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How to do SEO: A beginner’s guide for small businesses and entrepreneurs



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Wondering how to do SEO but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Search engine optimization (SEO) can drive quality traffic to your website and grow your business — and this guide will walk you through how to do SEO the right way to grow your business.

How to do SEO: A beginner’s guide

Let’s get started!

What is SEO, and why does it matter?

SEO is the process of optimizing your web pages to organically increase your website’s visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) or search engine listings.

The primary goal of search engine optimization is to get organic traffic — the traffic that comes when a visitor or searcher clicks on a search result from your site.

With about 90% of the overall search market, Google is currently the largest search engine. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t optimize for other search engines, such as Yahoo, Bing, Apple and Baidu.

Why does SEO matter?

Billions of Google users search for information, products or services online every day. In fact, Google processes about 99,000 search queries per second. As a result, search engines are the biggest potential traffic sources for websites.

Generally, the higher your website ranks in search results, the more visitors it will get.

We’ll explore how to make this happen, with the help of target keywords and other specific SEO tactics, later in this article.

Still not sure if learning how to do SEO is worth your effort? Check out these facts:

  • Search engine traffic comprises a significant chunk of trackable traffic to a website.
  • Seventy-five percent of searchers only choose a result from the first page of SERPs.
  • Top results on SERPs have a click-through rate (CTR) of 28.5 percent.
  • Strong SEO practices lead to a positive user experience. In fact, Google introduced the Page Experience algorithm update in 2021 that aims at providing its users with an optimal experience.
  • Effective SEO means a higher return on investment (ROI).

Convinced that it’s worthwhile to work towards improving SEO on your website to drive organic search traffic to your business? Great. Let’s keep going.

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SEO glossary

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language. SEO involves a lot of industry jargon that’s helpful to understand when optimizing your site for search engines like Google. Below are important terms to remember:

  1. Keywords: Words or phrases people type or say to search engines when searching for something.
  2. Long-tail keywords: Keywords or phrases with lower search volumes.
  3. Keyword difficulty: This keyword research metric helps determine how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword. It’s a great way to determine whether it’s worth investing in that keyword or phrase.
  4. Keyword relevance: How important is a specific keyword or phrase to a web page? Search engines use relevancy to determine what your content is about and when deciding what pages to rank for a specific search query.
  5. Search volume: Refers to the number of search queries for a specific search phrase in Google within a stated time frame.
  6. Backlinks: Links from a website’s page to another website. The links should be from a relevant and high-quality page to be effective.
  7. Search query: A keyword combination or phrase users enter into search engines to find what they are looking for.
  8. SERPs: An acronym for Search Engine Results Pages and refers to pages that search engines provide when a user performs a search query.
  9. Indexing: The search engine’s process of organizing information before a search for faster responses to queries.
  10. Ranking factor: Refers to the criteria that search engines apply to evaluate web pages when compiling their search results rankings.
  11. On-page SEO: The process of optimizing web pages to achieve better rankings and earn organic traffic. It involves publishing high-quality, relevant content and optimizing headlines, images and HTML tags (meta, title, and header).
  12. Off-page SEO: Refers to actions taken away from your website that impact your rankings in SERPs.
  13. Googlebot: This refers to Google’s web crawler and involves a desktop and a mobile crawler
  14. Search algorithm: A collection of formulas that search engines use to determine the quality and relevance of a web page to a search query.
  15. Sitemap: A list of website pages within a domain or a file that provides information about pages, videos, and how different files within your site relate.
  16. White hat SEO: SEO practices approved by search engines like Google.
  17. Black hat SEO: SEO practices that go against search engine guidelines, including tactics like keyword stuffing, cloaking, etc., to attain a higher ranking in search results.

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Search engine basics

There is no SEO without search engines. Let’s get familiar with the ins and outs of search engines, especially how they work to provide personalized results to users.

Search engines are web-based tools that enable users to search for information on the internet. In other words, these are complex programs that identify information in the vast internet

database that matches a user’s search terms. Google is currently the most popular search engine.

Search engines have two primary parts that help them achieve their goals: search index and search algorithms.

Google provides its users with two types of search results: organic and paid. The latter option is one of the ways search engines make money. Ideally, the advertiser pays anytime a user clicks on a paid search result (aka PPC). More on that later …

How Google builds its index

Each search engine has its unique way of building a search index. For the sake of this article, let’s look at the breakdown of Google’s process.


Google’s process of building a search index starts with identifying URLs. A URL, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, is the internet address people use to access a web page. Here are some common ways Google achieves this:

  • From sitemaps: Sitemaps help Google understand the important files on your site.
  • From backlinks: Google library has billions of web pages. Linking your new page to a known page allows Google to identify it from there.
  • URL submission: As a site owner, you can request the crawling of an individual URL in the Google Search Console.


This is a discovery process where search engines use a team of robots (crawlers or spiders) to find new and updated content. This can be in the form of blog content, video, images, PDFs, etc., that’s discoverable by links.

