SEO – or search engine optimisation to give it it’s full name – is seen by many small business owners as a hugely complicated subject. That’s not surprising, when you consider that a search for small business SEO services on Google returns around 100 million results. There’s so much information out there that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And let’s face it – as a small business owner, there are many other things for you to worry about, particularly in these uncertain times.
That’s why I’ve put together this guide to small business SEO services: what SEO is, why it’s important, and the steps you should consider implementing.
So let’s start by explaining what SEO is.
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. That might sound straightforward, but it becomes a little more complicated when you factor in that Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm to determine which pages to show on the search engine results page (aka SERPs).
Why should I bother with SEO?
Having a website for your business is critical, and almost every business has one. However, a recent study by Ahrefs showed that a whopping 90.63% of web pages on the internet get zero traffic from Google, clearly demonstrating that the ‘build a website and they will come’ idea is a complete myth. But it doesn’t have to be like this, because if you optimise your website properly, the search engines will find your site and it’ll start ranking in the search results.
Where do I start with SEO?
As a small business owner, you’re probably competing with much larger corporations with marketing budgets that you can only dream of, exceeding by some way the value of your entire annual turnover. So how can you compete?
There are many agencies and freelancers out there offering small business SEO services – and I’m one of them – but if you are happy updating your website yourself there are lots of simple steps that you can take improve your SEO using some free tools. If you’re not confident enough to update your website yourself, then asking your web designer to optimise your website shouldn’t break the bank if you’re prepared to do the research yourself.
How long does it take?
There’s no magic wand that you can wave to get your website ranking on Google. You have to play the long game, but it will be worth your while.
Think of it like fitness training – you won’t reach your goals overnight, you have to work at it, little and often. It can take months (or even years, depending on your line of business) but you’ll get there if you keep plugging away, and you’ll be able to enjoy and celebrate small successes along the way. As with most things in life, the more effort you put in, then the greater the rewards.
And a word of caution: beware of anyone who promises you that they will be able to get your site ranking quickly. They will most likely adopt spammy (so-called ‘black-hat’) tactics to get your site ranking, but once Google cottons on (and it will) then it will penalise your site, and it will take a huge effort to get your site ranking again. You cannot beat Google’s algorithm.
What does SEO include?
There are six key components to small business SEO.
1 Technical SEO
Technical SEO involves making sure that the search engines are able to access your site, index it and understand it without any problems. Think of technical SEO as the foundation on which your website is built.
There are many online tools which you can use to run an audit of your website. This will run a number of checks to validate:
- the website is secure and has an SSL certificate (https)
- availability of a sitemap, which the search engines need to index your site
- your site is mobile friendly
- the pages load quickly
- the absence of broken links
- search engines will be able to index the site without encountering any problems
All of these are key ranking factors.
2 Keyword research
Keyword research is all about uncovering the terms your potential customers use when they’re searching for a product or service that you offer.
By not carrying out keyword research, you could easily find yourself competing with the major players in your industry for keywords that you won’t easily beat them on. Another risk is that you can end up losing yourself in your own jargon and acronyms, using keywords that your potential customers never use.
There are many different ways of conducting keyword research, but they will typically all involve using a number of online tools to discover keywords your customers are using which your competitors aren’t focussing on.
3 On-page SEO
Once you have identified the best keyword for each page on your website, you can then update your content accordingly. This is known as on-page SEO and includes:
- including keywords in the URLs
- incorporating keywords in the title and description that are displayed when one of your pages appears on the search engine results page
- making sure keywords appear in the opening paragraph
- using keywords in the H1, H2 or H3 tags
- optimising images to include keywords in the file names and descriptions
Using keywords the right way will position your web pages to be indexed by the search engines, and start appearing in the search engine results.
To have a truly successful website, you’ll need to use your expertise to provide authoritative content that will answer your potential customers’ problems, helping you to earn their trust in your business.
This means that you’ll need to understand who your audience is, what problems they’re trying to solve, and how your company can help them do this. Once you have identified this, you’ll need to do some keyword research and then create authoritative and relevant content to satisfy the needs of your target customers.
Building up your website content in this way will, over time, establish your business’s expertise in your field. Creating a blog is a great way of adding content to your website, and you can let your audience subscribe to receive email updates whenever a new blog post is published. Regularly updating your website with new content will keep your website fresh, and encourage your potential customers to keep returning.
5 Link building
A backlink occurs when one website links to another. These are also called inbound or incoming links.
Backlinks are important for SEO because they transfer a vote of confidence from one site to another, and act as a signal to search engines that other websites vouch for your content. Having lots of backlinks coming into your website suggests to search engines that your content is worth linking to, thereby increasing your site’s ranking position in the search engine results.
But not all backlinks are created equal, as the search engines also take into account the authority of the site that’s linking to you. So for example, a single backlink to your website from the BBC would easily outweigh 100 backlinks from other, lesser-known websites.
The process of accumulating links from other websites to yours is known as link building. This is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming of the SEO activities, but gaining backlinks is crucial to building authority
6 Local SEO
Local SEO is the practice of optimising your online presence to increase visibility in your local area. According to BrightLocal, 93% of consumers use the internet to find a local business, with 34% searching every day, so Local SEO is critical for local businesses.
Google My Business – the free business listing service from Google – is a key component of Local SEO. There are many reasons why you should use Google My Business, the most important of these being that your business won’t appear as a pin on the map in Google’s search results without a Google My Business profile.