As a small business owner, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) probably feels like an overwhelming and difficult subject. And, while the highly technical aspects of SEO are probably a step too far for many website owners, there are areas that you can focus on that will help you win at SEO as a small business!
So, if you are a small business owner and you want to:
– Understand the basics of SEO
– Optimize existing and new content
– Market your business more effectively
– Understand the importance of keywords/phrases
– Understand basic analytics and what to measure
– Focus your efforts easy/big wins
– RANK ON GOOGLE!
Then, read on as we explain what SEO is, what counts as a ranking factor for your website. Learn how to optimize your website content for search intent and make sure your content is answering the questions that your potential customers are asking.
What is SEO and why is it so important?
SEO…is a set of practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results.Moz, What Is SEO?
You have a website because you want people to find you, and buy from you, or use your service.
You can direct people to your website (via social media, newsletters etc.), or hope that people find you by word of mouth, but you need your ‘customers’ to find you organically too if you want to expand your business.
This is where SEO comes in!
How high your pages rank in search results is determined by The Algorithm.
Ranking well requires a holistic approach to SEO, with a long-term strategy – getting onto page one doesn’t happen overnight.
Google’s mission is to help people find what they are looking for – you need to answer their question.
According to MonsterInsights, in their article on Google Ranking Factors the 10 most important are:
– High-quality Content
– Search Intent and Content Relevancy
– Website Loading Speed
– Mobile Friendliness
– Domain Authority
– Keyword Optimization
– Website Structure
– Website Security
– Page Experience
On-page ranking factors are those that you influence directly by the design, content and structure of your webpages. These include:
– Your technical site set-up and site speed
– Quality of your content and use of keywords/keyphrases
– Use of additional media, such as images and videos
– Site structure and internal linking (giving your visitors a reason to stay on your site)
– Structured data and search appearance
– User experience (navigation, ease of use, design)
Off-page ranking factors are those that come from external websites and activities. These include:
– Relevant links from other websites leading to your site, BACKLINKS!
– Social media activity (which results in page views and sharing of content)
– Business and map listings
– External marketing activities (that drive traffic to your website)
Creating a website is NOT a case of build it and they will come. YOU need to get them there!
Develop Your SEO Strategy
Before you start tackling SEO, it is helpful to decide where you want to focus your attention and develop YOUR strategy. Some of the key areas you might want to focus on are:
– Site Speed
– Keyword Research
– Optimize existing content
– Add new optimized content
– Build links
Website speed is how quickly your website loads for users. This is based on an average of multiple page speeds — page speed, or page load time, refers to how long it takes for the elements like text and images on a page to fully load.Hubspot, How To Test Website Speed
Improving page speed is a whole topic in itself and we won’t be going into much detail here BUT it is important to review and consider.
Page load speed is important for SEO because it is one of the key ranking factors for Google’s algorithm, and it affects Page Experience and can be assessed via Page Speed Insights, and other tools.
Page Speed Insights
A quick way to check your Page Speed, is via Google’s Page Speed Insights. You can then review and determine where you can make improvements.
As you can see from these screenshots, we have work to do on our mobile loading time! However, our desktop speed is very good. The results can be expanded to see the details of what is causing the delay in loading. Sometimes it can be something simple, like an image that’s too big, but other times it might be something more complex, like script loading times for a functionality you have on your page.
Other Page Speed Testing Options
Remember, each test you do is one point in time, and there could be external factors (like an issue with your hosting company) that temporarily effect results. Take the numbers as a guide, but focus more on the analysis and seeing if there are plugins or other functionality/design issues that are causing problems. Better to know and fix them!
An important part of SEO is use of Keywords/Key Phrases in titles, content and meta descriptions. Do your research! Use Google to see what people are searching for (Google predictions, people also searched for). Take a look at Pinterest for its search suggestions. Use a keyword tool like Word Tracker, Moz or Google Ads.
At its simplest: think about what people might type into Google to find you, then make sure those words appear on your site, while also answering the question.
When you’re starting out with keyword research, a free tool is enough to get you going. Here are a few suggestions:
Google search is actually a good starting point for simple keyword (and synonym) research! You can use:
– People also ask
– Alternative searches
ahrefs free Keyword Generator is another one to try. It a has a neat keyword versus question feature.
Volume and Competitiveness
Search Volume is simply the amount or quantity of searches that occur for a particular keyword or term, often expressed as searches per month. Search Competition is how many pages on the internet include that term, thus, the number of pages you will be competing against.
Ideally you want high volume, low competition keywords, but these are difficult to find!