Processing and rendering

After Googlebot has crawled pages, it works to understand what the pages are all about. The process involves running the page’s code to discover how it looks to the user. In other words, Googlebot is trying to find all external files involved, including images, CSS and JavaScript files, and store them for indexing.


Finally, Google adds the crawled pages to its search index. This is where search engines fetch information when users perform a search.

Google ranking factors

Google currently has more than 200 ranking factors. While some of these factors are known, others are yet to be disclosed. Here are a few of the big ones we know about:


Google aims to provide the most relevant information to a search query. As such, relevance is a valuable ranking factor that should drive your content creation strategy.


Getting relevant and high-quality links from other websites to your site can help improve your Google rankings. However, the emphasis here is quality over quantity.


The use of mobile devices has increased significantly in the past few years. The number of mobile users stood at 15 billion in 2021 and is expected to surpass the 18 billion mark by 2025.

Having a mobile-friendly website means people on mobile devices like smartphones can easily access the web like desktop users. It’s easy to understand why Google considers mobile-friendliness when ranking web pages in search results.

Why you should track Google algorithm updates

Google algorithm is a set of rules that Google uses to provide relevant results to a search query. However, these algorithms keep changing in Google’s efforts to provide a better experience to users and improve SEO performance.

Website owners and marketers should stay abreast of these updates to increase their chances of ranking higher in search engine results.

Google algorithm updates can impact various aspects of your website, including:

  1. Organic search traffic
  2. Search ranking and visibility
  3. Conversions
  4. Revenue
  5. Return on investment (ROI)

The bottom line is that algorithm updates are not meant to punish website owners but are rather a way to reward sites that provide valuable content and a better user experience.

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How does SEO work?

To help you understand how SEO works, let’s look at how people search on Google. When a user enters a search query into Google’s search bar, Google responds by providing results relevant to that query.

Google aims to deliver the most relevant and useful information to its users.

To do that, Google needs to know that these pages exist, what they contain, and their popularity. Then, using the process outlined above, Google shows the most relevant results from its massive inventory of data.

When performing a search, people use phrases related to what they are searching for. These phrases are called keywords, and users can either type them or say them (voice search).

Google has search quality ratings that analyze the quality of your content to determine when to show it on SERPs. Here’s what these ratings assess:

  • The quality and quantity of the content
  • Website reputation and site information
  • Expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (EAT) of the content

All these measures ensure that the most relevant, useful and trustworthy web pages appear on top of search results pages.

Pro tip: Find your search engine rankings by searching the terms you are targeting. If you have a large website, use tools like SEMrush to find other terms you might be ranking for.

Key components of SEO

When learning how to do SEO, it’s important to understand that search engine optimization is a complex process. It’s easiest for beginners to break it down into these five main steps:

  1. Keyword and competitor research: Find and analyze terms people use when searching for businesses like yours.
  2. Content creation: Develop and publish content with users in mind.
  3. On-page SEO: Optimize your website’s pages to gain a higher ranking in search engine results and improve organic traffic
  4. Link building: Use off-page SEO strategies to build trust and authority from other sites.
  5. Technical SEO: Take practical measures that enable search engines to find, crawl and index content more easily.

Organic vs. paid SEO

As noted above, search engine results pages contain these two types of results: Paid and organic results.

  1. Paid results: Have you seen search results with a little green box with the word “Ad” when you perform a Google search? That is a paid result, meaning the website owners have paid to have the page appear on top of the search result list. This type of search engine advertising is also known as Pay Per Click (PPC).
  2. Organic results: These are unpaid lists that appear on top of search results because the pages are relevant to what the searcher is looking for.

While paid results give you a higher position in the ads section, it’s crucial to know that most users ignore ads and instead select organic results.

Organic SEO is a long-term game that doesn’t provide overnight results. Be ready to put in the work and exercise patience and persistence to see the desired results.

Besides, Google and other search engines are constantly changing their algorithm, and you need to outsmart your competitors to achieve higher rankings in search engine results.

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Set up for SEO success

How you do SEO determines the results you will get. That said, your SEO efforts can be more effective if your website is set up for success.

Choose the perfect domain name

Pay close attention to the domain name you choose to represent your business online. After all, your domain determines how easy it is for your audience to find and remember your business.

Of course, most domain names work when it comes to SEO, but if you need help choosing a perfect domain name, keep these things in mind:

  • Keep it short and simple. Your domain name should be easy to remember. As such, having a long domain name that’s hard to spell out or remember isn’t the way to go — a domain name with six to 14 characters that’s easy to spell is ideal.
  • Stick to a .com extension. If the .com option is available, snag it. It’s the most popular domain name extension that many people expect for website names. If your chosen domain name ending in .com isn’t available, you can opt for other trusted domain name extensions such as .net and .org.
  • Make your domain unique. Your domain name should stand out from your competitors and uniquely represent your brand and what it stands for.

