It is critical for every business to have a website. Doing this provides you with an opportunity to share your vision, give opinions on matters in your industry, help your audience, and sell your products or services to customers. But all this can reach your target audience if they are able to find you on the internet.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what makes it possible for you to rank your website pages. Small business SEO involves a series of actions on and off your website so that when a person types the name of your business, the products you sell, or any topic related to what you do, your site’s pages come up as part of the top results.
How Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Works
There are many search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, and Baidu. And each of these search engines come with unique ranking factors. Meaning, you can rank well on one search engine but fail to do the same on others.
For the UK market, Google serves more than 85% of web searches. Essentially, this means you should focus more on Google rankings because that’s where most of your visitors will likely be.
So what happens is, Google uses its intricate algorithm with the help of search robots or crawlers to go around the web. Their goal is to search through billions of pages, discover what’s new, understand their content, and organise whatever they find in their files. Just the same way a librarian finds books and arranges them on shelves by identity and context. We classify all these processes into three functions:
- Crawling – Which is the process of scouring the web to find content and URLs
- Indexing – Which is the process of organising and storing whatever they find
- Ranking – The process of presenting the indexed pages to answer queries searchers present. The results appear to searchers from the most to the least relevant to their need.
Why Care About SEO?
More and more people use the internet to search for information, products, and services. Before they even go to buy something in a local store, they first look it up online. Therefore, businesses have no option but to meet people where they are – online.
As a business person, you’ll realise that SEO is critical to the success of your business. It’s the most strategy in digital marketing for your business to get your website noticed online by your audience.
But it’s worth noting that ranking on the first page isn’t enough. You don’t want to rank number one for a term like “health food” when you sell electronics.
Also, understand that it’s the first three results on the search results page that receive over 75% of the clicks. Therefore, you need to be one of the three to increase your chances of getting most of the traffic – which will translate into more conversions. And this will happen if you do small business SEO properly.
What Goes Into an SEO Process?
Search Engine Optimisation is a process that takes as long as the business exists online. It involves habitual monitoring, adjusting, and meeting of targets. As you’ll realise your competitors will also be doing their best to outrank you, requiring more effort on your end to meet your business goals.
Also, Google, like the rest of the search engines, keeps updating their algorithms. Sometimes an update can adversely impact your website, requiring you to identify what went wrong, correct the issues and move forward. Here are things that go into an SEO process.
Any business including yours must have goals (both big and small). When it comes to SEO, you need to set one main goal that will help you strategise and measure your success. Knowing what monetary value a single conversion should bring and determine the products you expect to bring in leads and profits when SEO kicks off.
When creating a goal for your website, here are tips to guide you:
- Make your goal measurable so you can track and improve when you fall short.
- Make your goals specific to gauge where you currently are. Avoid jargon that could make your goals unclear.
- Make your goals well written and shareable with your team or other interested parties.
You might feel the need to break your macro goal into micro goals – which is fine. But make sure you prioritise the implementation of the smaller goals. Determine what you’ll do first, what’s next, and what to finish with to help you mark your progress over time.
Create an Accessible Website
As we mentioned before, search crawlers go around the web to discover, index, and rank pages. Therefore, when the crawlers are unable to find your site, they won’t show you on the search engine results page. And when this happens, there’s nothing else you can do for your target audience to find you.
So what could be the reason why the search engines cannot discover you?
- You don’t have a website yet
- Your website is new
- Your website is difficult to crawl
- Your site blocks crawlers from accessing it
- Your website is under a penalty for going against the search engine guidelines
What’s the solution?
The best place to begin is by creating an indexable website. A good developer should design a website that is easy for search engines to crawl. By the end of the day, the site shouldn’t have bugs that hinder the crawling process.
Then create pages that are well optimised. Don’t block the search bots from “reading” what’s on them – unless you don’t want Google to find them. While you do this, make sure you follow guidelines put in place by Google so that you don’t get a penalty.
Understand Your Audience
The next thing to do is to understand your audience. Figure out what they want and how they want it.
If for instance, you are selling “product A”. Your customers will be interested in its name, how it works, ingredients, quality compared to others, it’s quantity, where to get it, and how much they’ll need to pay for the product.
Those who are familiar with your business (existing customers) and what you sell will approach you differently from those that are not sure if the product will help their situation or not. Each customer will access your business via different channels with varied underlying reasons. That’s where the concept of search intent comes in.
- Informational search intent – Someone might go online and type queries to get information. Basically, they will still be learning how to define their problem and finding probable solutions your business has.
- Transactional/commercial search intent – Here, a user will start searching for specific solutions to their problems. They might mention your products or ask for prices of given products as they compare products and services.
- Navigational search intent – Here they’ll be trying to figure out where they can get a product or a particular service. Their searches will have names of specific locations or the words “near me”. With this, Google might show them a map highlighting certain businesses.
Research and Create a Relevant Message
Once you understand who your customers are and how they might behave, the next step is to research and create a message that’s relevant to them.
You need to find out the specific terms these people use to find your business and products. We call these terms keywords.
Successful keyword research involves several elements. You are not just going to search for words people are looking for, how many people are searching for them, and other variations of the words.
You’ll need to find which keywords your website is already ranking for on the first page to determine if they are relevant to what you do or not.
Find keywords you are already ranking for on the second and third pages. These create an opportunity for improvement with a little tweaking of your pages.
Since you are competing with other industry players, investigate and find how well they are performing and which loopholes are there that you can fill.
Use Keyword Research Tools
Using keyword research tools like Ahrefs and Semrush will help you generate hundreds of keywords in a short time. All you need to do is enter a seed word related to your industry (an example for a wedding business could be interested in terms like florists, wedding, wedding cakes, among others).
With a single press of a button, you end up generating a whole list of keywords, with the number of searches, and how difficult it will be to rank for the words.
Finally, determine which keywords in your list will create the most useful content for your audience. If you’ve generated lots of keywords, group them in clusters and create content that matches your grouped words.
Create Valuable Content for Your Audience
When you set to create content, here are things we have to avoid:
- Avoid creating thin content that doesn’t add any value to your visitors
- Don’t copy another site’s content
- Do not stuff keywords; let your content flow naturally
- Don’t generate your content automatically using software
When it’s time to optimise your content, you need to take advantage of content structures which will include the title and subtitles with short paragraphs.
Include only one H1 title tag for the heading of the content, use H2 and H3 tags for the subheadings of your article. Then write a meta description that describes what’s on the page in a few words.
Your paragraphs must be short so it’s easier for those accessing your content via mobile devices to read smoothly. The H2s and H3s are subheadings that will help you break down the articles into smaller chunks
By the end of the day, you should focus on making your pages look good and work properly in the sight of your visitors and search engine bots.
Your content could be good for the readers and accessible by the search engines, but when it has no links, it still will lag behind your competitor’s. Therefore, link building is an integral part of SEO. Links help your pages and site to gain authority.
You’ll need to involve two types of links: internal links and external links also known as backlinks or inbound links. They are both useful for the success of your website.
Internal Link Building
You get internal links by linking pages present within your website. If a page gets a lot of links from other pages within the website, that indicates to the search engine bots that it’s important. So, make sure that the page that gets most of the links is the main page that brings money to your site.
Also, ensure that no page is orphaned (without any link) because search crawlers use links to access your pages. If there’s no link going to a particular page, search engines might never access it.
External Link Building
The best way to earn external links is to produce top-quality content that others in the industry would love to link back to. Once you’ve written your content, approach authoritative and trustworthy websites, tell them about your article and ask them to link back if they like it. If it’s a great article with fresh insights, there’s no doubt they’ll link back.
Another approach is to get reviewers to review your services or products and provide a link back to your website.
You should know that not all links weigh the same in the sight of search engines. Google uses the concept of E-A-T to give importance to websites and links. This acronym stands for Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy.
If a site doesn’t show expertise, isn’t authoritative, and trustworthy, it’s value becomes lower in the eyes of the search engines. Such websites will produce low-quality links.
It’s also worth noting that links from unrelated websites to what you offer also produce low-value links regardless of their E-A-T standing. So, try getting links from established sites that are in your industry.
Monitor and Measure
You won’t know how successful your SEO efforts are if you don’t track and measure the progress. Once you are convinced you’ve done a good job in optimising your website, it’s time
Start with the engagements you are getting. Ask yourself how many visits you are getting. How are the visitors behaving when they get to your site? Are your visitors responding to what you want them to do?
If you’ve instructed your visitors to signup for an email list, click on a video, buy a product, or do any other activity on your site, it’s possible to measure everything they do on the website.
You can find all this data using Google analytics. Consider measuring some of these metrics.
- The time visitors take on a page
- The number of pages visitors reach once they land on your site
- The conversion rate
- The number of times visitors didn’t go past the first page
- How far visitors scroll a particular page
- The number of visitors for specific pages
- Which campaign is performing well
- The number of links your site is getting
Make SEO Work for Your Business
SEO isn’t rocket science but can be challenging if you are not keen on its technical aspects. It can also be time-consuming if you have a lot of responsibilities to do. That’s why small business owners outsource it to SEO professionals and or hire a digital marketing agency.
Search engine optimisation – SEO is very important for your business. Ensure you have a functional website, research and understand your audience, and create content that answers their questions.