of complementary businesses can help your SEO, even if you don't have a website.

What do I mean by this? Perhaps it’s best explained by an example.

Let’s say Joe owns a radiator shop and Joe knows everything there is to know about radiators but he doesn’t have his own website yet. He also knows the value of having other complementary businesses refer customers to him and which of these businesses have websites. So he contacts these complementary businesses and offers to write an article for their blogs, have them interview him, or provide a workshop, seminar, or webinar for them.

For the local car dealership, Joe offers an article about How to Extend the Life of Your Radiator. For his buddy who owns the local auto restoration shop, he offers an article about the 3 Best Sources for Vintage Radiators. Finally, Joe offers to do a Radiator Workshop at the local technical trade school which will get him featured under Events on their website. And each of these articles mention Joe and his business, Joe’s Radiator Shop.

Although Joe doesn’t have his own website yet, he has already created three relevant online citations within his industry and on authoritative sites that will help his website rank faster when it is published. And, as an added benefit, some of the people who have read those articles have become Joe’s customers or are sending customers to him.

Customer Reviews

With the increasing popularity of online shopping, consumers are placing greater emphasis on online customer reviews as a determining factor when selecting who they do business with. In fact, 82% of consumers routinely check online reviews before making a purchase. (Source: BrightLocal, 2019)

Because customer reviews are so important to consumers, Google and other search engines include customer reviews as a factor for determining a website’s rank in search results.

Even without your own website, you can and should be asking customers for their feedback and letting them know where they can leave an online review about your business and its products/services.

Where should you have them submit their reviews? The best places, as far as search engines are concerned, are on Google and Facebook. I also recommend that my customers use TrustPilot because reviews submitted on TrustPilot can also be automatically published on Facebook. So start with those. You can always add other review sites later on. But focus on Google and Facebook first.

If You Serve Clients At Your Physical Location or At Their Locations, Your First SEO Steps Should Be

1.  Creating important online profiles

  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)
  • Google My Business
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Yelp
  • Trust Pilot
  • Referral Sites like Angie’s List or Home Advisor, if applicable
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Networking Sites (Alignable, Nextdoor.com)
  • Telephone Directories (YP.com, White Pages, Dex)
  • Local Business Directories
  • Discount Sites like Groupon, if applicable

2.  Implementing a process to make customer reviews an integral part of your business

3.  Implementing an effective social media strategy that puts you in touch with your target market

4.  Identifying the most important keywords for your industry, profession, and niche

5.  Creating keyword-rich, authentic, and authoritative content and resources

6.  Creating an email list and developing client-nurturing email sequences

This indirectly affects your SEO because it gives you more opportunities to share your content with people who may, in turn, share your content with others or link to your content on their websites or social media profiles thereby increasing your website traffic and backlinks when you do create a website.

7.  Networking at in-person networking events (ie: Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Meetup), or paid networking groups (ie: BNI, LeTip, Women in Business Networking) to cultivate a network of business contacts who will be interested in sharing your content once you do create a website.

If You Serve Clients Only Online, Focus First On

1.  Creating important online profiles

  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)
  • Trust Pilot
  • Referral Sites like Angie’s List or Home Advisor, if applicable
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Networking Sites (Alignable)
  • Discount Sites like Groupon, if applicable

2.  Implementing a process to make customer reviews an integral part of your business

3.  Implementing an effective social media strategy that puts you in touch with your target market

4.  Identifying the most important keywords for your industry, profession, and niche

5.  Creating keyword-rich, authentic, and authoritative content and resources

6.  Creating an email list and develop client-nurturing email sequences

This helps you develop relationships with people who will be willing to share your content with others when you do create a website and creates opportunities for increasing website traffic and backlinks which will help you rank well in search results.

7.  Networking online in social media groups, paid networking groups, and mastermind groups to cultivate a network of business contacts who will be interested in sharing your content once you do create a website.

Planning Your Website? Focus On These SEO Steps First

1.  Completing the steps above that apply to your business model.

2.  Selecting an SEO-worthy domain name (www.domain-name.com).

SEO-worthy domain names include the most important keywords you’re wanting to rank for and are relevant to the type of business you have.

3.  Choosing a reputable company to host your website.

Many people don’t realize that Google flags and penalizes hosting companies who engage in spammy practices, have had multiple security breaches, or have poor reliability (significant down times). And websites that are hosted by these companies take an SEO hit, too. That’s why it is so important to choose a reputable company to host your site.

For this reason, I use and recommend SiteGround for website hosting because they set the industry standard for security, are consistent and reliable, have excellent customer service, and a variety of hosting plans to meet your needs at every stage of business growth.

4.  Planning a website structure that is optimized for SEO

  • One page for each of your most important keywords
  • Navigation menus that make it easy for visitors to find what they need
  • Internal linking on pages that are related
  • SEO-optimized page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, and image file names

5.  Selecting the right platform (WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, etc.).

When it comes to SEO, most SEO experts recommend WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org) because it allows you the most control over the on-page SEO factors for your site.

6.  Selecting the right theme and plugins.

Your theme and plugins are the foundation of your website. They affect:

  • How secure your site is
  • How large your site is
  • How fast it loads, and
  • How easy it is to view and use on desktop and mobile devices.

For these reasons, it is important to choose a theme and plugins that are maintained and updated on a regular basis, well-optimized, and responsive.

The theme I use on my own website and recommend to my clients is BeaverBuilder for its ease of use and efficiency. It is well-maintained, super optimized (I’ve seen up to 75% reduction in page size by switching my clients to BeaverBuilder), and responsive… and comes with great customer support.

7.  Planning and creating blog content for your most important keywords.

Already Have A Website? Your First SEO Steps Should Be:

1.  Setting up the right SEO Tools

  • SEO Plugin for Your Website. I use and recommend All in One SEO Pack.
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Bing Webmaster Tools

2.  Optimizing your existing website content for SEO

  • Use ONE primary keyword for each page or blog post.
  • Make sure the keyword appears in:
    • The URL
    • The meta description
    • The H1 header (this is the page title in WordPress)
    • Some of the H2, H3, and/or H4 headers
    • Image file names (if you use images in your content)
    • Image ALT tags (if you use images in your content)
    • The body of your page
  • Answer the questions you anticipate your target audience may have.
  • Ensure your content is unique, authentic, and offers a fresh perspective or new information on the topic.
  • Update old content with current information, the latest developments, or additional insights.
  • Compress or minify your images so your web pages load quickly.
  • Create internal links to other related content on your website. Do a Google search on the phrase “site:yoursite.com keyword-phrase” for a list of the pages on your site that Google thinks are related and choose the ones that fit best.

3.  Ensuring your entire website is functioning properly and there are no broken links.

4.  Creating the important online profiles listed above that apply to your business model.

5.  Submitting your website for indexing by the major search engines.

6.  Creating more keyword-rich, high-value content.

Want an easy way to consistently create amazing SEO-optimized content in a fraction of the time it would normally take you?

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Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. To read my Disclosure Policy in its entirety, click here. Thank you for supporting my site!