One of the key things you can do as a small business owner is optimize your website content. Choose the right keywords or key phrases, and then make sure that these are placed correctly within your content. This allows Google to better understand the intent of your content, and therefore match it with a searchers question.
The most important places to optimize for your chosen keywords on your site/page are:
– Title (Page/Post name, or SEO Title)
– Meta description
– On-page headings/sub-headings & content
– Images: Titles and Alt Text
Do this in a natural way, overdoing it can be damaging!
If you have a WordPress website you can use a plugin like Yoast as your first step to optimizing your content. At the back-end it does things like create your sitemap to help Google to crawl your site more intelligently.
At the front-end it encourages you to choose a keyword or phrase, and optimize content and titles using a traffic light scoring system.
The analysis results can help make sure that your keyword is in the right places, not used too often, that you have internal and external links, that your content is long enough etc. You can add meta descriptions, alternative SEO titles and also check for readability.
If you are using Squarespace, Wix, or another builder, there will be an option to add meta descriptions, SEO titles etc. but less detail on how to optimize.
Remember, do your keyword research. It’s very possible to optimize brilliantly, but for the wrong keywords!
Marketing: Why do all this?
For a lot of us, our websites are our shopfronts. They, coupled with social media and email marketing, are how we reach our customers, answer their questions, build trust, and ultimately make sales.
If no one finds your website, then some (or all) of these things won’t happen.
SEO Marketing Strategy
Getting the technical aspects of SEO right is only part of the overall process. Your overall marketing strategy should consider how your brand is represented online, and how to leverage that via your content, and it should be metrics driven.
Consider these statistics:
– 93% of online experiences today begin on search engines.
– More than half of all web traffic is driven by organic search
– Less than 1% of Google searchers ever click on results from the second page
Focus on searcher intent. This should underpin all of your activities—research, creation and distribution. What is the searcher really trying to achieve and how is your content helping them reach this goal?Simon Ensor, Managing Director @ Yellowball
Backlinks give our sites authority. Google crawls and follows links on all websites, if it follows a link to your website from another site, it’s a point for you!
This can be a tougher one for small businesses, and is a lot of work. A lot of the recommended strategies are aimed at blogging/news sites. However, it’s not impossible, especially if you create shareable, question-answering, content as part of your overall strategy. Also, make sure you take advantage of any opportunity to get your link on other websites (Chamber of Commerce, local ‘Best of’ lists, Where to Buy lists etc.).
Google Analytics and Search Console
If you want to know if any of your efforts are paying off, you must connect your website to Google! There are a few key steps to getting your site recognized and indexed by Google:
– Create Property on Google Analytics to start measuring
– Link your website to your Google Analytics account
– Add your sitemap(s) to Google Search Console
Google Analytics allows you to monitor your website traffic (page views, users, popular pages, referrals, search terms etc.).
Connect your website to your Google Account:
– By placing code in your header.php file
– By using a plugin like MonsterInsights or Exact Metrics (WordPress)
– Via your website builder account (Squarespace, Wix etc.)
What to measure?
The most important metrics to measure are: traffic and traffic sources, bounce rate, conversion rate, average session duration, average pages per session, user location, percentage of return visitors, search queries, top landing pages, exit pages.
The GA interface is not the most user friendly, and viewing the key data in your website Admin area (via a plugin if you’re on WordPress) is easier, and enough for basic info and tracking trends.
You can generate far more detailed reports in GA, but that’s a lesson in itself and we will not go into detail here. Please ask us if you’d like more help on this.
Google Search Console
Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.
Activate your Google Search Console Account by adding the URL(s) of your Sitemap(s) to your Search Console account. You can generate/find your Sitemap via an SEO plugin (WordPress) or from your website builder account (Squarespace, Wix etc.).
How to use Search Console for keyword research?
Under performance you will find the top queries that your site appeared for, along with Impressions and Clicks for those search terms.
These results show you the search terms (keywords) that your site already ‘ranks’ for. Use these to better optimize your existing content, for these keywords and their synonyms.
My rule of thumb is build a site for a user, not a spider.Dave Naylor
SEO is a huge subject and there are many interlinking parts to it. However, there are areas that you can focus your efforts on in order to win at SEO as a small business.
Update old content to be more focused, optimize new content. Deepen your website content, for example using the blog function to tell stories. All of these give you more opportunities to incorporate keywords and to answer questions and solve problems – which is often what your potential customers are seeking to do.
Focus on content, and SEARCH INTENT. That is, answering your customers questions. This, along with a solid approach to SEO, builds a website that converts.
If you have any questions about keeping your website up to date, or our terminology wasn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thanks!