By Grayson Kemper

Although small businesses may be aware of the benefits a well-executed SEO strategy provide, many hesitate to embrace it as a critical component of their overall digital marketing strategies.

That being said, the willingness to embrace SEO as an integral part of an effective marketing strategy is growing significantly among small businesses. Whether leveraging SEO tactics in order to compete against larger enterprises or to carve out a local niche, SEO recognition and adoption is gaining ground among the small business community.

A recent Clutch survey found that 74 percent of the respondents plan to invest in SEO this year, an increase of 22 percent since last year.

Despite the steady embrace of SEO by small businesses, opportunity for growth abound in this space. The following article lists three specific areas—targeting keywords, creating quality content, and expanding metrics—where investment or increased focus can strengthen SEO efforts among small businesses.

1. Effectively Targeting Keywords

Identifying keywords to target represents the launching point for an effective SEO strategy. Performing this process to desired effect, though, starts with understanding keyword research and the tools that help find the right search terms to target.t

“Small businesses don’t understand how important it is to be found for specific terms that relate to their business. They don’t realize that for most companies, as they grow over time, organic traffic or traffic from search engines is going to end up making up the bulk of their traffic and their revenue,” says John Lincoln of Ignite Visibility.

Most people familiar with SEO have a basic understanding of how to use Google AdWords to find keywords based on search volume. However, few go a step further next step and use tools such as Google Trends to explore keyword trends and use that data to strategically plan content and campaigns.

For those who find their keywords too competitive, or lacking in search volume, other tools such as Ubersuggest help identify alternatives that you can afford to launch a campaign around or maintain a higher search volume than the more generic terms of your original query.

2. Creating Quality Content

While by no means suggesting that small businesses ignore on-site and technical SEO strategies, SEO tactics of this sort can be difficult for small businesses to perform without large budgets or a dedicated team. For these sorts of companies, creating original content to help draw links back to your site is a proven method to remain competitive at relative value. As Chad Reid of JotForm describes, “Since SEO is resource-intensive, a better strategy is dedicating time to crafting great site content, not necessarily an army of backlinks.”

According to Search Engine Watch, a lack of high-quality content assets is a particular area where small businesses go wrong with SEO. What’s more, it doesn’t take an expert “SEO” to create content, just someone who is willing to put the time in to create a content asset.

But what exactly defines the “right” content? Where, as a small business, do you start?

This question, while seeming existential, actually has quite a simple answer—the “right” content is really anything you want to be. For example, you can write a post about the most frequently asked questions your company receives. One of your employees may write about something they possess particular expertise in. In addition, the content you create does not always need a distinct “selling point.” As long as what you publish helps out your customers, it acts as an effective marketing tactic. Not only will it establish you as an expert, but your audiences will consider as a trustworthy source of expertise, which brings nothing if not positives to your bottom line.

3. Expanding Metrics Beyond Traffic

Web traffic obviously represents a major imperative for any business, not to mention its significance relating to SEO. Increased and steady traffic is a solid indication that your SEO efforts are working to draw visitors to your website. In addition, traffic is a fairly simple metric to track—there are a number of free tools available that allow to you to track your traffic volume.

If site traffic defines the extent of your metric tracking, though, you leave a lot of great data on the table. A number of alternative metrics, such as referral traffic, bounce rates, visitor growth, and conversion rates, are just as easily tracked as site traffic.

By expanding the number of metrics you track, the more extensive data you collect on your SEO efforts. Ultimately, the number and complexity of the metrics you track provide a better understanding the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. In addition, comprehensive metric tracking and analysis help identify areas with opportunities for growth and improvement.

Final Thoughts

Formulating and executing an effective SEO presents a formidable task for small businesses, particularly those without substantial resources or a dedicated, professional team at their disposal. However, even with the hurdles small businesses face with search optimization, nearly all recognize its benefits, which is reflected by the number that now invest in some form of SEO.

Of course, when making SEO investments, always remember it’s not how much you spend that counts, it’s how well you spend those resources. Thus, going forward, ensure that resources in SEO campaigns and tactics are both informed and strategically spent.