A Quick and Easy SEO Guide for Small Businesses
Whether you’re a small local business, a social enterprise or a specialist online store, increasing organic traffic to your website may seem like an impossible task. SEO is a cost-effective method that should be implemented as part of your marketing strategy. As well as increasing organic traffic to your site, SEO is also useful for building trust on a search engine and improving your site’s usability.
While there are lots of criteria that can be measured for SEO, you should focus on the ones most relevant to your business. Setting objectives help to formulate your SEO strategy by creating a target and a goal to move towards.
The most common SEO objectives involve the measurement of keywords, traffic and conversions/sales. If you are unsure, those are good starting places. If you are new to SEO, keyword rankings is probably the best place to start. That’s because initially, you’re unlikely to see much organic traffic or sales until you get on the first page of a search engine. By monitoring keywords, you can see progress towards rankings on the first page.
Here are some useful tips you can implement as part of your SEO strategy.
- Register your website to Google Search Console & Google Analytics
- Identify on-page errors / technical issues by crawling your site
- Re-evaluate your current site architecture & internal linking structure
- Conduct keyword research to find words or phrases relevant to your site
- Implement on-page optimizations across your site using your list of unique keywords
- Find unlinked brand mentions and obtain backlinks from reputable sites
- Consider a local SEO strategy using Google My Business
- Track performance and measure your success based on your objectives
Below explains in more detail why each of these tips are useful for SEO.
1. Register your website to Google Search Console & Google Analytics
Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google which helps to monitor your website’s presence in Google search results. It’s a great tool to see which of your web pages are indexed, which keywords you’re ranking for and which keywords generate traffic to your website. Essentially, it helps to understand and improve how Google sees your website and how to optimize its performance in search results.
Another free and useful tool to set up on your site is Google Analytics. GA allows you to track data about the way visitors come to your site. It also provides you with valuable insights that can be used to improve the performance of your website and therefore increase conversions.
2. Identify on-page / technical errors
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that allows you to crawl your websites’ URLs and fetch key elements to analyse and audit technical and onsite SEO. Using tools such as Screaming Frog can help to identify technical or on-page issues which could be affecting your core landing pages. This could be issues like missing metadata, missing canonical tags, broken links or incorrect redirect chains. You should investigate these errors in line with your overall site structure and prioritise pages that fit with your objectives, i.e. pages that allow users to convert. Maintaining a healthy site is vital as site errors could be restricting access to useful pages and if too frequent, can lower the overall trust of a domain.
Other technical factors to explore that could affect the usability of your site are site speed and mobile friendliness. Google offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights that grades a web page in how well optimised it is for page speed on both desktop and mobile. It also gives suggestions in areas where improvements can be made.
Having a mobile-friendly website is also a critical part of your online presence, as smartphone traffic exceeds desktop traffic. Google Search Console’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool is a quick, easy way to test whether a page on your site is mobile-friendly.
3. Re-evaluate current site structure & Internal linking
It’s important to ensure your core landing pages are easily accessible within your site’s navigation. Structuring your website well will not only improve user’ experience, it also helps Google index your URLs effectively (which will enable them to drive organic traffic). Google crawls websites by following internal links, so by following those links, Google determines the relationship between the various pages. The structure of your site is a guide to Google and therefore very crucial.
A page without any links is bad for your site as users and search engines won’t be able to reach them. For Google and other search engines to index your pages, they need to know the pages exist and where. The better your site structure, the better your chance of ranking higher in search engines.
4. Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords are words and phrases that define what your content is about. They are featured on a web page to ensure the content is relevant to what people are searching for. Keyword research tools such as Ahrefs gives you an idea of what keywords you should be targeting based on their monthly search volume, topical relevant, and market competitiveness. Long-tail keywords, which are usually 3 or more words and more specific, are often less competitive because they are less obvious. This makes them easier to rank, and because they are more specific, they tend to be easier to convert.
5. Implement on-page optimisations
You need to ensure your content is both relevant and provides a great user experience which means targeting the right keywords across your site. A well optimised site structure with core target landing pages should have keywords mapped effectively for maximum impact.
The most important on-page element are your title tags. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline for a given result and they are important for usability. Title tags specify the title of a web page and should include your most relevant, high demand keywords. See Google’s recommendations on writing good titles.
The next on-page element to optimise are your meta descriptions. A meta description is a short summary of the content found on the web page. Although Google does not use meta descriptions to rank content, they should still contain relevant keywords and a ‘call to action’ for users (e.g. Sign up now’ or ‘Find out more) to increase click-through rates. Occasionally Google will write its own meta description in the search engine results page if one hasn’t been written or isn’t deemed relevant enough to the keywords used by a searcher.
Headings are one of the first things a user notices on a web page and the main heading (H1 tag) needs to be relevant to what the user has searched. An H1 tag is useful for communicating the pages structure to users and Google and they should contain the page’s primary keyword or phrase. You can use as many H1 elements as you like, as long as they are useful for usability.
The final on-page element to optimise is your on-page copy. The copy on your site should contain rich, relevant content that benefits the user. Your on-page copy should include unique keywords which solve the readers’ intent. You should avoid using duplicate copy across your site as this can negatively impact your page authority. It also presents issues as search engines won’t know which URL to rank for a user search. Also, Google doesn’t want to waste crawl budget by indexing multiple pages with the same content.
6. Obtain backlinks from reputable and relevant sites
You may have come across a site that mentions the name of a well known brand, but the site hasn’t provided a link to that brands website. This is known as an unlinked brand mention. There are ways to identify unlinked brand mentions such as using Google Alerts. This is a free tool which can be used to track content being posted daily that mentions your brand name. Ahrefs Content Explorer is another alternative that allows you to check brand mentions across the web. You should always reach out to the sites that mention your brand / company and ask them to provide a link back to your site. This is known as a backlink.
It’s important to acquire quality backlinks from reputable sites as they signal to Google that others vouch for your content. This is important for SEO as backlinks have a positive effect on a site’s ranking position or search visibility. If many sites link to the same webpage or website, search engines can conclude that the content is worth linking to, and therefore also worth surfacing on a search engine results page. Backlinks from high authority sites can positively influence the strength of your website.
7. Local SEO & Google My Business
For smaller businesses, optimising local SEO can improve brand visibility and lead to more website traffic, leads, and conversion. Google My Business (GMB) is one of the most useful discovery tools to help build local search visibility. It’s an essential part of local strategy. GMB can make life easier for local businesses by increasing their chances of being found through Google. It’s the only way to effectively manage and optimize what appears in Google’s local map results, so if you want to improve your local visibility, it really is a must. When you set up GMB, you’ll be able to connect with your customers, increase your chances of being found, and generate more targeted traffic to your website.
8. Track performance and measure success
There are several ways you can track and measure the success of your SEO strategy. Ranking for competitive keywords, increasing organic traffic, increasing the number of backlinks or increasing conversions are most common. Without tracking and measuring your performance, it would be difficult to see whether your SEO efforts had been successful.
Other metrics to monitor are site errors which are identified during a crawl. Reducing the number of site errors such as broken links are important factors to measure. As mentioned previously, Google Search Console is a great tool for tracking your sites performance as you can compare clicks, impressions, CTR and rank over any given period.
These are just a few tips to get you started when developing your SEO strategy. It’s important to continually maintain your site so that users have the best experience. Carrying out monthly health checks is a great way of identifying technical issues that could be affecting the performance of your site. As part of your health check, you should check that your metadata is up to date, check that your site speed is efficient, check that your sitemap & robots.txt file is up to date and check other technical factors such as broken links and incorrect redirects chains.
SEO requires patience and persistence, but it can help grow your business. You could consider using other marketing channels such as PPC to help reach your goals. Paid search can work together with SEO and is particularly useful at the beginning of SEO work and where there is a proven return on investment.
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