Related: What is a domain name? Everything you need to know about domain names

Ensure a positive user experience

User experience is now a ranking factor. In fact, Google prioritizes sites that provide a positive user experience when providing results to a search query. Keep these guidelines in mind to create a positive user experience:

  1. Have a mobile-friendly website. Most people use mobile devices when surfing the internet. Ensure that your website loads smoothly on both desktop and mobile. Testing your site for mobile-friendliness is easy using the Mobile-Friendly test from Google Search Console.
  2. Ensure your pages load faster. Pages that load slowly on desktop and mobile devices provide a bad user experience, negatively impacting your rankings in SERPs.
  3. Avoid intrusive pop-ups. While you can’t completely avoid using ads, avoid intrusive pop-up ads as they lead to a poor user experience
  4. Secure your site. Use an SSL certificate (HTTPS) to prevent hackers from accessing your site and your users’ data.
  5. Make your content readable. Ensure that users (no matter the device) can easily read your content. Also, use a perfect design that reflects your brand.

Related: How to add an SSL to your website — The ultimate guide on SSLs

Choose the best website structure for your business

A website’s structure involves how a website’s pages are organized, how they’re connected, and how to navigate to different pages.

Have a logical site structure that allows visitors and search engines to find content easily on your site.

You can select from three site structure options:

  1. Linear or sequential structure. Best for small websites that want to present a product, service or brand in a linear manner that follows a logical path of actions.
  2. Network structure. Also called web-linked, this structure allows any site page to be accessed from any other page. It’s ideal for websites with a few pages that are interconnected.
  3. Hierarchical. This site structure follows a hierarchy of categories. It’s the most popular among the three options and works on any website.

Why is site structure important for SEO?

When learning SEO, it’s important to understand that a solid website structure is key to Google’s goal of serving up the most relevant search results. Here’s why:

  • A logical site structure enables search engines to evaluate your pages when providing results to a search query.
  • Having a solid site structure helps handle many technical SEO aspects responsible for crawling and indexing.
  • An effective site structure makes it easier for a search engine to understand what your page is all about so it can show it to relevant search queries.
  • It makes it easier for search engines to locate new pages.

Above all, an effective site structure facilitates a positive user experience. And user experience is a ranking factor for SEO.

Create a solid URL structure

A mentioned earlier, a URL is the internet address people use to access a web page. It consists of a protocol, a domain name and a path to a specific page on the website. To better understand these components, look at the below URL:

  1. Protocol: https:/
  2. Domain:
  3. Path: /garage/invest-in-seo/

The best URL structure varies based on the type of website. For example, URL structures for ecommerce sites will vary from those of a blog website. Likewise, a URL for a social network will vary from that of a government website.

The above basic URL structure applies when creating a proper URL structure, regardless of the website’s purpose.

How does URL structure impact SEO?

URLs act as the link between your content and your users. That said, here’s how URLs can impact SEO:

  • User experience. An effective URL structure should allow users and search engines to understand what a page is all about. For example, the example URL above clearly describes what website users will find when they reach their destination. This enhances the user experience, which is a Google ranking factor.
  • Rankings. An effective URL helps search engine bots to crawl and index your website when providing search results to a search query.

That means optimizing your URLs can help improve Google PageRank (PR). Of course, avoid keyword stuffing in your URLs, as this is considered a black-hat SEO technique that will hurt your SEO efforts.

Follow these best practices for SEO-friendly URLs:

  1. Use HTTPS protocol to make it more secure.
  2. Ensure the URL is relevant.
  3. Keep your URL short and simple.
  4. Avoid keyword stuffing.
  5. Avoid stop words (the, and, of, or, etc.) in your URL.
  6. Use lowercase letters.

Related: Domain SEO — Can including keywords in domain names improve search ranking?

Install plugins

Have a WordPress website? WordPress offers powerful in-built tools to help you optimize your content for SEO, and you can use SEO plugins to turbocharge your SEO efforts. Popular SEO plugins like Yoast and Rankmath offer great suggestions and an overview of what you should change on each page to boost its ranking capabilities.

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Conduct keyword research

You can hardly talk about SEO without mentioning keywords. Users enter keywords when searching for something online, and search engines use keywords to find the information that matches the search query.

That makes keyword research a crucial aspect of SEO success.

Keyword research involves finding and analyzing phrases people use when searching for something on search engines. You can boost your search rankings by sprinkling keywords naturally throughout your website content because doing so tells search engines that your website has information that’s relevant to their search.

When your article ranks higher for the right keywords, Google will show it to users when they use those keywords to find a solution or information online. That can mean more traffic for your website.

Note: Keyword research also helps create an effective content marketing strategy, of which SEO plays an integral role.

Benefits of keyword research

In addition to improving your SEO efforts, conducting keyword research can:

  • Provide insight into current market trends. Effective keyword research can provide great insight into your marketing efforts. It provides an opportunity to understand what your audience is looking for and the current relevant topics.
  • Help develop authority and trust. The insights you glean into current marketing trends can help you build your brand as an authority leader in your industry. You can use your keyword research findings to create the industry-specific content that people are searching for now.
  • Increase organic traffic. Identifying the best keywords and optimizing your content for those keywords will help your content rank higher on SERPs. The higher your content ranks for your target keywords, the more traffic you’ll get.

