Boosting Your SEO Ranking And Why Small Businesses Should Do It
By DR Adept Website Design & SEO Consultants
OK, for those of you just starting on your business journey you're probably wondering what is SEO, how do you use it to benefit your business, and what's the best way to improve your SEO ranking? Whether you are just starting out or have had a business for a few years and want it to grow, SEO can help. It plays a key role in building your brand.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a bunch of stuff you do to improve the content on your website to increase the chances of the search engines finding you when people are looking for your product. It's like having two huge flashing arrows above your head when you're in a massive crowd. Effectively you are leaving a trail of clues around the internet to help people find you. It gives you a head start in being found.
Why Do Search Engines Need Content?
The people using search engines, such as Google, are Google's customers and to keep those customers coming back for more Google needs to give them the best experience possible. If Google presents their customers with your content, and their customer stays on your website Google will be very happy, and show your website again.
How does the search engines find content?
Google sends out their Googlebot, to see what new content needs to be indexed, and using the keyword phrases used within the content they can then index the website into the appropriate place. It uses links (pathways from one website to another, or from one internal page to another) to travel to more content.
If your content keyword phrases match their customers search requirements, Google will show your content, if their customers visit your website and stay for a period of time that signals to Google they presented their customer with the right website, this improves your chances of being seen again. If Google keeps getting these positive signals, your website starts to move up the search rankings for that search term.
SEO is all about providing Google's customer, who effectively are also your customers, with the best content and best experience on the internet. Speaking to your customer in a language they understand and giving them something valuable is the key to success.
Is it worth spending time and resources on improving your SEO ranking?
Absolutely yes. It's easy to ignore what we don't understand (or think we don't have time for). However according to The Business Journals, 97% of people learn more about local small businesses online than anywhere else. You need potential customers to find you first, and in order to do this, you need to share content with them regularly, in a consistent fashion, that exactly matches what they are after. This will help to bring in more potential customers and to boost your conversion rates (visitor to sale) and the only thing it's going to cost you is your time. It's well worth the effort. Once your time becomes more valuable than paying an SEO specialist to do the work for you, it's time to hand it over to an expert who will sort out the technical (deeper) side of SEO and start creating the content for you.
Start by optimising your existing primary landing pages
These are all the pages that people might land on when coming to your website.
Every page should be optimised and include keyword phrases that people might type into the search engine results. These phrases will need to be within the headings, sub headings, and scattered through out the content. This will help your website get noticed by Google, you'll then start getting visitors, the more visitors you get the happier Google will be and in turn they will display your website more often in the search results. In general the longer a page can be the better, you want at least 250 words on them that contain the keyword phrases you want people to find you for. ('gifts', 'presents', 'gift ideas', etc)
How do you know which keywords are best?
The simplest keyword research you can do is to type into the search box the phrases you would use to find your product. Say 'cat food' for example, as you type this, Google will provide you with a list of popular phrases their customers are using. You could include those within your website copy.
The next place to look is Google Ads Keyword Planner. You will need to set up an account to use this. Again you type into their keyword tool the phrase(s) you want, and see what Google recommends. The great thing about this tool is, it will show you how popular the keyword is.
Take their recommendations then type them into the Google search box to see what websites turn up in the results. If these are similar businesses to yours then you know you are targeting the right keywords.
Finally take a look at Google Trends, this will show you if a keyword phrase is in decline. Electric fireplaces may have been popular a year ago, but now wood burning stoves could be more popular.
Include the most popular keywords with an upwards trend in your title tags, meta descriptions, headings, sub headings and sprinkled throughout your content and within internal links.
What is a title tag and meta description?
The search result list contains, for each website, the website address, followed by the title tag, then the meta description. The title tag tries to match the customers search phrases, and the meta description gives some details about the page to encourage the customer to click onto the website. Technically they are summaries about the website. The more accurately your title and description match the keyword phrases the more likely it is to reach people.
A title is limited to 60 characters, the meta description is limited to 160 characters. Google highlights any word within these summaries that match the keyword phrases used within the search. This helps customers when they quickly scan the results for the product they want. If I searched for 'garden wildlife', then every time that appeared in any of the websites summaries it would appear in bold to stand out. It draws a persons attention to that listing.
Google has made a recent change, if you don't include these two elements in your website, they will look at your pages content and 'effectively' write them for you. A couple of years ago you would never have let Google decide what you want shown in the results, but they have become so good at this it can be worth letting them get on with it. BUT the title tag is the most important part of SEO, so if you want control of what you get seen for, make sure you use this wisely. The right title and meta description will help you get seen more in the search results, as well as get more people clicking onto your website.
Break up your blog posts, product pages and other content with headings and subheadings
Adding clear subheadings throughout your content makes it easier to scan through, therefore becoming more user-friendly. It also helps SEO if you include relevant keyword phrases. For user-experience, the content needs to flow naturally, make sense and not cause the customer to pause, stumble or question your authenticity - over using keyword phrases throughout your content can be as damaging to your website as not having any SEO in place.
Put a process in place to ensure you're being SEO-friendly in future
Set up a best practice for updating and creating content for your website that you can stick to in future. This will help you so you never have to go back and optimise missed pages. I create an excel spreadsheet listing every page on a website, I have a date for every element that has been changed, and what text I have in the title tag and meta description. It also lists the links going out of that page.
This is easier to do when you are just starting a new business or new website.
Clean up broken pages
When you visit a website and get a message pop up saying that page can't be found, or something has gone wrong, or even a 404 error. You've just landed on a broken page. Either the link you clicked is incorrect, or the page no longer exists. This happens a lot when products are seasonally updated.
When people land on these pages they tend to leave the website straight away. This effectively tells Google their customers are not interested in your content, this inevitably leads to your website moving down the search engine results.
Now you can see why it's well worth going through your website and checking every link is going to a working page. You'll need to do this on a regular basis.
Make sure you benefit from back links
Links from other websites are a vote of confidence from that website's owner, it's telling Google they think your content is worth linking to. The more back links from high quality websites you have the better you will do in the search engine results.
From a customers perspective, you are leaving breadcrumbs around the internet so they can find you. Whether you have them on other peoples websites or within your own, you are making the users life easier allowing them to navigate seamlessly to the content they want to read.
Many blogs will have links to products or other pages of interest, that match the topic of that blog. Read a couple of your favourite companies blogs and you'll see what I mean.
Why SEO is important
You should now understand why SEO is so important to your business. There will come a time when you will have to hand this job over to someone else, be that an employee or an outside agency. But because you have done a lot of the ground work yourself, you will understand what you want someone else to do for you.
Here is an article you can use to work out when the right time is to hand over to a professional, this blog will show you how to work out the numbers of potential visitors and the value of those visitors, compared to the SEO fee - similar to how you would work out when you are going to break-even.
Further Reading: Is SEO worth the cost for small businesses