SEO or Search Engine Optimization has become a key part of increasing the online presence, brand awareness, visibility, growth and sales for many businesses. And it's really quite easy to start getting your small business found on Google and other search engines if you know the processes and basic rules to follow. In this guide you will learn the basics of SEO as well as top SEO tips to implement SEO into your business website and improve your search engine rankings and organic search results without being an SEO expert.
What is SEO?
SEO also known as search engine optimization is the process of making your website and web pages optimised for search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo so that they are more likely to present your content in search engine result pages. Whilst it might seem that small business SEO is not worth the investment, defining an SEO strategy early on, can in time help your business generate organic traffic and appear on the first page of search results which will in turn help you generate more business.
What are the benefits of SEO for small businesses?
Implementing SEO correctly will help increase your online brand awareness which will in turn lead to more search traffic and potential customers without needing pay per click (ppc) adverts. SEO efforts will also compound in time which means that working on it regularly will lead to much greater results than the sum of all your efforts. However, SEO takes time which is why it is important to work on SEO in conjunction with other go-to-market routes.
What are the different types of SEO?
Search engine algorithms are ultimately trying to find the best answers for user queries based on their intent. For example, a user researching a topic such as contracts in order to determine which one is best for their situation will not be interested in seeing the same results as a user searching for an employment contract they can buy or create straight away.
The different types of SEO aim to optimise your website for the different types of users, intent and queries so that you can improve your rankings. SEO also involves making the right type of information easily accessible to users and ultimately search engine algorithms. Below are some examples of SEO which can help your small business.
Local SEO allows local businesses to appear in local search results as well as "[service] near me" type queries. Creating and completing your Google my business listing is essential for local businesses to appear in local search results. Businesses can boost their visibility by creating web-pages specific to their location for search engines to recommend their business in local queries.
Technical SEO makes it easier for search engine crawlers to navigate your website and understand its structure and hierarchy of information. For example, websites written with semantic tags in the html code allow crawlers to differentiate titles and sections. The hierarchy of title tags in headers makes it possible for the crawlers to understand the importance of the content. Technical SEO also involves optimising the meta descriptions of web pages which is the preview text which describes the page and is displayed in search results.
Content SEO is great for businesses to educate customers about their field and the problem they are solving whilst sharing their solution and the philosophy behind the approach. Search engines will assess the authoritativeness of a brand on certain topics based on the depth and width of the topic clusters discussed on the website. It is important to produce high-quality content which will add value to your readers and to do keyword research ahead in order to appear in the right customer queries.
Making websites machine readable means that search engines can understand concepts and in turn display the information in a more meaningful way. For example, by marking up a tutorial as a "How to" Google can display the information in search results as steps as opposed to displaying the meta description of the page.
Product led SEO
Product led SEO involves creating pages specifically to answer common questions about your product or services. The goal is to answer tailored questions so that your page automatically ranks high for these queries due to the lack of specific pages. For example, a DIY shop could have a page answering "Which type of screwdriver do I need for exterior timber screws?".
All of these types of SEO are accessible to your small business but it is essential to have SEO tools to help you monitor your results and make meaningful progress.
SEO essential tools for small businesses
In order to optimise SEO it is important to have the a set of essential tools to measure results. The first step is to register your website domain with Google my business, Google Analytics and the Google Search Console. This will make it much easier for Google to identify and crawl your website as you expand it through SEO efforts. You can do the same with other search engines such as with Bing's webmaster tools. These tools will also make it easier for you to measure performance metrics and to determine which web pages perform best.
Once you have registered your domain with the search engines you should refine your target audience, personas and their likely search terms in order to determine what you should optimise for. As noted earlier, different search terms will have different levels of commercial intent behind them. The next step is to determine which types of SEO you can and will implement for your small business. The following section some basic steps every small business owner can take to optimise their SEO.
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SEO basics for small business owners
Every small business should create their Google my business listing and complete the business profile with key website and contact information such as the phone number and opening hours. After completing your business profile and connecting the search engine tools to your domain, the next step is to outline your SEO strategy based on the nature of your business and your customers. For example, if your customers are likely to do a lot of research before purchasing your service or product, it can be useful to create a blog with a content strategy aimed at the questions they are likely to ask in their buyer journey. No matter what content you put on your website it must be of a high quality and you must do keyword research before producing it.
If your customers are less likely to do research because your service or product is a commodity, the content strategy should be focused on reviews as well as factual information about what your business offers. A product led SEO can also be useful in this situation to answer common queries product users might ask. For example, a business owner could create a series of landing pages which answer "Which [tool] do I need to solve [problem ]?" for the tool(s) and problem(s) they solve.
Even if it does not contribute directly to SEO, small businesses should have a social media presence and marketing strategy. Posting links to your website and content on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit can allow you to increase your audience whilst making it easier for crawlers to find your content.
Finally, when designing your web pages and website, it is essential that the user experience is optimised so that your customer can easily access the services they are looking for. This also means that the website must load quickly and work on mobile as more and more people search on their mobile devices using cellular networks. On page SEO involves optimising your site speed and usability so that it is mobile friendly.
Additional tips for improving your SEO
Now that your business has implemented the basics of SEO you can try additional tools such as Moz, ahrefs and Semrush which make it easier for you to track you key words and performance as well as the keywords your competitors are ranking for. These tools can also help you keep track of backlinks pointing to your home page and web pages as well as those of your competitors which can help you choose which directories or websites to reach out to as part of your link building strategy. Backlinks help search engines measure your authoritativeness as they provide some proof that your business is real.
In order to implement SEO improvements quickly, it can be useful to use a website builder like Wordpress or Webflow in order to iterate without needing to involve your development team. Moreover, the hosting provided by these services is usually delivered by CDNs which will increase the load speed of your website and in turn help you rank better with search engines. Using plug ins you can determine how to structure your website's internal links to make it easier for users (and crawlers) to navigate between pages as part of their journey.
Finally, whilst it might be tempting to use an SEO services agency, it is important to try all these initiatives yourself in order to determine what works best for your business as well as the required cost and investment to achieve success. Once you have answered these questions and you have seen early SEO results, you can consider using an agency to accelerate your results.
SEO can be a great way to grow your organic traffic and is accessible to startups and small businesses even if they do not have a big team with huge resources. It is essential to start early and make consistent SEO efforts to maximise the compounding effect of SEO. This can be amplified by choosing the right type of SEO for your business based on your sector and customers. Finally, because search engines algorithms evolve it is important to constantly try new techniques. However, you should bear in mind that these evolutions are to help searchers find more relevant results faster so you should always take SEO initiatives which serve your customer.
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