Related: How to do SEO keyword research to drive traffic to your website

What is search intent?

Search intent refers to what the user intends to solve when using specific keywords on a search engine.

Identifying user intent is crucial if you want your page to rank higher on search engines like Google.

Keywords can have different meanings for different users. That means even after identifying your target keywords, you have to interpret them to ensure they match the user’s search intent.

Search intent is divided into three categories:

  1. Navigational. The user knows what they want to find (e.g., a specific domain, page, address, product, etc.).
  2. Informational. The user wants to learn something or is looking for answers. The searches might be a question or phrases like why, where, what, how, etc.
  3. Transactional. The user is searching for something they intend to buy. That means they know what they want and are probably looking for the best product page.

The easiest way to identify the user’s intent for a keyword is to enter the keyword into a search engine and note the type of results that show up.

How to do keyword research

When performing keyword research, look for words and phrases that you can rank for on the first page of SERPs. Here’s how to find them:


Ask yourself some questions, including:

  • What are the main themes/topics/focus areas on your website, especially on its most popular pages?
  • What do you want to achieve with your content?
  • What terms would you enter into a search engine to get your website among the top results?
  • What search terms do you think your audience uses?

Then, ask other people what terms or phrases they would use to search for your website or pages without using the domain.

Make a list of all the keywords you find valuable. You can refine them in the next steps.

Study your competitors’ keywords

Another great way to identify keywords to use on your site is by checking what keywords your competitors rank for. The first step in this process is to identify your competitors — use your brainstormed keyword list to identify your competitors by searching one of your keywords to see what sites appear on top of SERPs.

Once you identify your competitor sites, leverage competitor tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer to analyze the site’s pages with the most traffic and the keywords they are targeting. Once you identify these keywords, create better content around them to increase your chances of outranking your competitors.

Related: How to stand out from your competitors on Google Search

Analyze customer communications

Mine for additional keywords by digging through customer communications. Look for common questions from your customers and the terms they’re using to ask them.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also can provide valuable audience insights. Pay keen attention to what customers are saying about your products and services to identify keywords to target.

Research related terms

Complete your keyword research by researching related terms. Enter a keyword on a search engine to see additional terms people might be using.

You’ve probably seen this when searching for something on Google — you notice a section with searches related to what you’re searching for as you scroll down the SERPs. These keywords can add to your bucket of target terms and phrases.

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Optimize content for search engines

Once you’re done with keyword research, it’s time to create content and optimize it for search engines.

The best SEO content provides valuable information on what your customers and prospects are looking for online.

People turn to search engines to look for high-quality, relevant and engaging content on a subject. To create valuable content, find unique ideas to address users’ questions. Then present them in a well-structured manner to ensure users and search engines can access them easily.

Research your audience’s needs

You’re trying to identify what your users want and need, which should be easy if you’ve already done the keyword research. You’ll want to be as specific as possible to narrow your field of competitors for the same search terms.

When you focus on a niche, it’s easier to create unique, detailed content that has a better chance of ranking higher in the SERPs for long-tail keywords.

Try to tackle the content from different angles and be as thorough as possible.

Research other ranking content

Creating content that can rank higher on SERPs means understanding what users are looking for and creating better content than what is already available on the internet. While keyword research helps you understand search intent, you can get additional insights by using the top-ranking pages as a proxy.

Take time to analyze what’s already ranking to wrap your head around the search intent.

When analyzing the top-ranking pages in your niche, pay attention to the content type, format and angle. The information you get will help you choose the best content type/format and find a unique way to present the content.

Create content for users

Here’s the heart of how to do SEO: creating the actual content.

Outline, draft and edit

Start by creating an outline. Include a general overview of your content headings, subheadings and format. Of course, the format will vary depending on the type of content.

Once your outline is ready, create the first draft of your content. You’re going for unique content that fully covers the topic and showcases your expertise in the niche. Find engaging sub-topics that even the top-ranking pages don’t address.

Here are ideas to help create unique content that your audience will find valuable:

  • Expand on popular existing content with anecdotes and examples gleaned from your professional experience.
  • Give your content a unique perspective. For instance, you might include quotes from your customers that support the ideas you’re covering.
  • Gather original research and share your findings in a variety of formats (e.g., blog posts, videos, infographics).
  • Compile the questions you get most often from your customers into an FAQ that you keep up-to-date.
  • Create a photo gallery that shows your products/services in action, with keyword-optimized captions.

Next comes editing, where you review your content for factual and grammatical errors and readability issues. If you’re unsure what to look out for when editing your content, consider asking for feedback from a colleague or a friend.

Make your content SEO-friendly

Optimizing your website content helps both users and search engines. Basic SEO practices — such as crafting an effective SEO title, meta description and subheadings — tell users at a glance what they’ll find when they click your link in the SERPs. And these SEO elements give search engines the information they need to index and rank your site’s contents.

