SEO Basics for Small Business
SEO Basics for Small Business
“How can I show up in search results?”
If you find yourself asking this question often, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by web marketing and analytics firm, Blue Corona, 66% of small business owners say that finding new customers is a top concern. And yet only 32% of SMBs invest in social media, while only 17% invest in SEO.
Given these stats, it’s easy to see why so many small business owners fall victim to solicitation emails from suspect SEO companies promising to get them on page one of Google in next to no time.
Here’s reality: there’s lots you can do to improve your search rankings. But doing so takes good, creative, highly strategic site building, content marketing and external strategies. There are no quick n’ easy solutions, and in fact anyone who promises you otherwise is just wasting your money (many “black hat” firms will charge you monthly for doing very little work) and your time. They’re also potentially damaging your site in the long run, if their tactics get you blacklisted (i.e. Google decides you’re spam, and therefore penalizes you so that you don’t show up in results).
There are two main ways to improve your site’s search ranking, which include lots of little tips and tricks within them.
1. On-Page, Internal SEO
Think of your website like a house. When you’re trying to get to a new friend’s house, there’s one main way you’ll do it: you’ll look up their address, put it into Google Maps, and navigate there.
Your website has a main address: it’s called a URL. Just as it’s easier to navigate to simple addresses in person, so it is on the web. The more memorable, easy to type, and relevant your main URL, the easier a time your customers will have in finding you. The same goes for every URL you use for each page within your site. If you have a page offering flower delivery, you’ll be much more findable if your URL is, “www.mybusiness.com/flower-delivery” than “www.mybusiness.com/1282ls7320.”
This is where your website is different than a house: sure, it has that one main address, but it also has many smaller findable locations, and each one can attract visitors to your site. In that way, it’s more like an apartment building.
But the greater difference is this: it’s not just the URLs (addresses) on your site that will attract visitors. There are a number of other things you can do that will attract the Google bots and your customers’ eyes:
Keywords. Keywords are an essential way to get found, as that’s what tells the Google bots that your site is relevant to any given user’s search. For instance, if someone searches, “flower delivery company in Austin” and that’s what you do, Google will have a better shot at finding you if the words “flower delivery company in Austin,” as well as related terms like, “company that delivers flowers” and “flower delivery” and “gift flowers,” and so forth appear on your site. Google helpfully provides a keyword tool to help you find keywords that are relevant and hopefully not all that competitive to claim. You’ll want to research your competitors’ keywords as well, with the caveat that you should avoid keyword stuffing just to compete — that is, planting so many keywords on your page that your site becomes spammy. Instead, you’ll want to incorporate keywords elegantly into all that follows.
Compelling Content. Even the most supposedly “boring” businesses have a lot to offer in terms of content. Content on your site blog can be anything from expert tips to creative ways to use your products to content that runs parallel but is related to what you do. For instance, our flower delivery business might run a blog devoted to making great floral arrangements for different types of events, or it might be more of a general lifestyle blog. In fact, you can get super creative with it, as long as it somehow relates to your business and your key terms as discovered earlier can be integrated. Always make sure to include good imagery, as this ups reader engagement and also drives traffic.
Titles. Coming up with good titles for your pages is crucial. Again, it’s ideal when they can incorporate keywords. However, it’s more important to ensure your titles are accurate for the page. And just as we mentioned earlier for keywords, you’ll want to make sure your titles don’t have too much competition. You might, for instance, consider offering 7 tips rather than 10 if that changes your rankings.
On-Page Optimization. Before your site is even built, your web developer should be talking with you about your SEO goals and your user experience, so that they can create an HTML backend that adheres to the best SEO practices. When it comes to blog posts and any additional pages, optimizing your pages means making sure to use proper headers: H1 tags for titles, and H2 or H3 tags for anything that comes below that. If you don’t know how to do this, don’t worry: most blogging programs make it easy to make different sections and lists, so you can click a button for a header type and the proper tags will go into the blog HTML. Make sure that your keyword is in your title, and that it crops up within the first 200 words of that page or post.
A Good, Fast, Mobile-Responsive Website. Google cares a lot about user experience. As such, it rewards sites that its bots determine are fast, user friendly, and show up well on any mobile platform, including all smartphones and tablets. This is where it’s very much worth investing in a good web designer.
Internal Links. When you’ve gone to the trouble of creating great content, always make sure to link to resources within your site to create a rich network of internal links. This only makes sense: the more comprehensive the content, the better your overall user experience. Your goal should be becoming your readers’ one stop shop for the niche you’re writing about. Your internal links should guide users through that content.
2. External SEO
So that’s what you can do to improve your SEO via your own website. But getting found doesn’t stop there. There’s lots that you can do outside of your website as well.
Link Build. The goal with link building is to ensure you have lots of reputable sites linking back to your site. When done right, Google loves this, as it sees each link as a kind of vouch for your website. When done wrong — that is, in the way of blackhat SEO firms, which are the kind that email you out of nowhere — Google views link building as spam, and this is often what can get you a penalty.
So, what’s good and what’s bad link building? Bad link building generally means posting links to your site on pages that are completely irrelevant, and doing so hundreds if not thousands of times. It also isn’t great to add your page to one of those indexing sites that lists thousands of other pages.
Instead, you want to build links more thoughtfully. Do you have a blog post you’d like to share with the world? Rather than sharing all of your knowledge on your blog, see if you can guest post on another blog, particularly one that has more reach than yours. Reach out to influencers to see if they’ll write about or review you. Encourage current customers to leave reviews that link to your site. Reach out to local resources and see if you can collaborate in some way.
To ensure you’re getting the most out of your link building efforts, use a tool like Brand Mentions, which will check to see whether or not you’re being linked to when you’re mentioned. If not, then reach out to the person who mentioned you if possible, and ask them to link.
Get a Google Account. There are lots of ways you can use Google directly to your advantage. You can buy pay-per-click (PPC) ads — though again be strategic here to make sure you’re only bidding on winnable fights.
Make sure to set up a Google My Business Account, which will ensure you rank high in local searches. Use the Google Search console to determine where the Google bots are encountering any hitches when crawling your site. Claim your physical website on Google Maps so you come up in Maps searches as well.
But Go Beyond Google as Well. Share your posts widely on social media. In fact, invest a lot of time on social media, responding to customers, creating interactive games, promoting contests, sharing content, and participating in conversations. Doing so will both engage customers more deeply in your brand, and drive traffic to your site. Email marketing is also an important traffic driving tool, and one it’s well worth investing your time into. The more you can do outside of Google, the less of an impact you’ll feel when Google inevitably changes their algorithm out of the blue.
There’s a lot you can do to improve your search rankings without ever having to rely on sketchy spammers. But if you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry: at Alt Creative, we offer a number of services that can help you out, from customized content production to a comprehensive social media strategy. Ask us about what we can do for you today!