SEO is very important for any small business that wants to have a representation online, and in 2018 being present online has never been more important. Properly optimizing your website for search engines will help you rank better on Google which means that more people will find and visit your website and get to see your unique products and services.
Read on to get a short summary of what SEO is, followed by 21 tips that will help improve the SEO of your small business website. The tips are broken up into 3 general parts: easy SEO wins and prerequisites to SEO success, content SEO, and finally SEO tips that you should use on a continuous basis.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization
SEO is essentially the process of building your website, and displaying content on it, that helps your site rank higher on search engines like Google. This is important for any business because the higher you rank on Google, the more people will visit your website.
In fact, research shows that the number one spot in the SERP (search engine results page - the page that lists Google results based on you search) receives about 31% of organic clicks. This is followed by 14% for spot number 2, and 10% for spot number 3. That means that the top 3 results on the SERP receive roughly 55% of clicks. Another 17% are split up between the rest of the results on page one (spots 4-10) and the last 28% are split up between with the thousands of other pages of results.
As you can see making sure that your website ranks high on Google is of huge importance if you want drive business through your website or to establish authority in your industry. So, how does a small business go about competing with the thousands of website all fighting for that top spot?
1) Set up Google Search Console for your website
Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is a collection of tools to help you monitor your website’s performance in search results. Once you have set up Search Console for your website you will be able to see the keywords that are driving traffic to your site, statistics like bounce rate, page views, and CTR (click through rate) just to name a few.
Another great thing about Google Search Console is that it will alert you of any technical issues with your site that may be causing your site not to appear in rankings. Obviously if your site isn’t appearing in search engine results due to a technical issue, then none of the other tips in this guide matter until you figure out the issue.
2) Secure your website
Over the last few years having a secure site has become more important to Google in terms of SEO, and you can expect this trend to continue in 2018 and beyond. It makes a lot of sense, Google profits from people searching the web, and people won’t do that if they feel threatened from spam and hackers.
Although not the most important SEO contributor, upgrading your website from HTTP to HTTPS is an easy win and one that will put you ahead of your competition if all other things are equal. Also much like technical issues, not having a secure website puts you at a disadvantage and the rest of the tips in this guide won’t be as beneficial.
3. Set up and optimize your Google My Business listing
Claiming your business through Google My Business enables you to show up in things like Local Finder, Google Maps, and will help your search rankings overall. Google My Business will allow you to input basic business info like address, phone number, business, etc.
It’s also important to regularly inspect your Google My Business profile to make sure that everything is up to date. Other people also have the ability to submit “edits” to you Google My Business profile so make sure that no one has submitted any inaccurate information. To get started with Google My Business head over to https://www.google.com/business.
4. Acquire reviews
Okay everyone, this is critically important to your business website’s SEO. SEO is all about trust and authority. Google will place the result in first place if it feels it will provide the searcher with the best result. With this in mind it’s easy to understand why Google may rank Bob’s Burgers over Tom’s Burgers if Bob’s restaurant has good reviews, or more positive reviews than Tom.
To acquire reviews reach out to your customers and simply ask them for a review and provide them with a link to your Google Review page. You can also offer up a discount or small gift to incentivise them. You can also create an email campaign that automatically sends out emails to new customers asking for feedback using email marketing software.
5. Create a keyword list
In the infancy of Google you used to be able to stuff keywords in your page and rank high even if those keywords didn’t really make sense with the rest of your content. Although Google has become MUCH smarter and that broad approach no longer works, it’s still massively important to come up with a list of keywords and search phrases to target when creating content.
This ensures that when you are creating content you are using phrases and keywords that people actually use when searching for your product or service. A free and easy way to do so is to utilize theGoogle Keyword Planner Tool.
6. Improve your website’s load speed
People are impatient, and if your website takes a long time to load content then people will just go back to the results and select the next result, this is called “pogo-sticking”, which is frowned upon by Google. In fact a study by Aberdeen Group found that a 1-second delay in page load time produces 11% fewer page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.
Google has learned this and now track your page speed and will skip a step and penalize your website’s SEO rank if it finds that it loads slowly. Improving you page load speed mostly rests on having a well designed website that uses clean code, and as few add ons and redirects as possible.