Write your SEO title, meta description and subheads

In most cases, visitors look at the page’s SEO title and meta description to determine whether they will click on a page in the SERPs.

  • SEO title: Also called the HTML title tag, these are the words that look like the headline on the search result. Search engines give more emphasis on the early words in your SEO title, so consider putting your focus keyword at the beginning or near the start of the page title.
  • Meta description: These are the words below the headline that describe what’s on the page. Like the SEO title, visitors see the first words in the meta description and will decide whether to click on the page based on the keywords they see.

Once they click the page, your subheadings and content formatting will influence how long they stay.

Use H1, H2 and H3 headings

Heading tags are like ranks of duty, with H1 being the most important, followed by H2 and so forth. The information on each tag relates to the main topic, although each subheading will be unique.

Headings provide a great way for users to understand the information on a page logically.

While headings alone don’t have a huge impact on SEO, they can help visitors find direct answers to a subject.

Here’s a simple breakdown to help understand what H1, H2 and H3 headings do:

  1. H1: Includes the page’s target keyword(s) to help explain what it’s all about. This might be the headline on a blog page.
  2. H2: Adds structure to the page, breaking up blocks of content and making it easy for visitors to understand what they’ll find in that section.
  3. H3: Helps further break up the content to make it more scannable.

Though headings might not make or break your SEO efforts, they do help search engines understand what’s on the page and they enhance the user experience — keeping visitors on your site, which helps with SEO.

Optimize images and media

In addition to optimizing your written content, it’s important to make visual content like images and video search-friendly. There are many best practices for this type of optimization, but for the beginner just learning how to do SEO, start here:

  • Select images that align to the story you’re telling. Remember, search engines crawl for relevant content, and that includes images.
  • Use the correct file format. In most cases, you’ll want to use images in JPEG or PNG format. They are easily compressed and render well on most devices.
  • Decrease image size. Use a free image compression tool to make images smaller so they load faster.
  • Add image alt tags. Give your image a file name and “alt text,” including keywords if relevant, that accurately describes it. This also enhances accessibility.
  • Include video transcripts. They make videos more accessible, help search engines understand what the video’s about, and provide another opportunity to include target keywords and links to related content on your site.

Taking these few steps can make a big difference for your on-page SEO efforts.

Keep updating your content

Since search engines aim to provide up-to-date and relevant information to users, make sure you keep your content fresh. Schedule a few hours each month to review your content for outdated material and update accordingly.

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Measuring SEO Performance

Creating an effective SEO strategy, keeping track of Google algorithm changes, and consistently adhering to SEO best practices is the best path to increasing your website’s search rankings.

And part of that process involves looking at what’s working and what’s not. That’s where Google Analytics and Google Search Console come into play.

Google Analytics

Setting up Google Analytics is a great way to analyze SEO results on your site. Among other factors, adding Google Analytics to your website can show you:

  • the number of visits to a page
  • how long visitors stay on your site
  • how many of your visitors convert

Getting started with Google Analytics isn’t too complicated. You first need to create an account and add an Account Name to set it up. This can be your business name or a generic account name.

Once you set up your account, add a property (the website name and URL). After that, go to the data-sharing setting and select your options. Lastly, add the tracking code to your website to connect it to your new Google Analytics account.

Related: How to track user behavior with Google Analytics

Google Search Console

Google Search Console helps analyze your website’s SEO performance and how users find you on Google. In other words, this free service from Google will help you understand and monitor your site’s presence in Google search results.

The information you get helps identify opportunities and areas to work on to improve your position on SERPs.

Related: Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to find out what’s bringing people to your website

Metrics to help measure SEO results

Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console will provide a wealth of information about your website’s performance — so much info that it’s common for those just learning how to do SEO to get overwhelmed. When you’re just starting out, focus on a handful of key metrics.

Keyword performance in SERPs

Know where your target keywords currently rank on search results pages so you can make adjustments as necessary.

Organic traffic

Higher organic traffic indicates organic search visibility for your site — this is the goal. By focusing on organic traffic from sources such as search engines and social networks, you look at your website’s visibility for your target keywords.

Pages per session

Pages per session is an important user engagement metric that measures the average number of pages users visit before leaving your site. If users visit more pages on your site per session, your content is engaging and relevant to the visitors. It also indicates that your navigation is user-friendly.

Exit pages

What are the pages that make visitors lose interest in your site? This is another important metric to track, as it might mean that those pages need reworking.

Reasons that can increase the exit rate on your pages include:

  1. Lack of clear layout and content structure
  2. Not having clear internal links and clear calls-to-action that guide visitors to relevant pages
  3. Not adding visuals for better engagement

Organic leads and sales

Lastly, the most important factor you can use to measure SEO success is by looking at whether your efforts have an impact on your bottom line. In other words, does your content help you

achieve your set goals?

Set up your goals in Google Analytics to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts.

