So, you’re a small business with big dreams to rank with your SEO? You’re in the right place!
There’s no denying that organic SEO is a longterm game. It can take 3-6 months or more to see an impact. But the good news is, there are SEO tools and tips you can implement on your website starting today. And the sooner you implement them, the sooner you’ll be ranking on Google!
In this post we’re talking about organic SEO, which means Google ranks your site naturally through what your website has to offer visitors. The opposite to this is paid SEO, where you can show at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) as an ad. While there’s no problem with running paid Google Ads, research shows that ads return a 30% click-through rate, while the organic results return a 70% click rate. It’s safe to say that even if you go the paid ads route, you’ll still want to pay attention to organic SEO as much as possible!
If you are a small local business wanting your website to rank highly in Google, you’re in luck.
Aren’t Google rankings uber competitive, I hear you ask?! Yes, they are. But the algorithm is also geared towards showing the most relevant content to a searcher. For you, this means Google is looking for nearby businesses to deliver up to their users.
Ultimate Guide to SEO for Small Business
Before you get carried away with your SEO efforts, let’s firstly define who your ideal customer is. Or in other words, who you’re wanting to reach through SEO.
If you have a brick and mortar location or service you provide locally, you’ll really be wanting to target people in your immediate area. Straight away, this greatly narrows your focus and strips you of a lot of competition.
You may think you want to appear to as many people as possible. Actually, having a smaller target audience greatly improves you chances of being seen. And it improves the likelihood that those people are looking for you in the first place!
But maybe you are a small business that doesn’t necessarily need local customers. How do you figure out your ideal customer? Have a think about a few factors and look back at previous sales data. If you’re selling online, do you ship globally or only nationally? Are your customers likely to buy from you if they need to pay X amount of dollars for shipping, or do you get a lot more business from urban areas where shipping is fast and cheap? Asking these types of questions will help you to narrow down who it will be most profitable to appear in front of in a Google search.
These days Google is smarter than ever, and its algorithm takes into account a wide range of variables when deciding what to show to searchers. More than just what your website contains, Google wants to know things such as how fast your site is and if users quickly bounce off your site or spend time there. These things take into account the experience a person has with your site, as well as its relevance to a search. This article will explain what these variables are so you know exactly what to focus on, to optimise your SEO for your small business.
Technical Aspects of your site that affect Organic SEO
As I mentioned above, Google isn’t only looking at your content but also the usability of your site. This means you’ll need to have a holistic approach when it comes to SEO. A lot of the technical aspects of your website (such as site speed and layout) affect the user experience that visitors have on your site. Some of the technical aspects of SEO you’ll want to consider include:
These days, over half the world’s internet users are accessing via mobile devices. That means your website will need to be mobile friendly, or sometimes referred to as responsive. With so much competition, if a website is hard to use on mobile, the user is likely to look elsewhere for information. And Google will penalise your site!
Your website’s loading speed can come down to a range of factors. An accepted page speed is around 2-3 seconds. You want your site to be as fast (if not faster) than your competitors. If you have a slow site speed, you may notice your bounce rate is high. I know I’ve been impatient with slow-to-load sites and often end up exiting in favour of finding a faster site. You can check your speed for free here, and here’s a guide to getting your speed up to scratch.
Https Secure Sites
As of 2018, Google is now favouring sites that are secure. You can check this by seeing if your URL starts with ‘https’. There should also be a padlock icon before the start of the URL. If your URL is only showing ‘http’, this means your site is not secure. For this you will need to get an SSL certificate. Some hosting providers automatically provide this, so if you don’t remember purchasing an SSL certificate but still have a secure site, this could be why.
You can get in touch with your hosting provider to organise a certificate if your site is not secure, but first you’ll want to get your site cleaned up by Sucuri to ensure there’s no malware or viruses installed. In the past, only sites that were selling or collecting personal data needed to be secure. With Google now favouring secure sites, this is becoming the new normal.
It takes time to rank for organic SEO. If your site is relatively new, like six months old or less, this could be the reason why you are not seeing any results. If your site is older than six months, you’ll need to address why you’re not ranking.
Not all website platforms are created equal. It is now well known that WordPress (self-hosted) is by far superior when it comes to getting results from SEO. This is due to its setup and also the capabilities it allows, with plugins that can optimize your site in every area. Squarespace would take the second place, and if you use a platform such as Wix and Weebly, unfortunately you won’t have much chance of ranking.
This is due to the limitations of those platforms, and the fact that your competitors are using superior platforms (such as WordPress). Remember, SEO is all about ranking – aka how your site compares to the competition.
While your menu needs to be easily accessible, your pages breakdown should also be logical and make sense to Google. What you call each page on your site should relate to the keywords you’re looking to rank for.
For example, If you’re a personal trainer, you might have a page on your site dedicated to training tips. Just calling this page ‘tips’ is far too broad to make sense of. Think about aligning everything with what people could search for. Try calling the page ‘Exercise Tips’, then your sub pages could be ‘Running Tips’, ‘Weight Training Tips’, ‘Low-Impact Training Tips’, and so on. This tells Google how all your pages are relevant and adds to the effectiveness of your chosen keywords.
There’s three types of links you want your website to have; internal, external and backlinks. Internal links are links that point to other pages on your site. This creates a ‘web’, or knits your content together. This is great to decrease the amount of people that may ‘bounce’ off your site after visiting only one page. There should always be a logical next step for people to go to after reading a specific page on your site. Creating internal links also helps Google to understand the relevance of different pages on your site.
External links are when you link to other websites that are relevant. Google is also looking for these as they gather data from these sites. Consider linking to relevant sites that are ‘bigger’ than yours to create authority.
