Implementing and investing in search engine optimization can be as difficult or expensive as you let it. That’s why Nick Saint, owner of OneLove Lawn in Grove City, Ohio, has managed his team’s own SEO since the company started in 2013.

At the time Saint launched his company, prices were simply too high for them to hire someone to help with SEO. After spending so much time dabbling to learn what works and what doesn’t, the company is now helping other businesses cheaply build websites during the winter.

“We got our nerd on and just started reading,” Saint says. “We started experimenting with SEO – keywords, tags – and we learned it all the hard way.”

That research is critical even for companies who hire externally to help with their SEO. Tony Gricar, founder of SEO company Green Pro Marketing, says understanding key terminology helps you study what your competition is doing. Analyzing the websites of rival landscape companies takes basic knowledge on title pages and meta descriptions, which are portions of characters in a website’s HTML that describe the web page in 155 words or less.

But once you learn what someone ahead of your company on the rankings is doing better than you, making that tweak is much more seamless.

“It really becomes a numbers game of what it is you can conceivably do, what your budget allows you to do, and what you can target,” Gricar says. “Who are those legit local companies who are ranking? Look at what their website structure looks like. Start poking around under the hood, and that can actually help you learn SEO as you go.”

What next?

How long it takes for your SEO practices to take hold is entirely dependent on the competitive nature of your market. Adapting or redesigning websites will improve your ranking, but getting on the first page of search engine results – or even in that coveted top spot – might take more time. Gricar says it can be a matter of minutes or months before you notice a difference.

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – you just need to do marginally better than the other person,” Gricar says. “A lot of times, it doesn’t take much to outrank somebody. It can seem daunting, but once you start breaking it down, it’s not the hardest thing in the world, especially for the majority of landscaping companies in those smaller or mid-size markets.”

 

 

© hurca! | Adobe Stock
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel – you just need to do marginally better than the other person.” Tony Gricar, founder, Green Pro Marketing

Brad Shorr, the director of content strategy at SEO company Straight North, says once you get the basic understanding of SEO, little tweaks can help make a difference. For example, ensuring your page title tags are descriptive of services people would actually search for online helps. Also, making sure your page loads quickly helps because speed is factored into Google’s SEO.

Shorr says another proactive thing that helps is getting your website linked to other websites. Google’s search algorithm is heavily dependent on links from other websites that come back to your website. It’s likely that competitors in landscaping aren’t doing this, so you can get a good edge, Shorr says. A good place to look would be asking local news media or journals that mention your company to link to you, or to ask local chambers of commerce for links.

“Google’s logic is, if a lot of websites are linking to yours, then you must have a really good business,” Shorr says. “It’s good enough for people to want to link to. Good, quality links over time will help your organic rankings.”

Along for the ride.

Google is always changing its algorithm process, so constant research is critical to keeping your ranking ahead of the competitors.

Gricar and Shorr both recommend studying resources like Moz, Search Engine Watch, Google’s SEO Starter Guide and the Google Webmaster blog. Gricar also recommends you test your own SEO by seeing where you rank on Amazon Echo, Siri or other voice-command devices’ search results.

Saint says the difference between good and bad online presence is how deliberately companies implement strategies. The work can be rigorous, but despite that, Saint says SEO isn’t “rocket science.”

“Ask lots and lots of questions, and read a lot,” Saint says. “YouTube is wonderful as well. You have to do your research – that’s really the best thing I can say. If this is something you want to do on your own, it’s something you have to research.”