This helps track your organic traffic and goals by landing pages. In other words, what percentage of users from an organic search convert?

If you’re satisfied with the information you get from the above reports, you’re doing just fine with SEO. However, if you’re not generating organic leads and sales, it’s time to rework your strategy or change your content structure.

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How to do SEO: Next steps

Search engine optimization ranks No. 1 among strategies to drive more organic traffic to your website. Understanding where and how to start is only the beginning. Once you feel comfortable with the basics, explore more technical SEO tactics and even consider hiring an expert to accelerate your growth.

Above all, remember that SEO is a long game that requires patience and continuous learning to yield consistent results.

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Growing a Business

Let the Urgency of Your Customers’ Needs Guide Your Sales Strategy



When companies are creating profiles of possible target customers, there is a dimension they often overlook: the urgency of the need for the offering. This article provides a process for segmenting prospective customers in this fashion and creating a sales strategy.

Many business leaders believe that they fully understand their best target customers. They’ve developed clear profiles (a.k.a. personas) that are richly detailed with well-researched parameters, such as standard characteristics (e.g., age, education level, years at the company, role) or firmographic (e.g., annual revenues, number of employees, industry, geography, years in business). While such characteristics are important, they ignore another crucial characteristic: urgency of need.

A company that offers a software-as-a-service billing solution for small and mid-sized private dental practices may focus on classic demographics, such as the size of the practice (number of employees or number of dentists), the age of the practice (since older practices may more likely have outdated systems), or the amount of insurance billing the practice does each year.

These variables are useful in helping to produce a list of prospects, but they don’t determine which of these dental practices the sales team should call on first. If, however, the company added data that reflects which of these practices’ needs is most urgent — say, those that have advertised for billing and claims administration help more than twice in the past year (suggesting that they are struggling to keep up with billing) — salespeople would be able to prioritize their attention on these prospects.

The Four Segments

This needs-based approach entails segmenting potential customers into four segments:

  1. Urgent. The customer recognizes that it has an immediate need. (We just had another billing person quit!)
  2. Non-urgent. The customer recognizes the need, but it isn’t a high priority at this time. (We realize that our billing needs are changing and our current system will need to be revamped. We plan to start looking into this in the next year.)
  3. Currently met. The customer believes it already has an adequate solution to address the need at this time but recognizes it may not be a long-term solution. (We have an older billing system in place that still does the trick for now.)
  4. None. The customer simply has no need nor expects such need anytime soon. (Our small practice has a limited number of patients who pay out of pocket. Since all payments are made at the time of service, we simply don’t need a complex new billing system.)

This focus on the urgency of target customers’ needs may sound like common sense, but we have found in our work with B2B companies — from mid-sized firms to Fortune 50 giants in an array of industries such as financial services, enterprise information technology, utilities, industrial solutions, and health care technology — that they often fail to consider this dimension. Here is a process a firm can employ to apply this approach.

Identify new customers.

To identify prospects outside of your existing customer base, you can use available information. One is a source we mentioned: help-wanted ads that reflect a particular need.

But there are plenty of others. For instance, if a company sells inventory management solutions, a source of valuable data might be manufacturing industry merger-and-acquisition data, which could reveal companies with an urgent need to change or merge systems such as those for managing inventories. If a company sells quality-management solutions, a source of valuable data could be companies that are getting hammered for poor quality on social media.

Gather the necessary information.

Identifying your customers’ true urgency of needs requires looking beyond your typical demographic and firmographic profiling. This starts with an outreach initiative to talk to customers and prospects. The purpose is to ask questions to identify new target customer parameters that may be impacting the customer’s urgency of needs:

  • Frustrations. How urgent is the need to resolve these frustrations? Which frustration would best accelerate success if resolved?
  • Goals. Are your goals clear, consistent, reasonable, and measurable? Have your goals shifted recently?
  • Roadblocks. What keeps you from reaching your goals? (i.e., What keeps you up at night?) What is the magnitude of the impact of these roadblocks?
  • Environmental and situational factors. Are you experiencing any industry consolidation, organizational or executive management changes or instability, competitive changes, regulatory changes, and so on? What is the magnitude of the impact of these factors?
  • Technology factors. Are there new or changing technologies that will impact your ability to achieve your goals? Are you at risk due to technology end-of-life issues or incompatibility?

Assess your firm’s ability to serve lower-level segments.

Once a company has performed its needs-based segmentation effort, it should seek to answer the following questions about each of the four levels. The findings will dictate the sales and marketing strategy, level of investment and resource allocations.

Level 1. Urgent need

How quickly can we meet their need? How can we best serve them? Is the market opportunity large enough to focus only on these prospective customers? Given the customer’s urgency, how do we price our products to optimize margins without damaging relationships by appearing exploitive?

Level 2. Non-urgent need

Can we convince them that their need is more urgent than they currently believe? How do we effectively stay in touch with them so we remain top of mind when they perceive that their need has become urgent?

