Word on the web is that SEO is something you should keep your eye on. If you don’t believe us, Google it! Oh, and pay attention to those top results, they’re prime examples of what good SEO is, and reflective of the trends you’ll want to take note of for your website and business.
SEO (also known as Search Engine Optimization) is the process of getting organic traffic to your site; a process that, if done right, will allow your site to show up on the first page of a search engine’s results. And since we all know that most users don’t make it past the first two pages, getting your business’ website to rank higher on that list is more important than you think.
WHY SEO IS IMPORTANT
If you’re unfamiliar with the importance of SEO, or you are unaware of what SEO is, it’s definitely time to pay attention.
Not only is SEO fundamental to successfully running your business in today’s climate, it is constantly changing and its importance growing, meaning that you’ll need to stay on your toes to keep up. Since SEO is focused on the free and organic nature of website promotion, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure that your business is being promoted to its full potential.
Market shares will tell you the same story: SEO isn’t going anywhere in the constantly advancing digital age. It’s here to stay. And with the growing number of customers checking search engines before making purchasing decisions (80-90%!), it’s essential that you set yourself apart from your competitors.
With the growing accessibility of mobile web access, via phones and tablets, one thing is for sure: your target market is online too, and you could be missing them!
SEO practices are constantly growing and evolving to keep up with this constant demand for more accessible information. Don’t be left in the dust! Here are the best ways for you to take advantage of the benefits of SEO for small businesses, while grabbing some attention in the world of Search Engine Optimization.
BASIC WEBSITE SEO
Now that you understand the importance of SEO, let’s talk practical steps. You might be surprised by how easy it is to start optimizing your site’s SEO, thereby increasing your ranking. A good way to start things off is to optimize your SEO process.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar location, go ahead and make sure that your business name, address, and phone number are on your site and accessible to visitors. You’ll also want to include location pages. This allows search engines to rate you higher in geo-targeted (local SEO) searches. In addition to an “About Us” page, don’t forget to add in descriptions, store hours, and testimonials from all of your happy customers.
Creating a sitemap for your website will also help with your ranking. A sitemap makes websites more accessible to a search engine’s “crawlers.” Not sure where to start? Try using XML-Sitemaps.com or the Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin to create downloadable sitemaps for your website. Sitemaps are especially useful for ensuring crawlers go beyond the initial homepage for webpages built in Flash—such as Pharrell’s 24 music video site for his hit song, Happy.
CONTENT AND BEYOND
Let’s talk about content. It may sound obvious, but what you’re publishing is key to getting traffic to your site. The key to getting more traffic is to strike up conversations that are relevant to your target market.
If you’re located in a physical location, publish locally-relevant information. If your business is solely online, pay attention to what patterns your customers are following.
What are they talking about on social media and in forums? Creating buyer personas is a great way to keep track of these patterns. To ensure that these pieces get distributed to the right target market, make sure that you create unique and accurate page titles, as well. The right title can make or break your piece, so make sure you take the time to really perfect it.
Search for keywords that have enough volume with low difficulty by using Google’s free Keyword Planner. You can use this tool to search for keywords, see how they might perform and get historical statistics on how they’ve done in the past. Once you’ve decided on the keyword, don’t forget to incorporate it into the URL for the post!
Another benefit of using SEO for small businesses is capitalizing on your description meta tag. Your meta tag should be 155 characters or less, otherwise it risks being cut off when it shows up in search engines.
In addition, make sure that the description uses actionable keywords and pulls readers in, so they’ll click on the link.
CLEANING UP YOUR SITE
Now, let’s talk phones. Like we discussed above, phones are quickly becoming the number one way that people access information on the web. That means that if your website isn’t compatible with mobile screens you may be missing out on potential traffic. When deciding to optimize your site, you’ll have a few options for how to best benefit from using SEO for your small business:
1. Responsive web design: This option uses the same HTML code on the same URL no matter what type of device your reader is using (although it may render the display differently, depending on screen size). Google generally suggests that this is the option you go with.
2. Dynamic serving: This option will deliver the same URL, no matter the device, but it will create a different HTML for each device based off of what the server knows about the browser
3. Separate URLs: This option will give a different code to each device, while also having separate URLs, all while trying to detect the user’s device and redirecting it to the appropriate page, using HTTP redirects (along with the Vary HTTP header).
Now, to check on all of the little tidbits. When it comes to SEO, the little things really do matter, so taking the extra time to clean up your site can really pay off.
Start things off right, by making sure that none of your links are broken, and that you don’t have any errors or crawl problems. Check out Screaming Frog which allows you to crawl, analyze and audit your site. This is also a great resource for analysis because you can export SEO elements (such as your URL, page title, meta description, headings etc) to an Excel spreadsheet, meaning that it can be used to create future plans for your SEO use.
Still on the hunt for errors? Try out Browseo which can help you weed out the all-too-common 302 and 301 redirects. Google’s Search Console will also help to find duplicate content, missing titles, and other technical errors.
Next stop – promoting your website! And we’re not talking party poppers and banners; the actual work that goes into promoting your site is generally much more subtle. Don’t have a huge budget? Not a problem! Here are four cost-effective ways to promote, promote, promote!
1. Create local awareness
Just because you’re trying to promote your business on the web, doesn’t mean all of your promotion has to be through that outlet. Try gaining local coverage via local papers, trade magazines, and even other websites!
2. Increase lead generation and customer engagement with email marketing
One of the fastest and most effective marketing strategies, emailing out a newsletter, can actually be one of the most beneficial strategies you have. The best part is, you don’t need to hire any kind of marketing strategist for this. Put together professional and engaging newsletters using free services such as Mailchimp and pair it with an email analysis site like Sidekick.
3. Leverage social media
It’s free and can have a further reach than you might ever imagine. The key is to pinpoint the social media platforms that will help you best reach your target market. Focus in, and strike hard. Don’t try to spread yourself too thin.
4. Stand on the shoulders of your customers
Keep the people happy, and you will soar. Don’t forget about your happy customers and continue keeping them engaged via social media, email, and PR. Positive experiences among the few will build you an army of spokespeople who will, essentially, market for you. Word of mouth is one of the most valuable marketing tools. Don’t forget to capitalize on it.
Continuing to analyze and measure your SEO is a project you should be constantly undertaking. If you’re looking for tools to help you along the way, try Hubspot’s Website grader to see which SEO areas you could improve upon. If you’re using a WordPress hosted site, make sure you have Google Analytics and the Yoast SEO plugins to keep track of all the little tidbits of information (such as visitors to your site, how they interact with your site, etc.)
NEXT LEVEL SEO
Knowledge is power, and we’re pretty firm believers that the more you know, the better you can succeed. Maximize the benefits of SEO for your small business by checking out these resources!
The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization (3rd ed.). By Enge, E.,
Spencer, S., Stricchiola, J.
Podcasts About SEO: