In this article, I will explain the main elements of the SEO strategy for service-based businesses updated for 2023. These SEO tips will include latest advancements in AI technology and the announced changes by Google. Keep reading this article to learn about the essentials of your SEO strategy in 2023 as a service-based business owner.
SEO essentials for service based businesses in 2023
Follow these essential SEO practices if you own a service-based business:
- Develop and maintain the website blog
- Optimize service pages
- Optimize content on a sitewide level
- Implement schema markups
- Create a keyword map and cluster keywords
- Research your user persona before creating your content
- Improve your topical authority
- Optimize internal linking
- Work hard on E-E-A-T
- Optimize user experience
- Utilize different content types and formats
- Integrate GBP and website efforts
- Prepare for AI generated search results
Develop and maintain the website blog
I see many small business owners neglecting their website’s blog section. One common opinion is that blog posts are informational and do not contribute to sales and conversions, as they target informational queries. However, this is not entirely correct. While the main purpose of blog posts is not to sell but to educate, they do contribute to brand awareness, introduce readers to your brand, provide expert opinions, and offer helpful advice. All of this is crucial in building trust between your target audience and your brand, which can ultimately lead to purchases or initial consultations. Developing and optimizing a blog section on your website has numerous benefits, including:
- Addressing issues and pain points for users at the top of the funnel who are still researching potential solutions: A carefully created blog post can provide valuable insights and beneficial information to users.
- Diversifying SEO efforts across numerous pages and increasing organic visibility for a larger number of search queries.
- Targeting informational keywords and providing useful data to your ideal target audience, thereby building trust.
- Increasing opportunities for contextual internal links and guiding users to commercial pages in a helpful manner.
- Building the topical authority of your website by covering different topics related to your industry and business.
- Demonstrating your expertise and experience in the industry, which contributes to the overall Google E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).
Optimize service pages
Service pages are the backbone of your business website. Properly optimized service pages convert well, rank for important commercial terms related to your business, demonstrate the credibility and expertise of your brand, and are helpful for your ideal target audience. They also build confidence among your users that your business can solve the issues they have.
When optimizing service pages, it’s important to:
- Choose the right keywords
- Optimize headlines, URLs, meta titles, and descriptions
- Create helpful content that addresses users’ issues and pain points
- Organize content sections logically, grouping them into logical subheadings, and ensuring content flow, clarity, and legibility
- Include trust signals such as ratings, testimonials, case studies, and similar elements
- Resolve any technical issues that may hinder page crawling and indexing
- Develop an internal linking strategy to boost service pages
- Research your ideal user persona and address their questions and concerns
- Highlight your previous expertise and experience in the industry
- Facilitate conversions by implementing intuitive navigation and including clear call-to-action buttons or widgets for demos, consultations, or contact pages.
Optimize content on a sitewide level
However, it is not enough to focus solely on optimizing the service pages and neglect all the others. With recent Google algorithm updates regarding helpful content (dating back to August 2022), the quality of websites is evaluated on a sitewide level. This means that your pages can be demoted if there is a significant amount of low-quality pages on your website. Therefore, when optimizing your website, it is important to do so on a site-wide level and implement changes that you consider valuable to your audience.
Some pages that are often neglected and not included in content optimization plans are:
- About page: This page is crucial for E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), but businesses tend to neglect it and include only vague and short company descriptions.
- Contact page: This page should provide a contact form, company address, Google Maps integration, and other ways of reaching out, such as social media.
- Home page: There is often an issue with thin home pages that lack useful internal linking and important descriptions of services and the business mission. A good home page should present the essential business information in a clear and intuitive way.
- Testimonials: Update your testimonials frequently and include ratings (if available), clients’ names, and links to your clients’ websites to increase credibility.
- Case studies: Make your case studies easy to read and define the problem you faced, your approach, and the suggested solutions you implemented. Provide graphs, numbers, revenue (before and after), or any other evidence to demonstrate how you helped your clients with your services.
