Blink once if you could use more clients or customers.
If you’re in the early stages of your business, chances are, you blinked. (No shame in this, by the way. You have to start somewhere.)
The dream is to eventually scale, right? To not have to do the leg work, to have a team, to be making a profit (and a sizable one at that) in your sleep, to be an impact-making CEO.
But before all that…
You need to have enough clients or customers. Enough, meaning, enough to stop worrying about getting more every month.
So… you pour your energy into marketing, because marketing is what will get you attention and hopefully more customers.
Unfortunately, marketing turns out to be a complex beast. Funnels? Ads? Social media? Where do you begin? When do you start seeing results?
In the meantime, you still don’t have enough customers, and now you’re burning out with all the work it takes to be constantly marketing.
Well, here’s some good news: There’s a secret to getting more customers without marketing all the time. It’s called SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization. Big picture, SEO means doing things to your website so that search engines like Google will show your website in search results.
For example, if you sell non-toxic soy candles, you’d love it if your website showed up first whenever someone typed “non-toxic soy candles” into Google, right? That’s SEO.
Or, if you’re an interior designer in Santa Barbara, it’d be awesome if your website showed up first whenever someone typed “interior designer Santa Barbara” into Google, right? That’s SEO.
Finally, it can be helpful to think about SEO using this old-school analogy: Remember how, back in the day, businesses would name their companies something like, “ABC Plumbing” or “ABC Construction” so that their company would show up first in their category in the Yellow Pages?
SEO is the high-tech internet version of that. It’s getting your website to show up first in Google for what your potential customers are looking for.
SEO vs. marketing for your small business
In my opinion, SEO is a better investment than marketing for many small businesses, especially for those that are still getting on their feet. Here’s why.
Imagine all the people in the world.
Now imagine dividing those people into two categories: 1) Is a good-fit customer and 2) is not a good-fit customer.
Then, imagine dividing all the good-fit customers into the following categories:
- Blissfully unaware: Currently does not know they have a problem or desire > Zero idea you exist
- Painfully problem aware: Is aware they have a problem (or a great desire), but has no clue how to solve it or get what they want > Zero idea you exist
- Optimistically solution aware: Has discovered that there ARE solutions to their problem or a way to get what they want > May know you exist, and definitely knows your competitors exist
- Critically deciding: Is deciding which solution they want to purchase > Knows you exist
- Happily decided: Has chosen your company to solve their problem or meet their desire!
Marketing works by appealing to people in each of these categories and then moving them slowly up into category #5. And when marketing works well, it’s magical.
But, sadly, this magic is simply not attainable for a lot of small business owners, at least not right away.
That’s because strategic marketing is complex as hell. You have to have messages for all these different categories and ways to reach people in all of these categories. (Not to mention, your marketing must overcome issues like lack of trust, sticker shock, and decision paralysis.)
This is why most new(ish) small businesses really struggle with marketing, despite how much they need it to work.
I’d like to offer you a way to help your business succeed even while you’re still getting your marketing sorted out (which, in my experience, can take years).
So how can you succeed without marketing all the time? SEO.
How SEO turns Google into your 24/7 salesperson
The awesomeness of SEO is that it draws in new customers who are already in categories #3-#4. In other words, they are already aware there is a solution (like yours) for their problem or desire.
Moving someone from category #3 into category #5 is exponentially easier than taking someone from #1 to #5.
Think about it. Moving someone from #1 to #5 is trying to convince them they need your solution when they don’t even believe they have a problem at all. Conversely, moving someone from #3 to #5 is simply showing them why you are better than your competitors.
Plus, showing someone why you are better than your competitors can happen entirely on your website… without any effort on your part.
The power of SEO: A practical example
Let’s use my SEO website copywriting company as an example of how SEO works to make sales effortless:
1. Someone is already aware that they have a problem (“I can’t write my own website copy! I need to be found on Google!”), and they have already discovered that a solution exists (hire a website copywriter).
