A quick rundown – SEO stands for “search engine optimisation”, which means building and maintaining your website in a way that gives you the best chance of not only being found in search engines, but ranking highly when potential customers are searching.
The first thing to know is that SEO is by no means an exact art or science. The big search engines are continuously updating their algorithms to determine where a site is ranked compared to similar businesses.
So what does this mean for small business owners? Basically, SEO is never finished!
Unlike advertising, which typically runs for a limited time and causes a short-term spike in new business, SEO is a long-term investment. With the right techniques and some dedication, you will reap the rewards of increasing your search engine traffic, and continue to do so for arguably much longer than a traditional advertising campaign.
There are a few simple steps you can take for a DIY approach to SEO when you’re just starting out.
Make sure your website is responsive
In 2015 Google made a big update to its ranking criteria – any website which was not optimised for mobile would be ranked lower. Think about how many times a week you do a quick Google search for something on your iPhone or other device – can your business afford not to tap into the increasing search traffic through smartphones?
Add Google-friendly page titles and descriptions
Google allows a specific character count when it comes to the titles and page descriptions you see in search results, and a good title and description can really help your ranking potential.
Think about key phrases more than keywords
In the old days keywords peppered through your content were an integral part of telling Google exactly what your business was about. These days there is much more of a focus on key phrases, or “long-tail keywords”.
As a small business, content with long-tail keywords means that you have a better chance of a higher ranking in your niche. For example, trying to rank for the search term “Leeds accountant” is extremely competitive and you will be going up against businesses with larger marketing budgets. Focusing on long-tail keywords, such as “West Yorkshire small business tax accountant”, means you have the potential to rank higher for your target market.
Create a sitemap with search-friendly URLs
Google’s “spiders” crawl the web searching for sites to index. A sitemap is a page listing of your site’s pages and how they relate to each other in your content hierarchy, making it easier for these critters to find all your pages.
Another thing to consider is how “search-friendly” your page URLs are. Including relevant keywords in your links will make it easier for search engines to categorise your pages. Instead of a generic URL like “http://abcaccountants.co.uk/p=9836”, something like “http://abcaccountants.co.uk/small-business-tax-accounting” is much more effective at telling Google what your page is about.
Monitor your traffic with Google Analytics
All your SEO efforts are wasted if you can’t monitor your website traffic and see if your tactics are working to bring in more leads. Implementing Google Analytics can tell you who is accessing your website, what device they are using, where they are browsing from and what they are doing on your site once they get there.
Tap into the benefits of blogging
Running a blog on your site can be a fantastic way to boost SEO, as the addition of new content regularly helps to keep both the Google bots and visitors coming back! New blog posts can be used to build the internal link count to important website pages, and adding new content to your site shows search engines that your site is fresh and current.
One of the real secrets to blogging for SEO is to interact with other bloggers in the niche. This can be as simple as linking to a blog post elsewhere that might be interesting to your audience. Bloggers tend to notice who is linking to them and will return the favour where you have something of interest to their audience. More links to your site equals more ways the search engines bots crawling the web can find your site, and more authoritative and high-quality your content appears, all of which only helps to improve SEO.
However, if you are trying to rank for competitive search queries it might take a bunch of good backlinks and many months to see progress, while less competitive search queries might not require many backlinks to aid ranking. Like all SEO, think of link-building as an ongoing process rather than a once-off.
If you keep these tips in mind, you’re well on your way toward a more Google-optimised website. This is just the tip of the iceberg and search engine standards are constantly evolving – SEO is an ongoing process, but the ROI for your efforts is well worth it.