An easy win in the page load game is to optimize your images. Large, high quality images, can slow down the page load speed dramatically. If your website is built on Wordpress utilizing a plugin like WP Smush will automatically optimize your images as you upload them.
7. Optimize your images for SEO
Speaking of images, another easy win is to improve the SEO of the actual images you use on your website. When you run a search on Google you can view the normal SERP, or you can scan results in Images and even Video. Another thing to consider is that around 12.5% of Google search results show an Image Pack, so this is definitely not something to disregard.
Optimize your images by using keywords in the image name, placing relevant keywords in the ALT Tag of the images, and including a short caption that describes the image. This will only take you an extra minute or two when uploading images, but will give you a better chance of ranking higher on the Google Image SERP, which will in turn help your page’s overall SEO score.
8. Custom edit your SERP snippet
The SERP snippet is everything that Google displays on the results page to inform the searcher about the results. It’s made up of 3 main parts: the page title, the URL, and the meta description of the page.
To improve your SERP snippet try to keep your page title as short as possible (while still including keywords) to avoid Google having to cut off your title by using ellipsis. Shorten your page URL to include just a few descriptive keywords. Finally make sure that you take a few minutes to make your meta description enticing.
Google automatically displays the first few sentences of your post or page as the meta description. Instead, create a meta description that makes the searcher want to click on your result. Obviously make sure to still fit in your target keywords into the meta description.
9. Optimize your website for mobile use
2017 was a very important year for mobile search because at 50.3% mobile search accounted for more than half of all web activity worldwide for the first time. So far in 2018 that number is already up to 52.2% and only expected to continue rising.
This is even more important when we take into account information from developing parts of the world like Asia (65.1% in 2017) and Africa (59.5% in 2017) where mobile internet is generally cheaper and more reliable than landlines.
As of the writing of this post Google is still leading with a desktop first web design, however we can expect this to change any day and begin valuing the appearance of your website on mobile devices over the way it looks on desktop. Check out your website on a mobile device and if it is difficult to use you should consider updating it to a more mobile friendly version.
10. Add video to your pages
Video consumption has seen a huge rise over the last decade and is a wonderful way to connect with your audience and close more business. It can also result in an average of 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines.
Consider creating videos around some of your business’ cornerstone services or products, and upload them to YouTube. Use a free tool like VidIQ to research your competition and gather useful keywords to include in your video’s title, description, and tags.
Make sure you link back to your website from your YouTube profile and also to the service/product corresponding page on your website from the actual video description. Finally insert that video in your page or post.
11. Start a Blog
A blog is an awesome way to boost your site’s search ranking. It provides you with a platform on which to publish keyword optimized content around your industry. It’s also a really great way to establish authority in your field and gain recognition as an expert.
You can then employ many of the other tips in this guide around keyword optimization, page load speed, video, and image optimization to help your blog posts rank in search results.
12. Create 10x the content currently available
This relates to the quality of your content and not necessarily the quantity. Before you start writing a blog post or any other type of content, research what is currently available for your chosen keyword phrase. How can you deliver 10x the quality of information? Can you combine the information from the first 10 results into one massive and highly informative post? Can you add helpful video tutorials?
When taking in all these tips don’t forget that Google’s main objective is to provide its users with the best and most relevant information. How can you be the source of that?
13. Create infographics
Infographics, charts, and other visual displays of information and statistics are a great way to create value. There are many people who are visual learners who will pick your content over other’s if it helps them understand the information better. However, infographics can help you boost your SEO in other ways as well.
An infographic can cause a visitor to spend more time on your page. This tells Google that your content is valuable and that more people would probably like it. Infographics are also very sought after by reporters and other content creators on the internet which can result in backlinks.
14. Focus on acquiring backlinks
Backlinking is perhaps one of the most important things as far as your website’s SEO is concerned. A backlink is basically a link that points to your website from another website. For example, if you were to be interviewed on the news and they linked to your website from their website, you would have just received a backlink.