2. So what do they do? They type “website copywriter” into their handy search engine. And they get a page of results that looks like this:
The first four results are ads, and most of us don’t click on ads. (In fact, 75% of all searchers click on organic results — meaning, not ads.)
The top 1-10 organic results are where people tend to click (almost no one clicks on results past page one), as you can see in this analysis by Backlinko:
3. At this point, our searcher makes a decision to click on one of the results, or maybe they click on each of the top three. (By the way, did you see my website in the search results? It’s number three!)
4. Our searcher reads through the websites and decides who they want to reach out to to be their website copywriter. (Which could be me!)
Now before you miss what just happened here….
Using SEO to rank in the top three of organic search results for “website copywriter” means that I narrowed my competition from every copywriter in the world to just 3-5 other copywriters.
Additionally, I don’t have to do any strategic marketing to help our searcher understand that they have a problem in the first place or explain what website copywriting is and why it’s necessary. They already know!
With SEO, my company gets in front of people who are already looking for my solution. All I have to do is appeal to them more than those 3-5 other companies on page one of Google search results.
And with a well-written, powerful, persuasive website, I do!
And, et voila — That’s how SEO turned Google into my 24/7 salesperson… and how I still get consistent sales even if I don’t do any marketing.
How to use SEO to get on page one of Google search results
At this point, you’re probably thinking. “Awesome, but how do I do this, like practically?”
The first (and biggest) thing to understand is how SEO works.
SEO has three major parts:
- Website performance (loading speed, proper function, usability, mobile friendliness)
- Website domain authority (how trustworthy and authoritative Google thinks your website is)
- Keywords (the phrases people type into Google to search for something they want)
To rank on page one Google, you have to optimize each of these parts.
Optimize website performance
If you worked with a reputable designer/developer or you are using a simple DIY website builder like Squarespace, it’s unlikely your website has any major performance issues.
But you can check, just to be sure:
- Use a website speed test like Google PageSpeed Insights to see how fast your website loads and get suggestions for improving load times
- Use your common sense (or ask a friend) to check how intuitive your website is to move through (Do people know what to click? Is it easy to read?)
- Check your website on mobile and see if it renders correctly
Optimize your website domain authority
Domain authority is like a credit score for your website. It’s a number search engines assign to websites based on how trustworthy they think your website is.
Here are the main factors search engines look at to determine your domain authority:
- How long your website has existed
- How many other (reputable) websites are linking to your website
- How much traffic your website gets
- How long people stay on your website
You can’t control how long your website has existed, but you can optimize for the other factors. Here are some quick suggestions:
- Get links to your website by guest blogging, getting media features, doing podcasts, joining reputable directories, or reaching out to friends to mutually promote each other
- Drive traffic to your website through social media, email marketing, or other forms of marketing
- Create content for your website that people want to stick around to read or watch
Optimize for your target keywords
Optimizing for keywords boils down to two steps:
- Identify the keywords that your target customers are searching for related to what you offer
- Put those keywords in the right places on your website
Step 2 is pretty simple. Try to get your target keyword in the following places:
- Your main H1 (the biggest headline at the top of your page)
- Subheads/crossheads (smaller headlines throughout your page)
- 1-3 times in your body copy
- Your image alt text & file names
- Your metadata
- Your URL (if possible)
But the first step is actually where most people go wrong.
Identifying the right keywords can be tricky, because you want to make sure A) people are actually searching for these keywords every month, B) you have a shot at getting in the top search results for these keywords.
It’s a challenging balance. The more traffic a keyword has, the harder it’ll be to rank for it. But on the other hand, if a keyword has no traffic (i.e. no one is searching for it), then there’s no point in ranking for it.
I developed a keyword research process I use for myself (which got me to number 3 in search results) and for my clients (which has gotten multiple clients on page one). It’s proven to identify keywords that strike this challenging balance of search volume (traffic) and low competition (easy to rank for).
SEO is the small business owner’s secret weapon for consistent sales
When you’re short on marketing savvy, SEO can buoy up your business, delivering a consistent stream of qualified leads to your website.
And the good news is, SEO is simpler than you think.