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Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it is commonly called, is an essential part of any small business’ toolbox. Not only does it provide a fantastic way to brand your company for a global market, but it also connects your business with potential customers that may be interested in your goods or services. Small business SEO is not hard considering that you have cornered a niche and are capitalising on being good at that niche.
However, many people are under the assumption that search engine optimisation is only for businesses with gigantic advertising budgets that can afford to spend thousands – and in some cases, millions – of dollars on elite-level talent and software that can skyrocket their pages to the top. With that perception, small businesses don’t stand a chance.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even though bigger companies may have bigger budgets to work with and a vast reach when it comes to attracting talent and influencers, small businesses can and should focus on search engine optimisation for themselves. In many cases, their smaller size allows them to target potential topics with laser precision, allowing them to compete very effectively for a high-traffic keyword that more prominent businesses have just ignored.
Small businesses need to focus on search engine optimization in these times primarily because of its use as a long-term strategy. Gone are the days when a company could put out a keyword blitz and post nonsensical content in an effort o scale their search rankings. Small businesses need to focus on their search engine optimisation because longevity and perseverance win nine times out of ten. Search engines don’t care whether or not a business is worth ten billion dollars a year or ten thousand – as long as that company is providing great content with good domain authority, they’ll continue to stay dominant. Not to mention the simple fact that with their smaller budgets, they just can’t afford to bid on paid advertising to the degree that giant companies can.
If your goal is to focus on your search engine optimisation strategy in the next couple years (and it should be), there are a few essential foundation pieces that you can build off. An SEO agency can provide many of these services as part of various SEO packages, but everything on this list can be performed by a small business of any size. Here are the five pillars of good, reliable small business SEO.
The undisputed king of search engine optimisation always has and always will be great content that readers want to read. Despite the other ventures that Google, Microsoft, and other companies have delved into, at the core of their search engine is a deep-seated desire to connect people with relevant content that they want. If your page supplies that, expect to reach pretty high in the search engines.
What this means for your company is an extensive amount of keyword research, blog planning, and creativity in your writing. Not only should you focus on the content itself and making it profound as well as practical, but also providing it in short snippets that are easily scannable. Furthermore, great content doesn’t just rely on the text; images, charts, and infographics can go a long way in grabbing and keeping readers’ attention.
A good content strategy asks several questions of their readers and then delivers them through the resources provided. In your planning stage, ask questions such as:
- Who exactly am I targetting?
- What specific needs can I address in my content?
- Through what medium (text, video, images, etc.) are they most prone to consuming content?
- Are they interested in sharing my content in social networks or offline?
- What is our company’s specific area of expertise?
- Why are our customers coming to us in the first place? What can we provide them?
The type of content that you provide depends heavily on your answers to those questions. No matter what you do, you’ll want to make sure that you provide your unique selling proposition (USP) as clearly as possible and work your content around that. While many companies would be tempted to say that their goods or services make them unique, that’s a shallow viewpoint considering the myriad of related opportunities that are out there. Whether it’s your story or your customer service, build that into your brand’s content.
Consider also the type of audience that you’re writing to. Are you in a more technical niche and therefore require a more sophisticated writing style? You may want to enlist the help of professional freelancers who can write to your exact specifications. Or you may be in a more user-friendly market, such as pets or camping equipment. While you still want to have technical material on hand of varying lengths, you can also get away with having a more casual tone, so you may be able to write it yourself or let one of your staff do it.
At the very minimum, however, you need a content strategy that is mapped out and involves your long-term goals. Having a strategy for what your content will consist of will also help ensure you don’t write on duplicate topics as well as cover the different industry topics you’ll need to cover.
On-page Search Engine Optimization
While there are many things that you won’t be able to change in your search rankings, how you structure your website is one that you can. An SEO audit can quickly identify what you need to optimise on your website. On-page search engine optimization refers to anything you can change on your website itself that will help it rank better. In principle, it applies to strategically placed keywords and images that are optimized as well as different meta tags, to help search engines find your page. It differs (obviously) from off-page search engine optimization which includes things like backlinks and NAP locations (for local search engine optimization). Online reviews impact your SEO rankings too so pay attention to them.
Here are a few simple things you can do today to improve your on-page search engine optimization.
1. Make Your Target Keyword the First Word of Your Title. The most important element in your on-page search engine optimization is the title tag, and the most important word is the first one, so if you want to make the most impact, use that one as your first word.
