10 Basic Small Business SEO Tips
This week we’re discussing the dark arts of Search Engine Optimisation. Or SEO as most people call it.
Below you’ll find a few very basic tips on what you can do to attract more visitors to your website.
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation. It is in essence optimising your website to be found by search engines. The better your SEO, the better your ranking is on for example Google, Bing and Yahoo.
These search engines use special algorithms that are designed to match the best results to someone’s search. Google added ‘Panda’ to their algorithms in 2011 as an update. In this update, there is a shift towards high quality content, instead of just hitting as many keywords as you can. So whereas in the past you could hide keywords in your website for better rankings, you now need a combination of good keywords and good copywriting. More info on their latest Panda update (4.0) can be found here.
These are our 10 basic small business SEO tips that will help you improve your ranking with search engines.
Start at the beginning. Determine which keywords you want people to find you on.
Google Trends is a great free service that Google offers. In Google Trends you can compare the popularity of your chosen keywords with other keywords. It gives you a historical graph of their popularity and it also have a forecast feature. Before you start your SEO campaign, you should understand which keywords are popular and which give the best description of your business. For small(ish) businesses we recommend to go for the ‘low hanging fruit’. These are keywords with a good number of searches but are not too popular. Too popular means that there may be someone else with a bigger budget bidding on that same keyword. To get some real value for your campaign, choose keywords that are likely to be used but may not be the top results.
Your page title is the first description of your page. It’s the blue link in Google’s search results. Make sure that you explain in your page title what your company does. For good search results, your company name alone is not enough! Make sure you start with your business activity, followed by your company name. Google attaches very high value to these page title and by adding your business activities, users are more likely to click through on your page. Google displays the first 70 characters of your page title, so make sure you keep it short and sweet.
Below the page title, you see the page’s link address (URL) in green. These are your permalinks. Permalinks can be a bit more tricky than page titles. Some websites which are custom built and have a difficult source code may refer to a web page with a series of numbers and symbols. To get some good search results, make sure that you can change the permalink to something more user-friendly. If your website is about holiday homes in Spain, you could change the permalink to something like this: www.yourwebsite.com/spain/holiday-homes-spain.
Your meta description is where you can explain in 156 characters what the page is all about. It is automatically populated with the first few lines of that page’s content, but there are ways to change the meta description. Again, make sure that you explain clear and concise what you are all about. Start the first line by saying what you do. Follow this by saying how you can help your customers and what makes you unique. The meta description is a big factor with search engines, but most importantly – this is where you can present yourself.
Google Webmaster Tools
When you are ready to go live, submit your website to Google – but only when you’re completely happy with your content. You can do this using the Google Webmaster Tools. This is a great free tool as it also shares insights on how popular keywords are and other useful tips on how to get the most of your website. Make sure you also officially verify your business website with Google. They will send you a pin code in the post and this will truly work wonders to have your website officially verified and showing up on maps.
Make sure your website is indexed by using xml sitemaps. Sitemaps are basically a directory of your website. Search engines use ‘spiders to crawl the web looking for content. By indexing your site with sitemaps, you are making it a lot easier for search engines to find the right content on the right page. Although it’s not 100% necessary for small websites with a limited number of pages, it wouldn’t hurt to give Google a helping hand. There are a number of online tools that can assist you with setting up your sitemap and submitting them to Google. A very easy how-to has been written by Jennifer Kyrnin.
Get online authority
Google thinks very highly of websites that are being talked about. The more people talk about your website and the more people place links to your website (backlinks), the more authority you have on the web. Unfortunately, this is quite time consuming as you either need to have some very rich content on your website so people will link to you, or you have to actively go out and ask for links to your website. The best is a combination of the two but make sure you get backlinks from other reputable websites. This is one of the reasons (amongst many, many, many other) that Wikipedia, Amazon etc do so well in search engines.
You may prefer Facebook or Twitter, but Google still loves its own baby the most. Getting plenty of activity and followers on your company’s Google+ page will most definitely pay off. When searching Google, you may have seen a photo of the author with an article. This is purely because the article is integrated with this person’s Google+ page. You will most probably also see a large number of followers on his profile. A great example of SEO by using Google+.
You may have images on your website, you may not. If you do, you need to make sure they all have a description that matches that image and the keywords you are focussing on. Images help your search engine rankings, but they can also refer visitors to your website if someone is doing an image search and finds yours!
10. Don’t try to beat the system
Google’s algorithms are smarter than you and me combined. If you try to fool Google, chances are they have seen your tricks thousands of times before. In the past you could change your keyword colour, pay for backlinks, etc. However Google is now really looking for rich and user-friendly content. Make sure that you say what you do and do what you say.
Getting good rankings with search engines does not happen overnight. All changes, no matter how big or small, take time. There are some great (free!) tools out there that can help you with your search engine optimisation. A few are listed below but we also recommend you to visit www.seositecheckup.com. You can do a free SEO health check and they give you tips on how to improve.
If you use WordPress, we recommend using the SEO for WordPress plugin by Yoast.
And of course.. if you need more help.. just drop us a line!