Level 3. Need currently met

Should we walk away from these prospects? If so, when and how do we touch base with them to see if their needs have changed? Or is there an opportunity to continue to work to convince them that their need is either more significant than they realize or could be much better addressed? If so, what’s the best approach to get them to reconsider their current situation and recognize their true need and its urgency?

Level 4. No need

Should we completely remove these contacts as any potential prospect? Is there some other need we may be able to address for them — perhaps with another product? Should we be in contact on a planned basis to see if their situation has changed? How do we best do that?

The ideal customers are those who clearly understand and recognize they have an urgent need for your offering. However, if that opportunity is not enough to meet the company’s sales volume target, it may be necessary to extend efforts beyond Level 1. Gaining the attention of these additional target customers, challenging their perceptions of their needs, and educating them on how your offering could benefit them will require resources. Consequently, a critical assessment is required to determine whether the opportunity outweighs the investment necessary to address customers in these other levels.

Test your new targets.

Before committing to a complete revamp of how your salespeople are prioritizing opportunities, select one or two experienced salespeople to help you test your new target customer parameters. Identify a few prospects that align to your revamped target profiles, and see how the selected salespeople are able to penetrate them.

Revamp your sales messaging and training.

Include prospective customers’ level of need in your sales messaging — the language that the sales team uses in its interactions with customers. Revamp your sales tools (materials such as brochures, technical papers, and customer testimonials used in the selling process) to include the urgency of need. And teach salespeople how to read and react to the prospective customer’s level of need and adapt their language appropriately.

By adding urgency of need to target customers’ profiles, companies can do more than differentiate their offerings more effectively. They can also identify new growth opportunities and successfully pivot away from slowing or tightening markets. They can accelerate the sales of new products. Last but not least, they can turn underachieving sales teams into strong performers.


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Growing a Business

11 Ways Tech Adoption Impacts your Small Biz Growth



Small businesses rely heavily on technology to drive development and innovation. Adopting the correct technological solutions can help to streamline processes, increase efficiency, improve client experiences, and create a competitive advantage in the market.

In this post, we will look at how technology contributes to the growth and success of small enterprises.

photo credit: Ali Pazani / Pexels

1. Streamlining Operations

Implementing small business technology solutions can automate and streamline various aspects of small business operations. This includes using project management software, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, inventory management tools, and accounting software. Streamlining operations not only saves time and reduces manual errors but also allows small businesses to allocate resources more efficiently.

Tip: Regularly assess your business processes and identify areas that can be automated or improved with technology. This continuous evaluation ensures that your technology solutions remain aligned with your evolving business needs.

2. Enhancing Customer Engagement

Technology enables small businesses to engage and connect with their customers more effectively. Social media platforms, email marketing software, and customer service tools allow businesses to communicate and build relationships with their target audience. Customer relationship management systems help businesses track customer interactions and preferences, providing insights to deliver personalized experiences and improve customer satisfaction.

Tip: Leverage data from customer interactions to create targeted marketing campaigns and personalized offers. Use automation tools to send timely and relevant messages to your customers, enhancing their engagement and loyalty.

3. Expanding Market Reach

The internet and digital marketing platforms provide small businesses with the opportunity to reach a broader audience beyond their local market. Creating a professional website, utilizing search engine optimization (SEO), and leveraging online advertising channels allow small businesses to attract and engage customers from different regions or even globally. E-commerce platforms enable businesses to sell products or services online, further expanding their market reach.

Tip: Continuously monitor and optimize your online presence to ensure your website is discoverable and user-friendly. Leverage analytics tools to track website traffic, visitor behavior, and conversion rates to make data-driven improvements.

Analyzing big data for decision making process

4. Improving Decision-Making with Data

Technology provides small businesses with access to valuable data and analytics, enabling informed decision-making. Through data analysis, businesses can gain insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational performance. This data-driven approach allows small businesses to make strategic decisions, optimize processes, and identify growth opportunities more effectively.

Tip: Invest in data analytics tools and dashboards that can consolidate and visualize your business data. Regularly review and analyze the data to uncover patterns, identify bottlenecks, and make data-backed decisions to drive growth.

5. Facilitating Remote Work and Collaboration

Advancements in technology have made remote work and collaboration more feasible for small businesses. Cloud-based tools, project management software, and communication platforms enable teams to work together efficiently, regardless of geographical location. This flexibility opens up opportunities to access talent from anywhere, increase productivity, and reduce overhead costs.

Tip: Establish clear communication protocols and project management workflows to ensure effective collaboration among remote teams. Use video conferencing tools for virtual meetings and foster a culture of transparency and accountability to maintain productivity and engagement.

6. Embracing Emerging Technologies

Small businesses should stay informed about emerging technologies that have the potential to transform their industries. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things can offer new opportunities for growth and innovation. Being open to adopting and integrating these technologies into your business strategy can give you a competitive advantage.

7. Data Security and Privacy

Data security and privacy are critical considerations when using technology in small businesses. Implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and secure data storage, to protect sensitive customer information and intellectual property. Regularly update software and educate employees on best practices for data security to minimize the risk of data breaches.

