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Why Brand Building is the 2024 Answer to SEO for Small Business

No surprise, it’s March and Google is releasing new algorithm updates. We love where Google has been going with algos and ranking in 2023 and now 2024. Brand building is the answer to your 2024 SEO strategy, and here’s why.

For over two decades, SEO has been somewhat a conundrum for small businesses. In 2022, a Semify survey found that over half of the small businesses they talked to either weren’t applying SEO at all or just weren’t sure whether and how SEO would be a part of their marketing strategy. And yet… not only is SEO one of the most prominent marketing tools for businesses of any size, but it’s become the single most important marketing strategy for small businesses. 

It’s complicated, we know. At Krazy Fish Media, we’ve been studying this stuff for the aforementioned two decades, and we’re still learning! Let’s set aside all of the technical stuff and confusing terminology for a minute, and tell you what we’ve learned so far (and recently). 

What is SEO really though? 

Starting with the definition of SEO may seem silly, but we find that, while the term is thrown around every day, most folks don’t really understand what it is. Let’s simplify. Imagine your business is a book in a giant library. SEO is the librarian that helps people find your book among all the others. In fact, this librarian will help you find the exact page and paragraph you’re looking for. 

When someone types something into Google, like “best coffee shop near me”, Google wants to show them the best results. And that’s been the goal all along, including with these latest algorithm updates. On the website management end of things, SEO is about making sure Google sees your business as one of those top results. It’s not about tricking Google or making people click on your link. It all comes down to answering people’s questions and showing you’re the real deal.

But how do you do that, especially as a small business with limited resources? We’ll get into the exact strategy of it in a minute, but start with thinking about what makes your business different and special. Maybe it’s your grandma’s secret cookie recipe, your commitment to eco-friendly products, your lightning-fast service? Or maybe it’s just about your unique location. SEO helps you tell the world – and Google – about those things that make your business unique, using words and phrases people might search for.

In short, SEO is about helping the right people find your business, when they need it. It’s not magic, just good storytelling and a bit of elbow grease. And it’s never a one-and-done thing. No, you can’t just hire someone to create a bunch of content for your website and expect it to work for you over the next several months or years. This is where the brand-building comes in. And you’ll have to keep reading to find out how!

What the March 2024 Google update means for small businesses

Now comes the part where we dive into that latest Google algorithm update. Don’t worry, we won’t get too technical. But if you’re just skimming this article, this is where you need to stop and actually read for a minute. 

In 2023, Google made significant updates to its algorithms, impacting small websites and the broader SEO landscape. These were, arguably, the most significant updates the search engine giant has made since its inception. The year saw four, massive core updates in March, August, October, and November, each bringing different levels of volatility and changes in search rankings. The March and November updates showed substantial volatility, while the August update was more muted. 

The October update had significant volatility, and so late in the year, partly due to its overlap with a spam update, which was prompted, in great part, by the sheer volume of new content that generative AI tools have made possible. But that’s not to say that AI-generated content is being penalized on Google. Nope. Just poor quality, spammy, useless content in general.  

On top of that, there was also a significant “Helpful Content Update” in September, which had a considerable impact on the SEO community, highlighting the importance of valuable and user-focused content. In short, crappy content was pushed aside and content that users found useful, regardless of age or what wrote it, was pushed to the forefront. Possibly our favorite Google algo update ever. 

Until this new March 2024 Google algo update came along. On March 5, Google announced these updates on their blog, claiming they will affect “core ranking systems to ensure [they] surface the most helpful information on the web and reduce unoriginal content in search results,” as well as new “spam policies to keep the lowest-quality content out of Search.” 

Here’s what that means. 

Improved quality ranking

By “surfacing the most helpful information on the web and reducing unoriginal content in search results,” what Google means is that they will penalize, push back, and even remove quick keyword-packed articles and regurgitated content that is on websites with little to no other purpose that just ranking on Google. 

For a lot of businesses and their websites, which have been focusing on nothing but ranking on and for Google for months or years, these changes will be devastating. Those rankings are tanking as you read this. 

For your small business, it could mean that every original, informative piece of content you carefully craft for your website will not just rank better, but build your online presence and reputation over time. 

But what if you’re competing with content or keywords that so many others publish about? Do you risk being unoriginal and will your content be penalized? Not if you follow the simple formula we already revealed in the first section of this article – what makes you and your business different and unique? 