Backlinks are when links from other websites point to your site, and are very important to show your relevance and authority. Unfortunately, they are harder to get as you’ll either need to ask other sites to link to you, or wait for them to find your website relevant enough to link to.
Think about who might want to promote your business (such as other local businesses), or how you could get backlinks through social shares. Pinterest pins are also considered as backlinks too, so keep this in mind as part of your SEO strategy. Blogging is a great strategy to aim for backlinks, as it provides other sites with relevant and useful content they can point their visitors towards.
Make Content Easy to Share
Make your content easy to share by including social share buttons on your page through plugins such as Easy Social Share Buttons. Other ways to make your content shareable include providing ‘Click to Tweet’ buttons and images that are Pin-worthy for Pinterest. These are ways to get your content shared to wider audience while also acquiring backlinks.
Google Business Tools for Local SEO
Google has a range of free, great tools for businesses and local businesses to utilise. These will greatly improve your chances of showing up in a search. It’s also a good way to make sure your business details are showing up correctly to users. Local Listings are served up based on their relevance, prominence and distance to the user. Here’s a few ways to optimise your website for Google.
Google My Business account
Google likes to reward those that use its own platform, which means you’ll be wise to setup a Google My Business account. Whether you have one or not, its already possible for customers to leave reviews on Google about your business. Having an account also means you can respond to reviews and change how your business details are displayed on Google. Sometimes they can be displayed wrong by Google by mistake, so this step will make sure your potential customers aren’t being led astray. You can also add details such as phone numbers, maps and images.
Local Map Pack Listing
You may have noticed that some Google search results return a map with the top results near you. This feature displays in around 30% of Google searches, making it highly desirable to be featured on! Getting displayed in this feature contains a few steps in itself, but starts with creating a Google My Business page. Once you’re listed in the map pack, be sure to monitor it, as changes can sometimes be suggested by others that could harm your listing.
Submit a Sitemap to Google
While Google will crawl your site whether you’ve submitted a sitemap or not, doing this can help speed up the process. You can do this through Google Search Console. This only needs to be done once, however if you end up making big changes to your site structure you may want to re-submit. While you’re in the Search Console you can also look at what keywords are getting you traffic.
Contact Info on site
It will help Google to have your contact details clearly listed on your site. If you have no details available, this doesn’t send a good sign. Make sure you have them listed on your contact page as well as on the footer of your website. Remember that Google can’t ‘read’ images, so having a phone number in a logo image, for example, won’t count.
Content Marketing for Small Business SEO
Content marketing – my favourite! Maybe you’ve never heard of this term, or maybe you have but the explanation is a little fuzzy. Content marketing is basically creating useful, informative content in the form of video, blog posts, images or social media posts that can can help your audience.
Blogging for Business
While there is an insane amount of blogs on the internet today, I still think blogging is one of the most under-utilised tools for businesses. Because content marketing is free, it’s an especially great tool for local and small business SEO when done right.
There’s so many reasons I could give you on why its beneficial to have a blog on your site! Firstly, Google favours sites that are regularly updated over those that aren’t. Blogs are a great way to add regular, useful content to your site that tells Google you’re still relevant. Posting something new every 2-4 weeks is ideal.
Let’s think of each page on your website as a doorway. Let’s say a standard business website might have half a dozen basic pages – home, about, contact, services, etc. That’s six opportunities, or doorways that people could enter your site through.
When you create content in the form of a blog post, you are creating a new doorway for someone to enter your site through. Aim to create content around your field of business that your customers would find useful. The more useful blogs you can post, the higher the chances of someone finding your site through these doorways.
The proof is already there – websites with blogs are over 400 times more likely to rank in Google than sites without blogs! Blogging not only makes others aware of your business, but they’re also more likely to choose you when they need your services.
Use Relevant Keywords
The major way that people can find you through your content or blogging efforts is through using keywords. Keywords are basically a word or phrase that people might search for in Google. When you write a blog post, you’re looking to target people who are searching for a specific keyword.
Now, it’s a lot easier to rank for a specific phrase, which is often referred to as a long-tail keyword. As an example, this blog post talks about SEO. But there’s so much advice about general SEO tips out there, it would be near impossible to rank for this keyword. We’ve targeted a more specific group of searchers by writing specifically about SEO for small business.
Not only is this a more specific group of people, but we’re also more likely to answer their queries with such a specific search term. This is what you’ll want to aim to do!
Use Great Images
Having high quality, enticing images plays a large part in getting your content shared. This is especially true for visual platforms like Pinterest and even Facebook. You’ll need to use your keywords in certain places on the image file. Read more about optimizing images especially for SEO here.
Create Local SEO Content
For local businesses, a greatly untapped content potential lies in creating local content. Think about what people in your area could be searching for that you could serve them with. For example, a physiotherapy clinic may blog about the best walking tracks in their area, or a review of the top three gyms.
A local brewery might blog about where to find the best fish and chips (that their beer happens to pair with so well!) or best hidden picnic area locations. These topics of interest are also more likely to get shared than ‘salesy’ content would, meaning your website can reach more people and bring awareness of your business. That’s content marketing in action!
This technique is similar to narrowing down on a specific, long-tail keyword, except you are using your local area as part of that strategy to reach nearby potential customers.
I hope these tips have been helpful when thinking about your SEO strategy for your small business. Think about which aspect of SEO you’re going to work on first, whether its in the technical side of your website, optimising for Google or content marketing. To help you take action today, jump in the comments and tell me what is the first step you’re going to take out of the above info! Or if you have any questions, we’re here to help!