It’s an SEO world, and we’re all living in it. But what exactly is SEO and how can you utilize it to help reach your small business goals? Maybe you’ve heard that your competitors are using it or that it’s somehow related to Google. Bottom line: if you’re not engaging in SEO strategy, you’re missing a key part of your potential audience.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so buckle up as we dive into our top SEO tips for small businesses.
What is SEO?
Great question. SEO stands for search engine optimization and refers to the process of improving your visibility on Google results pages (or SERP for search engine results pages, if you’re down for another acronym). It’s a seriously powerful tool in your digital marketing strategy toolbelt.
Let’s take an example. Say your small business sells chocolate boxes. If you can manage to bump your website up to the top of the SERP for searches related to your product, that’s access to a potentially massive audience of people who are already interested in buying chocolate boxes. Plus, you didn’t have to spend big digital advertising dollars to reach them! Are your ears perked yet?
Why is SEO important for small businesses?
So the idea is sound, but do you really have to engage in search engine optimization in order for your business to be discovered on the internet? Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes because Google reigns supreme, and we have to play nicely by their rules if we want our site to reach viewers.
A staggering 90 percent of Google users don’t venture past the first results page. That means that if you’re not the first handful of results, the likelihood of anyone stumbling upon your website as the solution to their need is very small. They’ve gone with the number one result instead.
And that top result isn’t there by accident. They’ve secured their status with a culmination of keyword targeting, user experience, website optimization, and content strategy over a period of time. And the best part is: you can achieve it too.
Let’s dig into our top SEO tips.
If you’re wondering where to start, no worries — we’ve got you. Because SEO encapsulates a wide range of tasks and skills, it can be confusing to know what to do first or where to focus your attention. We’ve assembled some tips to get you going in the right direction.
Plan your keywords
First, let’s talk about keywords. These are what users are typing into search engines to find an intended result. If someone is looking for a raincoat, they might search something like: “best raincoat”, “extra long raincoat”, “where can I buy raincoats”, or “lightweight raincoat for hiking” depending on their specific goals. If you rank highly for the keywords they’re searching, they’ll likely wind up on your site — and that’s great news for you!
How to identify your keywords
Start your keyword research by examining your business verticals. If you own a clothing boutique, maybe your categories include clothing, shoes, and jewelry. However, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to own a keyword as broad as “clothing” — and you may not want to! Receiving an influx of users searching for running clothes won’t help (and may hurt) your site if you specialize in formal dresses. It’s often better to be specific by focusing on long-tail keywords that more accurately describe your offerings.
Once you have your initial list, you need to know how people are searching. Utilizing tools like Semrush, Moz, AnswerThePublic, and Google Keyword Planner can help you gain insight on how users are formulating their queries around a certain subject, as well as how worthwhile it’ll be for you to target keywords on your list (depending on search volume, keyword difficulty, search intent, and other factors).
Where to use your keywords
After making a list, you need to know how to implement it. Each page on your site should have a focus keyword and secondary keywords; your focus keyword is the one you want the page to rank for, while your secondary keywords bring in supporting information. You’ll want to highlight these keywords in the following places:
- Your page’s title. Bonus points if you can fit it towards the beginning.
- The first 100 words of your content. Try to fit your keyword in your introduction.
- Heading tags. These provide structure to your reader and tell the search algorithm what’s on the page.
- Alt tags. The alt text for images on the page can influence your search ranking.
- Page URL. Your URL should always match your content.
- Meta data. The information users see on the SERP (like meta title and meta description) influences their decision to click on a result.
Make your website user friendly
SEO isn’t solely about getting your keywords to rank. After all, what’s the point of ranking if your site doesn’t serve your visitors? A site with SEO as a priority should factor in site speed, mobile optimization, and the overall user experience to encourage visitors to stay and explore. It can be helpful to work from a technical SEO checklist to not miss any glaring issues.
Learn from your competitors
Your competitors have likely already invested into an SEO strategy, which means you can learn from their insights. SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs can help you uncover useful information about your competitors’ keywords, title tags, metadata, and backlinks — all relevant to your own SEO strategy. You can also head directly to competitor websites to evaluate site structure and content.
Publish content on a consistent basis
Fresh content packs a double whammy when it comes to improving your search rankings. Regularly published blogs not only help you incorporate keywords and linking opportunities into your site — they influence bounce and conversion rates too!
Well-crafted, relevant content with SEO consideration is more likely to:
- Reach readers in the first place
- Keep them on your site longer
- Increase page views
- Prevent readers from searching elsewhere for answers
- Increase conversions
Keep an eye on your progress
Like any experiment, you need to track your results to draw a conclusion on your performance. Because Google doesn’t reveal exact details about its search algorithm, the best way to evaluate if you’re on the right track is to measure your site’s progress by noting metrics like organic traffic, keyword ranking, click-through rate, bounce rate, and website authority over time.
Stay in it for the long haul
It’s important to remember that this isn’t an overnight endeavor. SEO strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. Experts generally agree that, while there isn’t an exact answer, you can typically start to see results around the six month mark. The longer you continue to cultivate your SEO efforts, the more payoff you’ll see down the line.
Ready to rock your SEO?
That’s all there is to it! Just kidding — we know getting started with SEO can be a lot to wrap your head around. If you feel like your time in a small business is more wisely spent elsewhere, reach out to our team for an SEO strategy tailored to your business goals and budget. See you around the SERP!