Make sure to create or optimize these pages as they are useful for your audience and search engines to learn more about your business.
Implement schema markups
Schema markups are valuable for semantic SEO as they provide search engine bots with additional data and context related to our pages. They can lead to the display of rich results in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and provide better assessment of the main elements of your page by bots, potentially increasing search visibility and rankings. The two most popular schema markups are JSON-LD and Microdata.
When it comes to service-based businesses, the following schema markups are recommended:
- Organization or LocalBusiness schema markup for the home page. You can also use a more specific subcategory of these markups that is suitable to your industry, such as ProfessionalService, MedicalBusiness, TravelAgency, and so on.
- Service or Course schema for service pages (or other suitable options in the CreativeWork schema section). For SaaS businesses, you can use SoftwareApplication schema.
- BlogPosting schema for blog pages.
- ContactPage schema for your Contact page.
- Person schema for your About page.
- CreativeWork schema for your portfolio or case studies (note that this may not be suitable for all industries).
Other useful types of schema markups to consider for your website are:
- Breadcrumbs schema, which helps search engines display and understand the hierarchy and navigational structure between pages on your website, and shows users their current location in the website hierarchy.
- Website schema, which helps specify important website data to bots, such as the website name and potential actions.
- FAQ schema, if you have frequently asked questions and answers on your website. This markup may increase the likelihood of gaining additional real estate in SERPs if search engines decide to pull information from the schema.
- Review snippet schema, but note that this is only applicable for certain types of content as defined by the guidelines.
- SoftwareApp schema for software or SaaS businesses.
By implementing these schema markups, you can enhance the search engine understanding of your website and improve the user experience.
Create a keyword map and cluster keywords
In today’s highly competitive digital marketing and SEO landscape, investing time and effort into developing a comprehensive content strategy (and perform content audit beforehand if needed), accompanied by meticulous keyword research, mapping, and clustering, is essential. This holistic approach encompasses the following key elements:
- Compile a list of all the keywords your website is targeting or intends to pursue.
- Create a keyword map by listing all the pages on your site and grouping (clustering) the relevant keywords that will be used on each page. Be careful not to use the same keyword on multiple pages, as this can lead to keyword cannibalization, where multiple pages compete for the same keyword ranking.
- When grouping (clustering) keywords for each page, consider the search intent behind them. Avoid combining keywords with different intents, such as commercial and informational, within a single content piece. It’s important to align the keywords with the purpose and content of each specific page.
- Utilize keyword clustering tools to group or cluster different keywords efficiently. Manual detection and classification of keyword clusters can be time-consuming, so leveraging automated tools can streamline the process.
Research your user persona before creating your content
Before creating a new page on your website, it’s important to analyze whether the content you plan to create will be valuable to your target audience. Avoid the temptation of creating content solely for the purpose of competing for an interesting keyword. To assess the potential value of a page, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- Is this topic important to my ideal clients? – Determine if the content aligns with the interests and needs of your target audience.
- What is the search intent behind this topic? – Understand the underlying purpose behind the search queries related to the topic. Are users looking for information, solutions, comparisons, or something else?
- What pain points do my target audience have regarding this issue? – Identify the challenges, problems, or concerns your audience may have and address them in your content.
- How have my competitors addressed this topic? – Study your competitors’ approach to the topic and find ways to provide more helpful and valuable answers through your content. Consider different angles, additional subtopics, or alternative overviews.
- What subtopics or additional information should I include in my content? – Determine the comprehensive scope of the topic and ensure that you cover all relevant subtopics and provide comprehensive information.
- What action do I want my readers to take after reading the content, and how can I facilitate or promote that action? – Define the desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, or contacting your business, and ensure that your content encourages and facilitates that action.
- Have I already covered this topic on another page? – If you have existing content on a similar topic, evaluate its ranking and performance. If it ranks poorly, consider optimizing the existing page rather than creating a new one.
Improve your topical authority
The process of building topical authority in your niche involves covering a wide range of relevant topics related to your business. This includes addressing topics with varying search volumes, from those with little to no search volume to highly competitive topics with commercial search intent in your industry. The goal of building topical authority is to demonstrate expertise, credibility, and trust to both users and search engines. A website that possesses high topical authority is more likely to receive favorable rankings from Google.
In the past, it was possible to rank a page on a generic site that covered various niches simply by focusing on on-page SEO efforts at the page level. However, Google now advocates for a more holistic approach and evaluates the quality of content across your entire site.
As a result, it is crucial to create content that is genuinely useful, helpful, and showcases your expertise. Your website should aim to become a go-to resource for your target audience, providing them with all the information they need about your industry.
Also, you should optimize your user journey on the website. You should guide your audience from the top of the funnel (with blog posts) to the middle of the funnel (with case studies/resources) and finally to the bottom of the buying funnel (with service pages).
Optimize internal linking
Internal linking plays several important roles on websites:
- Improving the detection, fetching, and crawling of new pages: Internal links help search engines discover and index new pages on your website, ensuring they are included in search results.
- Providing context through anchor text: The anchor text of internal links provides hints to search engines about the content and context of the linked page, aiding in better understanding and relevance.
- Boosting rankings with relevant anchor text: Exact match anchor text can potentially improve the rankings of the linked page for a chosen keyword. However, it’s important to avoid excessive use of the same anchor text to prevent spamming.
- Boosting struggling pages with links from high-performing pages: Internal links from pages with good organic performance can provide an additional boost to pages that are struggling to gain visibility or rankings.
- Enhancing user experience: Internal links contribute to a better user experience by guiding users to related and useful information within your website.
To make the most of internal linking, consider the following practices:
- Keep it natural and contextual: Add internal links where they provide additional information and seamlessly fit within the context of the surrounding text.
- Use descriptive textual anchors: When possible, use descriptive anchor text instead of plain URLs or generic anchors like “Read more.” This helps search engines and users understand the relevance of the linked page.
- Avoid siloed page structures: Interlink relevant pages across different categories and sections of your website to create a well-connected and coherent internal linking structure.
- Utilize blog posts for linking: Use blog posts as opportunities to link to other types of pages, such as service pages or case studies, creating connections and guiding users through different parts of your website.
- Link to important but often neglected pages: Include internal links to pages that are typically overlooked, such as the About page, case studies, testimonials, white papers, and FAQ pages. This helps make these valuable pages more accessible to your audience.
Work hard on E-E-A-T
With E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), Google aims to promote websites that exhibit high professional expertise and authority in their respective fields. These websites are trusted by both users and search engines due to their positive online reputation and the content they produce based on personal experience.
Here are some tips to improve E-E-A-T for service-based businesses:
- Create content based on personal experience: Demonstrate how your professional experience makes you competent to write about the topic at hand. This helps establish your expertise and credibility.
- Optimize your About page: Ensure that your About page includes relevant information about your industry experience, expertise, and the services offered by your company. Mention your professional social media profiles, business awards, links to publications, interviews, speaker profiles at professional conferences, articles in external media, partnerships, memberships, and recommendations from other websites such as industry publications, presses, and podcasts. Additionally, highlight any certifications you possess.
- Utilize schema markup: Implement schema markup, specifically the Person schema, to mark all the relevant details on your About page. This helps search engines understand and present this information accurately.
- Incorporate testimonials: Display testimonials from previous clients on your website. These testimonials serve as social proof and enhance trustworthiness.
- Enhance reputation and authoritativeness signals: Work on improving reputation signals such as ratings, reviews on platforms like Google Business Profile, and other industry-relevant directory websites. Seek industry-relevant links and mentions, actively participate in online communities, and strive to establish your name or brand recognition within your industry.