Work with CRM system

8. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

A dedicated CRM system can help small businesses manage customer relationships more efficiently. It allows businesses to track customer interactions, store contact information, and monitor sales pipelines. Utilize CRM software to streamline sales and marketing processes, personalize customer interactions, and nurture long-term customer loyalty.

9. Continuous Learning and Skill Development

Encourage continuous learning and skill development among employees to keep up with technological advancements. Provide access to online courses, training resources, and workshops to enhance digital literacy and proficiency. Embrace a culture of learning and innovation to ensure your small business remains adaptable and competitive in the digital age.

10. Scalable and Flexible Technology Solutions

Choose technology solutions that are scalable and flexible to accommodate your growing business needs. Consider cloud-based software and platforms that allow you to easily scale up or down as your business evolves. This scalability enables small businesses to adapt to changing demands and seize new opportunities without significant disruptions.

11. Regular Technology Assessments

Regularly assess your technology infrastructure to ensure it aligns with your business goals and remains up to date. Conduct technology audits to identify areas for improvement, eliminate outdated systems, and explore new technologies that can drive growth. Stay proactive in evaluating and optimizing your technology stack to maximize its impact on your small business.

Businessman using biz tech solutions


Technology serves as a catalyst for small business growth. By leveraging technology effectively and staying agile in an ever-evolving digital landscape, small businesses can unlock their full potential, adapt to changing customer expectations, and drive sustainable growth.

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Growing a Business

Nine Reasons Why Turning Down a Client Is the Best Option for Your Business



While your business may not be right for every client, every client may not be right for your business. To that end, what’s one sign you should turn down a client, and why?

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

1. The Client Has Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes you’ll meet clients with unrealistic expectations — even when those expectations are incompatible with your products and services. They might demand services that you may not be able to deliver. Trying to keep such clients can often damage your relationship with them, encourage them to spread bad word-of-mouth, and hamper your reputation. Identifying such clients in time can prevent that.

Andrew Munro, AffiliateWP

s2. They’re Unresponsive

The number one way to tell if a client isn’t right for your business is if they are unresponsive. For client-business relationships to work, mutual understanding, communication, and respect are essential. If a client keeps pushing you aside when you need to clarify something for a project you’re working on for them, it may be time to move on at the end of the assignment.

Daman Jeet Singh, FunnelKit

3. They Complain During Every Step

An obvious sign that a client isn’t a good fit for your business is when they complain about your work every step of the way. I’ve encountered clients who complain because they think they will get a better price or free work. If they are truly unhappy, try to correct the mistake once or twice, and if that doesn’t work, give them a refund. Catering to toxic clients will not help you grow or succeed.

Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

Meeting with a client

4. You’re Unable to Meet Their Needs

One should turn down a client whose expectations are hard to meet. They may not be in the wrong in the situation, and they have the right to expect certain things since they will be paying for the solutions offered. However, you should assess whether it will be possible for you to keep up with those expectations considering your current scale of operations or resources available.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

5. They Exhibit a ‘Blame-Oriented’ Mindset

Watch for a “blame-oriented mindset” in your prospecting and sales conversations. Ask a question like, “What solutions or service providers have you tried before to solve this problem, and why didn’t they work?” Observe if the prospect takes any ownership for past failures or solely blames previous providers. Such an attitude is a clear sign of a lack of accountability and collaboration. Turn down such prospects!

Devesh Dwivedi, Higher Valuation

6. They Constantly Dismiss Your Advice

Picture this: a client who insists on guiding you through uncharted territory while you hold the compass of expertise. When faced with a client who consistently dismisses your professional advice and insists on going against best practices, it’s time to question the compatibility of your collaboration. Remember: You’re the expert for a reason, and your recommendations should be valued.

Abhijeet Kaldate, Astra WordPress Theme

Talking with a big client
photo credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

7. They Aren’t Engaging in the Project

When a client consistently fails to provide the necessary resources, feedback or engagement required for a successful partnership, it’s time to hit pause. A one-sided relationship will leave you feeling like a solo artist in a duet. Seek clients who actively participate, collaborate and invest in the success of the projects you undertake together.

Adam Preiser, WPCrafter

8. There Is Value or Goal Misalignment

Turn down clients if their values or goals are not aligned with your business. This can lead to conflicts and dissatisfaction and even damage your reputation. Focus on clients who share similar values and goals to maintain your brand’s integrity and benefit from the work you do for them.

Nic DeAngelo, Saint Investment – Real Estate Funds

9. They’re Always Adding ‘One More Thing’

You can tell a client is not right for your business, especially if you’re a freelancer, if they keep adding “one more thing” to the project. For instance, if you’re a writer and a client asks you to edit some of their other work “as a friend,” it may be time to end the partnership. This situation will lead to you doing tons of work and extra assignments for free, which was not the arrangement. 

John Turner, SeedProd LLC

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