Even if you’re publishing blog posts or pages on your website about something as ubiquitous as a steak dinner, if you include just one in-depth section of that blog post that emphasizes and explains what is unique about your steak, your cooking technique or your restaurant – you’ll be making that content unique and original.  

New and improved spam policies 

Keywords matter. So let’s focus on the very specific wording that Google used in their blog post about this particular update – “We’re updating our spam policies to keep the lowest-quality content out of Search.” 

Lowest. Quality. Content. Again, with the emergence and popularization of generative AI tools, there is more content than ever being produced and published. Some of us (yes, us too) have been using generative AI tools for several years to improve, research or increase the quality and amount of our content. 

That doesn’t mean our content is lower quality and it most certainly doesn’t make it lowest quality. ‘Scuse us while we clutch our digital pearls for a moment. It also doesn’t mean that anything written by a human will qualify as good quality content. I mean, have you seen the internet? 

So what does it mean? It means that Google is going for the obviously, really, terrifically bad content, and ignoring it or removing it. This isn’t just bad writing, poor grammar, and incorrect information. It also includes things like poor user experience, such as too many ads, poorly placed pop-ups, bad design, and other design or content choices that just make it hard for users to read or use a page. 

For small websites, these updates mean that maintaining high-quality, relevant, and user-focused content over long periods of time actually works! Quality over quantity. Usability over keywords. Accuracy over word count. These algorithm changes have been a godsend to small business websites — and not enough small enterprises are using it.

Is SEO worth it for small business?

This one gets a resounding yes, absolutely, indubitably, 100%. In fact, SEO is more important for small businesses and local businesses than it is for larger businesses. Large businesses have big marketing and advertising budgets. They get to be the cool kids by simply paying for boosting their content and getting it in front of more people. 

But how does a small business with next to no ad budget, a few employees, and limited skills compete? By being genuine and original. 

Google’s latest announcement about algorithm updates for March 2024 just emphasizes a continued push towards high-quality, helpful content, and a fight against spam and low-quality contributions. For small businesses, this represents a golden opportunity to improve online visibility and drive actual business growth.

Embrace quality content creation

This goes for more than just SEO. Again, because of all sorts of phenomenal new AI tools, there’s a lot more social media content out there too. From bulk creating dozens of pieces of bland content in minutes to entire AI-generated influencer accounts, it’s a little bit of a post-apocalyptic wild west out there these days. Which is why original, genuine content is more visible than ever. SPeaking of, if you’re looking for simple social media content ideas that anyone can create with little to no expertise, you should probably sign up for our weekly newsletter. 

But back to Google. Here’s how to get ahead with SEO while the search engine giant doubles down on surfacing the most relevant and helpful information:

  • Ditch the fluff: Focus on creating content that serves your audience’s needs, solves problems, and offers real value.
  • Originality wins: Avoid the temptation to copy or slightly modify existing content. Genuine, simple – even amateur-looking – original material will rank and work better.
  • User experience is key: Make sure your website is easy to navigate, fast, mobile-friendly, and just pleasant and uncomplicated. User experience factors significantly into Google’s ranking.

The new spam policies target low-quality content and abusive practices. For small businesses, staying clean means:

  • Monitor your content: Regularly review your site for outdated or irrelevant pages. Keep your content fresh and aligned with your business goals, by publishing new posts and pages when there’s a real opportunity, but also by updating older posts and pages regularly.
  • Beware of third-party content: If you host guest posts or external contributions, ensure they meet your quality standards and are relevant to your audience. Similarly, be careful where you create such third-party content for the backlink value. Google is hitting this one hard, so mind your step.
  • Secure your domain: Be vigilant about domain security to prevent misuse if your domain expires and someone else snaps it up. Verify your website with Google, and make sure the right pages are indexed and pages you don’t want crawled are no-indexed. 

Implementing a few very basic but effective SEO strategies can help you leverage Google’s 2023 and 2024 updates to boost your online presence:

  • Optimize for Local SEO: If you’re a small business, claim your Google My Business listing, ensure your local citations are consistent, and include local keywords in your site’s metadata and content. Yes, even if you’re not a local B2C business that people can walk into. This is more about letting Google know that you’re a real business with real people behind it. If you don’t want people knowing your address, just don’t make the address visible in your listing after you’ve let Google know where you are. 
  • Focus on Quality Backlinks: Earn backlinks from reputable sources within your industry. Reach out to your partner businesses about sharing each other’s links on your websites, reach out to local or industry media, collaborate with other small businesses in your area. This not only improves your site’s authority but also aligns with Google’s emphasis on quality content from real people.
  • Keyword Optimization: Research and use keywords relevant to your business and industry. Use them naturally in titles, headers, and throughout your content. Instead of targeting weirdly-constructed keyword phrases, use tools like SEO expert Neil Patel’s Answer the Public and Ubersuggest to inspire you with topics you could naturally write or talk about.  
  • Engage with Your Audience: Create content that encourages engagement. Seriously. Use the “social” in social media to share your content and interact with others on networks. Ask questions, answer questions, add your two cents. 
  • Regularly Update Your Content: Keep your site’s content fresh, fresh, fresh. Regular updates signal to Google that your site is active and relevant.
  • Use Analytics: Google Analytics is the best tool to track your website’s performance, but it’s complicated to navigate and understand if you’re new to the game. Again, in our unsponsored, real world experience, Ubersuggest is the best tool out there for beginners and laymen. Analyze the data to understand your audience better and refine your SEO strategy accordingly.
  • Keep Learning: Make sure everyone involved in your content creation understands SEO basics and the principles of creating valuable, original, engaging content. Just a basic understanding, so you’re all on the same page. And you don’t have to become an expert on the topic, just check in every once in a while to see what’s new with SEO and social media.

Oooooor, just sign up for our newsletter. It’s free. And there are actual humans on the other end that will happily answer any questions you might have. In today’s day and age, that’s a shocker. 

Pro Tip: The B2B Bing bonus

Needless to say, no search engine comes close to competing with Google when it comes to traffic or lead generation. Unless you’re a B2B business. And if you’re a small business selling to corporate businesses, Bing just might be your new best friend.

While it has just a tiny share in the search engine landscape, Bing holds a unique position that can be particularly beneficial for small businesses in the United States, where most corporate users use Bing, directly or indirectly, as their preferred search engine in the workplace.

Consider these potential benefits of incorporating Bing into your SEO marketing strategy, and then give it a try:

  • Untapped Audience: Bing often attracts a different demographic than Google, including older and more professional users, which is ideal for B2B companies. Or it targets professional audiences in the workplace, when they’re ready and looking to make business-related purchase decisions. This audience can lead to higher quality leads for businesses offering professional services, software, or B2B products.
  • Lower Competition: With fewer businesses optimizing for Bing, there’s far less competition. This can make it easier for small businesses to rank higher in Bing’s search results compared to Google’s. Lower competition also means your SEO efforts can yield better results, and faster.
  • Integration with Microsoft Products: Bing is integrated into Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge browser, and many corporate environments use Microsoft products. This integration means that B2B clients, who often use these products for their business operations, are more likely to use Bing for their searches.
  • Cost-Effective Advertising: Bing Ads (now known as Microsoft Advertising) generally have lower cost-per-click rates compared to Google Ads. This means you could get a lot by adding just a little.

To leverage Bing for your small business, especially if you’re in the B2B sector, here’s where to start:

  • Keyword Optimization: Similar to Google, keywords matter on Bing. However, Bing is said to give more weight to exact match keywords. Focus on precise, relevant keywords for your business and industry.
  • Local SEO: Bing Places for Business is Bing’s version of Google My Business. Claiming and optimizing your Bing Places listing can improve your local search visibility, driving more local B2B leads.
  • Quality Content: Bing values high-quality, informative content. Ensure your website provides valuable information that addresses the needs and questions of your B2B audience.
  • Technical SEO: Ensure your website is technically sound, with a clear structure, fast load times, and mobile optimization. Bing also values websites that provide a safe and secure user experience, so consider implementing HTTPS if you haven’t already.
  • Social Signals: Bing has indicated that social signals, like shares and likes, can influence rankings. For B2B businesses, maintaining an active and engaging presence on platforms like LinkedIn can be particularly beneficial.

While Google remains paramount to any SEO strategy (or marketing strategy really), optimizing for Bing can give your B2B small business a competitive edge in the U.S. market. Also, what’s good for the goose (Bing) tends to be good for the gander (Google). SEO visibility pun fully intended.