Optimize user experience
Once users land on your site, it’s crucial to prioritize navigation and facilitate conversions from their perspective. To achieve this, consider optimizing your website with the following user-oriented strategies:
- Ensure cross-device optimization: Optimize your website to provide a seamless user experience across all devices, including desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.
- Enhance page speed and Core Web Vitals: Improve the loading speed of your web pages and optimize them to meet the Core Web Vitals metrics. This helps provide a faster and smoother browsing experience for your users.
- Improve navigational structure: Organize your website’s navigation in a clear and logical manner. Use intuitive menus, dropdowns, and categorization to help users easily find the information they are looking for.
- Arrange information logically: Structure the content on your website in a logical and intuitive manner. Group related information together and make it easily accessible through clear headings, subheadings, and internal links.
- Avoid complexity and ambiguity: Keep your website design simple and user-friendly. Minimize clutter, excessive visuals, and confusing elements that may distract or confuse users.
- Facilitate conversions: Identify the key pages or areas on your website that have high bounce rates and optimize them to increase conversions. Streamline the conversion process by providing clear calls-to-action and reducing any barriers to conversion.
- Perform A/B testing: Conduct A/B testing to compare the performance of two different design layouts or variations in terms of conversions. This allows you to gather data and insights to make informed decisions about optimizing your website.
Utilize different content types and formats
It’s the right time to try to showcase all your expertise and industry experience online, on your website. For that purpose, you can create:
- White papers: Develop comprehensive guides or research papers on topics relevant to your industry. These in-depth resources provide valuable insights and information to your audience.
- Case studies: Highlight previous projects you have completed for clients. Describe the approach you took to solve specific problems and showcase the results you achieved. Case studies demonstrate your ability to deliver successful outcomes.
- Resources section: Create guides, checklists, and documents that your target audience can use to address specific issues. These resources provide practical value and position you as a knowledgeable authority in your field.
- Videos: Produce webinars, free courses, or other video content that offers valuable information and insights.
- Infographics: Summarize complex topics or data into visually appealing infographics. These graphics are highly shareable on social media platforms and can attract backlinks to your website.
By creating these types of content, you can inform your target audience, demonstrate your expertise, establish credibility, and guide them through the funnel from the awareness stage to the consideration stage. This content will provide valuable information to potential customers and increase their likelihood of choosing your brand.
Integrate GBP and website efforts
Integrating Google Business Profile (GBP) with your website efforts is crucial for local businesses and can also benefit businesses targeting a wider audience. Here are some tips to consider:
- GBP Optimization: If you have a local business, ensure that you have a GBP profile and optimize it according to Google’s guidelines. Keep your profile up to date with accurate information and regularly monitor and respond to reviews.
- Credibility and Reputation: Even for businesses targeting a larger audience, having a GBP profile adds credibility and legitimacy to your brand. It helps Google understand more about your business and can contribute to your overall reputation.
Prepare for AI generated search results
In the era of chatbots and AI generated search results, it’s easy to get scared and fear that your organic performance might tank. Google also recently introduced SGE and perspectives, which represent the drastic changes in the SERP in the future. SEO specialists already agree that AI generated answers might consume a portion of your website traffic, especially on long-tail queries. Therefore, conversions will be more important than ever, as it will be clear that impressions and rankings are only a vanity metric.
With perspectives, you can expect some websites like Reddit, Quora, and other social media sites, apart from regular sites to be featured there. That would imply that a joint effort between social media and website optimization would be beneficial. Also, we will likely redefine our way of creating content, while dividing our attention between our website efforts (on-page), and meaningful connections to other entities and content creators (off-page).
Optimizing your website for SEO as a service-based business is essential for increasing brand awareness, building trust with your target audience, and driving conversions. We are witnessing dynamic changes in SERP, with constant fluctuations and the announced use of AI technology that is likely to have a huge impact on organic visibility. Therefore, it’s important to invest in building your brand and consolidating all marketing and SEO efforts while adhering to the latest SEO practices.