2. Use H1 Tags. HTML is not nearly as en vogue as it was a decade ago, but H1 and H2 tags are still super-powerful in ranking in search engines. Make sure that your title tag has that H1 tag to give your title the most authority possible.
3. Use Images. If you don’t have any images or video on your website to help aid with content reception, you’re missing out on some shares and views that you would’ve gotten for people who consume it that way. Make sure you optimise your images for the best user experience.
4. Include Outbound Links. Consider this strength by association. When you use outbound links on your page, it tells search engines that your content is valuable because you’re relying on credible sources for your material.
5. Include Keyword Early. Your meta description is the short snippet (first 100 words) that users will see in the search results. Your keyword should occur in that space as well as your most valuable hook to draw them in.
Technical / Advanced SEO
Over time, you’ll want to include more advanced tools in your arsenal to help your website rank apart from simply uploading fantastic content and using high-quality images to rank your site. Advanced or technical search engine optimization simply refers to any type of search engine optimization work that is done apart from content. You may be tempted to hire a company that specializes in SEO services for this part, but if you’ve got some time and a little patience, it’s nothing you can’t do yourself.
Here’s a quick SEO checklist to help you get started.
1. Perform an Audit. Either do it yourself or have someone else set some eyeballs on your site, but either way, look at your site from the perspective of the search engine and a reader. Is the material easy to read? Does it load quickly? Also, look to see how many of your pages are indexed using something like a website auditor.
2. Make Sure Your Site is Crawlable. Crawling simply means whether or not your website can be indexed by search engines. If the site doesn’t load properly or if certain pages are blocked or unreadable for whatever reason, it may mean that search engines aren’t even picking it up. Fix broken links, get rid of dead pages, and streamline your website to make the most of the crawl budget for search engines.
3. Check Internal Links. Every link that you have on your page should go somewhere, whether that’s to an external site or to another piece of content on your own site. In many cases, the page has simply ceased to exist or has a misspelling in it somewhere that renders that link useless. Check all of your links to ensure they’re working to make your site the most optimized it can be.
4. Test the Load Time. Nothing kills the user experience quite like a slow load time, so check your load time on both desktop and mobile applications to make sure they’re optimized. If it’s slow, do whatever you need to do to get your load times on both platforms under 1.5 seconds at most.
Off Page SEO including Link Building
Internal links and technical search engine optimization aren’t the only things you need to look at, you also need to check your off-page search engine optimization as well. This includes all your backlinks and social metrics, along with a smorgasbord of other options. Most digital companies include this check within their slew of packages, but it’s worth investigating on your own to verify that the links and everything are operational.
Though it may seem daunting to find all the areas by which you can improve on, there are several strategies that you can take within your own company that will affect how you’re perceived offpage. Things like having amazing customer service will generate reviews and links from people who want to talk about you on social media while having a responsive social media presence can generate thousands of valuable social shares.
One strategy that you might pursue if you have the available time and budget is to reach out to potential influencers or those with a wide audience to see if you can obtain a high-quality backlink. While you may have to pay for this type of publicity or provide some other service in return, the value of that source cannot be overstated. It’s an asset that will last for years to come.
And even though it may not be glamorous, don’t quit commenting on behalf of your brand in forums and social media sites, as well as guest posts. It may be old-fashioned, but it still works.
Conversion rate optimisation
What type of behaviour do you want your customers to take who are visiting your website? Do you want them to sign up for your mailing list? Call for a consultation? Maybe you’ve funnelled them to a landing page and are going straight in for the sale. Conversion rate optimisation can help with that.
When you design your website to funnel people toward a specific course of action, a variety of things take place. Most importantly, it will improve your return on investment, making all those hours and costs associated with search engine optimisation worth it.
You’ll also gain incredible insights into your customer base. Knowing what they respond to and where it is on your page can go a long way to designing future pages with the customer in mind.
One final benefit of conversion rate optimisation is the ability to turn more of those potential clients into customers. Hundreds or even thousands of people visit your website every day, but how many of those are you converting into customers? In addition to providing a higher rate of return, it also allows you to turn a higher percentage of your website visitors into paying customers.
The key to successful conversion rate optimisation is not in merely relying on hunches or guesswork, but in involving highly detailed analytics and using them to extract data from customer behaviour. Once you have your numbers in front of you, it’s up to you to execute on that data. Once you do that and continue to build on your progress over time, you’ll have a well-oiled customer service machine that will churn out conversions in your sleep.