This is of such huge importance because when a respectable website in your industry links to your website, it tells Google that your website is probably one that is also respectable and has quality information. In its 2017 Search Engine Ranking Factors report, Moz found that the quality and quantity of links pointing to your website was one of the most heavily weighed on factors in terms of SEO.
Due to this, it is imperative that you come up with a backlink strategy. Consider creating content as a guest contributor on industry leading publication, and create a digital PR strategy that includes large publications like Huffington Post, NYTimes, Forbes, and your local news channels. An important thing to note here is that while social media backlinks are important in their own way, Google does not actually recognize them as a proper backlinks.
15. Set up Google Alerts
Now that you understand how important backlinks are to the SEO of your website, you can also understand why it would be bad to have a website or digital publication mention your business, but not link to your website.
Luckily it is very easy to set up a Google Alert which monitors the internet for mentions of your business name (or even specific keywords) and will alert you of the mention. You can then check to see if they gave you a backlink. If they didn’t simply reach out to the author and politely ask for a backlink.
16. Use Google Analytics to understand your visitors
Like Google Search Console, Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you improve your SEO. While Search Console helps you understand from where and how people are coming to your website (in terms of organic search), Google Analytics can provide you with a wider view of information including more referral sources (ads and social) along with how visitors actually interact with your content.
Here you can monitor important metrics like bounce rate, session duration, and value per visit just to name a few. By understanding how your visitors interact with your content you can find out what connects with your visitors that you can promote with paid ads, and what doesn’t that you can then improve.
17. Update your content regularly
You don’t have to create content on a weekly basis in order to have SEO success, but it is important to keep things on your website fresh and as up to date as possible. Think about it, would you click on a post about small business SEO from 2013, or one from 2018?
This doesn’t mean that you need to create a brand new post though. Research shows that if you take a pillar post (in depth content that has done well in the past) and spend a few minutes updating it and then re-publish it under the current date you can receive a significant boost in traffic to that post.
18. Use Social Media correctly
Like I mentioned earlier in this post having your website’s link in a social media post does not count as an actual backlink, but it does put your content in front of more people. Sharing your posts on social media can dramatically increase the number of visits to your page (as long as you have a healthy following) and based on how those people interact with your content it can tell Google that you have created something that is worth being ranked highly.
Also don’t forget to include social media sharing buttons on your content to enable people to easily share your work on their own social media channels.
19. Diversify your SEO
While Google rules the search engine world with a commanding 74.54% (over 90% for mobile) of all searches, that still leaves a large number of people who prefer another search engine. Spending just a small percentage of time to make sure that you are creating content that performs well on other search engines can provide you with an easy win on these less competitive search engines.
As a general rule of thumb it is also unwise to put all your eggs in one basket. Google regularly releases updates that can cause your rankings to drop (or go up) so making sure that you are earning traffic from other sources is useful.
20. Stay on top of SEO news
Google’s goal will always stay the same: provide searchers with the best answer to their question. As long as you keep this as your main goal when creating content you should only benefit from a Google update. However, it’s still important to stay up to date on changes in Google’s algorithm. This will allow you to quickly adapt and gain an edge on your competition who may be slow to improve and lose out on a top Google ranking.
21. Start doing SEO NOW!
There is nothing in SEO that works as a silver bullet. None of the tips that we have discussed today can help you see immediate results, but if you invest a little bit of time or money in improving the SEO of your small business website you can see huge returns over time.
As you create more top notch content and acquire more high quality backlinks your website will begin attracting more traffic and ultimately more eyeball to your products and services. To see these results however you need to start working on your SEO as soon as possible, and there has never been a better time than now.
Bonus Tip #22: Get Ready for the voice search revolution
I want you to have the best chance of ranking well on Google in 2018 and beyond so I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning voice search. As of November 2015 nearly 40% of adults use voice search at least once daily. That accounts to a massive amount of searches not being conducted over text, but over voice. And this number is expected to reach 50% by 2020.
That is why people in the know are rapidly updating their website to make sure that their content and is favorable to the long tail keyword phrases that voice search uses. Consider voice search when creating your content and you could be setting yourself up for a massive SEO win.